Written by Warwick Eade, November 2020
Thirty years of ‘Next Big Things’
Being aware of ‘the next big thing’ is one thing. Knowing when to embrace it, quite another.
Nothing stands still for long in IT with the major development always just around the corner. I’m often asked when you should jump in and adopt. With more than 30 years in this business, I’ve seen my fair share and can confirm two points: One is that timing is everything. The other is that ‘here be dragons’. Not every great idea turns out well in practice.
So, while I’ve seen the introduction of the internet, email, local area networks, wifi and more, I’ve also seen the Apple Newton, the IBM PCjr, Iridium satellite, connectivity, various internet currencies and plenty of dot-bombs. The trouble with many of these often conceptually sound ideas that were successful in later iterations? You guessed it, timing. That even applies to cloud computing, first mooted in the 1960s, but today an absolute staple.
In this article, I’ll distil some of my observations and draw on some real-life examples. Enjoy!
It’s all a Google away
Five minutes of searching reveals key themes for the next revolution(s). Top of the pops now are the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). On the face of it, these technologies make such good sense that adoption seems obvious. But what’s missing? Google can’t tell you when or how to start.
Timing depends on the balance of multiple factors including; the maturity of the technology, the pace of change, the costs involved and your risk appetite. Above all, return on investment must underpin any initiative.
Email is a good example.
Exporters were some of New Zealand’s earliest adopters of this now ever-present technology. Spending thousands each month making phone calls and sending faxes around the world made the benefits of email obvious (and huge). With faster communication for a fraction of the price on offer, exporters saw the opportunity to wipe out a big overhead by doing things smarter.
The answer is a true partnership
But early adopters didn’t just charge in and start emailing. They knew that if an untested technology failed, they’d be in big trouble. That’s why most worked with an IT partner and ran it in parallel with their existing modes of communication.
The lesson applies to this day. The timing of any new technology adoption is highly specific and inescapably tied to the individual business or organisation.
Taking an informed view depends on working with a trusted partner who understands your business and can add value by contextualising the application or introduction of the new technology. That partner should live and breathe technology, just as you live and breathe your core service or product.
At Lancom Technology, we expect most of our clients to be using IoT and AI within the next 2-5 years. We know this because each month our Customer Success Managers sit down with our clients to understand their business needs.
The role of our people is to assess current and emerging technologies and when the timing is right for our clients, support a managed introduction that de-risks the process while making the benefits available.
Don’t get stuck in a trading relationship
Many clients get stuck in a basic trading relationship with their technology services provider. In these scenarios, the tech company delivers a service against set criteria. When these are met, it’s payday. This might keep the lights on, quite literally for some businesses, but it misses an innovation opportunity.
Wifi is a good example.
When it first emerged in the late 1990s, some rolled it out straight away. Back in 1997, it was as great an idea as it still is today.
But ideas don’t always translate to benefits. Early wifi was terrible! Patchy signals, slow and unreliable. Not only that, but the standards changed at a breakneck pace, making expensive new equipment obsolete within months.
That’s why we only started recommending wifi a good five-plus years later. The technology matured, the pace of change levelled off and – crucially - there was a sound return on investment.
Only then did it make sense for our partners, our clients, to start using it. A good partnership means recommending the status quo, sometimes, as much as it means charting a new direction.
Technology is a movable feast. Work with a partner you can trust
Ernest Hemingway popularised the term ‘A moveable feast’ with his novel of the same title. This essentially means you can adopt and benefit when the time is right for you, in the same way, you can lunch whenever your appetite dictates it. It’s not necessary to suddenly update.
Instead, adoption and the path to value is a continuous process that doesn’t switch off.
With AI and the IoT highly promising examples, the barrier to entry has consistently come down with maturity.
But though the costs are (more) reasonable, it isn’t a matter of zero to a hundred. To leverage AI successfully, data should first be in the cloud. It should be contextualised in terms of the factors important to your business. Most of all, whether AI or IoT, introduction is a continual, iterative process that seeks out value.
If you want to discuss a true partnership, or talk about your business challenges, drop Priscila Bernardes an email. Priscila is our General Manager and really knows her stuff.
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