Headlines scream disruptive technology! Cloud Computing, Smartphones, Blockchain, AI, Internet of Things, the list goes on and on. We are surrounded by a sea of disruptive technologies. There is no escaping it. Sooner or later your customer needs are going to drive your business to move to one or more of these technologies.
The Gartner Group describes digital disruption as “an effect that changes the fundamental expectations and behaviors in a culture, market, industry or process that is caused by, or expressed through, digital capabilities, channels or assets.”
Digital disruption is just that, a disruption in your business as related to one or more disruptive technologies. These technologies will alter the way your business operates. They will change the way your company approaches their business. Customer expectations for lower cost services, mobile friendly applications, or the myriad other things these technologies bring means you will need to implement one or more disruptive technology platforms. Failure to change can result in risk of losing customers to competitors that have embraced this future.
Supporting management infrastructure includes all the management pieces: people, processes, and systems that support your ability to deliver services to your customer. Therefore, these areas have the greatest potential to be affected by the introduction of a disruptive technology. Disruptive management is the state of management as a result of introducing disruptive technology.
How much disruption your organization will undergo is based on a couple of key factors. Where the target technology is in the technology life-cycle, where the product is in the innovation adoption life-cycle, and where your company is in terms of supporting management infrastructure.
TLC, the Technology Life-Cycle
All technologies go through the same life cycle. There are four stages and with each stage the technology itself matures. Along with the technology, all the supporting infrastructure matures.
The four phases of the Technology Life-Cycle;
Phase One: Research and Development
New innovations that are considered to be on the “bleeding edge”. This is because the theories are new and lack supporting data. This means that potential for failure is high.
Phase Two: Ascent
The technology has gained traction and is beginning to show real positive results. This is sometimes called the “leading edge”.
Phase Three: Maturity
The technology is now stable. Adoption is in full swing and risk is low.
Phase Four: Decline
The technology has decayed and returns diminished utility. In this phase companies are deprecating or retiring this technology.
“Don’t go chasing waterfalls” – TLC (totally unrelated quote)
Innovation Adoption Life-Cycle
Linked closely to the technology life-cycle is the adoption life-cycle. How likely you are, or your company is, to implement a technology is connected to where the technology is in its technology life-cycle. Innovators adopt early and conservatives adopt late.
Everett Rogers, stated that people have different levels of readiness for adopting new innovations. Rogers classified individuals and companies into five groups: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.
A business’ or an individual’s willingness to adopt technologies is distributed as follows:
- Innovators 2.5%
- Early adopters 13.5%
- Early majority 34%
- Late majority 34%
- Laggards 16%
The Degree of Disruption
Disruptive technologies intersect in the first two phases of the technology life-cycle (R&D and Ascending) and the first two phases of the innovation adoption life-cycle (Innovators and Early Adopters). This means that less than 15% of companies will consider implementation.
Technology in the R&D and Ascending phases has not matured or experienced widespread adoption. The sooner you adopt the lower the probability there are mature standards and practices.
The degree of disruption is directly tied to the overall maturity of the technology and supporting management infrastructure.
People, Processes, Systems
Enterprise level change effects the enterprise as a whole. The hierarchy of supporting management infrastructure includes people, processes, and systems. People are the foundation of your business. Without a strong staff, your company will struggle. Next, processes determine how smoothly your day to day operations will run. Finally, systems support the people and the processes in delivering services to your business.
Organizations are built on people. Staffing models are important. There are core components to remember. Your current teams hold valuable intellectual knowledge. Do not underestimate the value of this knowledge to your organization. You will have enabling resources that will help accelerate adoption, and you will have those who are resistant to change. All staffing plans require difficult choices, so consider all options. Many of your decisions will be based on time and cost, but quality should always be a priority.
- Define roles and scope of responsibility
- Do you have the right players lined up?
- Can you retrain staff?
- Do you need to restructure or build new teams?
- What are the short and long-term needs?
- What are the current salaries or rates for these skills and roles?
- Can your current leadership team lead the new or changing teams?
- Reporting structure: Hierarchy and matrix.
The earlier the adoption the smaller the candidate pool will be for people with the skills you will need. Do not forget the staff to support the new technologies after implementation.
It should not be a shock that disruptive technology and Agile go hand in hand, and that many companies are still running traditional waterfall shops. Prescriptive implementation of frameworks like SAFe or a version of scrum are the norm today. However, most successful adoptions come in incremental variations and not out of the box implementations.
Besides the obvious project management processes, there are a number of areas that will sneak up on you. To name a few; Product Management, Release Management, Application Promotion, Source Code Management, Quality Assurance Automation. The full list is extensive and covers your entire organization standards. Don’t forget to review the effects on legal and compliance requirements.
Early adopters of Agile practices used sticky notes and spreadsheets until business needs drove the creation of tools like Jira to support the mature practices. In the same way, a need to have better and faster application promotion created automated build and deployment tools like Jenkins or Team Foundation Server. You would also be hard pressed to find a development team that is not using an updated source code management tool like GitHub or TFS. The days of installing every web browser and OS to test sites drove the creation of tools like Selenium, BrowserStack, and SauceLabs.
Modern needs have driven the creation of new tools and systems. All options should be explored, and all current tools reviewed for relevance.
Controlling the effects of disruptive management
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” – John Wooden
As a leader within your company you will need to assess the readiness of your organization. You can review best practice internally, or engage with a consulting firm to help navigate the effect of disruptive management. But you should not ignore that change affects all aspects of the organization and will catch up with you if left unto itself.
If you are a member of a consulting team, remember working through disruptive management means partnering with the customer in the digital transformation journey. Take time to understand the company’s current state of management processes, make a plan to move to future state, understanding that there may need to be many small changes to get to the end state.
All companies struggle with disruptive technology implementation. However, he depth to which your company will struggle is within your control. Early identification of company adoption thresholds coupled with proper assessments of people, processes, and systems, will soften the impact.