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Onward Technology Soldiers!

Onward Technology Soldiers!

Advanced Technology Groups are the vanguard in the battle over early technology adoption.

Fix bayonets! For we are warriors for the future; soldiers of fortune who find riches in new technologies that few others are prepared to try. We are brave members of the Advanced Technology Group - an intrepid troop that seeks competitive advantage from the latest the IT has to offer. Alternatively, we are lemming-like creatures, hurling ourselves off the cutting-edge cliff of innovation and working out how we are going to land on the way down, as the wind whistles over our ears and we plummet to the surface below.

Two such contrasting views always appear within the CIO community in the powerful and polarizing debate on early technology adoption.

Most CIOs like to stand atop of that cliff, peering over the edge to see if the free-falling early adopters figure out how to land safely, expecting them to splat on impact. Any application or methodology that has not been taken out of the box and battered around a bit by someone else is not for them. This characteristic of caution is not necessarily a personal judgement about risk avoidance but usually a reflection of the corporate culture in which a CIO must exist. By contrast, innovators and early adopters - to borrow from the well-worn "Chasm" model of Intel's Geoffrey Moore - are the minority, as in all walks of life.

It is relatively simple to categorize CIOs and their technology groups into three types. Type A's are the 15 percent who will try a new technology before their competitors to see what edge they can get. The Type B contingent - the majority at some 65 percent - watches the A's either stuff it up or achieve success, and then consider their own options. The remainder are asleep in the C category, not recognizing or caring about a good technology even if it rode into town on a white charger with a halo atop.

It is easy to be evangelical, even romantic, about the need to innovate and use new technologies to improve business performance. Let's face it, the fun part of IT is the cool stuff the industry invents on almost a daily basis. We all appreciate the genius that creates technologies that range from hot-swapped, energy-saving blade servers to bright pink iPods that hold 40,000 variations of "doof-doof" music for the great unwashed.

Of course, life is neither easy nor romantic when faced with the challenge of implementing new ideas and technologies. All technology bright and shiny comes at a price. The product cost is one thing, but then there are all the add-ons, such as implementation, user-acceptance studies, training and change management, maintenance, recurring licence fees and so on. Dare I add, there is the opportunity cost, too; that is, you choose a loser to implement and miss the gizmo that actually gave your competitor and advantage over you. But then, you've got to play the game to win it.

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