The best leaders know not only what to do, but when to do it. That includes choosing the right time and place to introduce new technology
During the past 15 years I have participated in the roll-outs of three technologies that fundamentally changed the IT infrastructure of the companies that employed them: client/server architecture, Web-enabled e-business and wireless mobile devices. In the process I've developed strong analytical skills that I use to investigate the situations and circumstances that lend themselves to the introduction of new technologies. I've also developed an intuitive sense about these same things that complements my analytical side.
Leading a company through an IT-driven transformation requires knowing more than what a technology is capable of. The tricky part is knowing when the right time is to introduce it and where in the organization to implement it in order to demonstrate its value. My analytical side is good at figuring out when something should be done. Then, based on this analysis, I develop a gut feeling for where it should be done.
Making the right call about when and where to introduce new technology is one of the ways you solidify your position as a leader in your company. I use two indicators to determine when the time is right. And I determine where to introduce a new technology by using what I call the "operational art".
The Right Time to Act
The first indicator that the time is right to introduce a new technology is when you see clear evidence that it can deliver significant returns. If it's a reduction in operating costs you're targeting, for example, you would look for more than incremental savings. Because there is always risk associated with implementing new technology as well as time and money involved in installing and learning to use it, whatever benefits you achieve must exceed the risk potential and cover the deployment costs. The second indicator of when the time is right for a new technology is that it provides your company with a new way to do business and generate revenue.
An example of this is Web-enabled e-business technology, which offered companies the potential to increase sales without hiring more salespeople or building new physical locations. But a lot of companies got their timing wrong when they decided to start selling online, because most customers were not ready to actually use the technology. It wasn't until several years after many companies had installed e-commerce systems that they began to generate significant revenue; companies spent large amounts of money before it was possible to realize much new revenue.
Most companies don't have the appetite to carry the risk of an unproven technology for long. As a leader, it's critical that you know whether your company is one of them. It may be central to your company's business model to be a first mover or a technology innovator; in that case, you'll time your investment early. But if your company is happier being a follower, it's better to wait until you have clear proof that a new technology not only can but actually will deliver the expected benefits quickly.
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