If Everett Rogers were to revisit the idea of early adoption in IT in 2008, that classical distribution curve might not look so bell-shaped anymore.
But none of this means early adoption can’t be difficult and costly if it isn’t managed well. Here, four American CIOs who have mastered the art of early adoption share methods that work for selling new technology to the business, for creating processes for shepherding new ideas into practice, for determining the potential benefit of new systems, and for creating flexible ways to roll out emerging tools.
Case Study 1: Virgin America - Putting emerging technology and risk in business terms
Talk to Bill Maguire long enough and he could convince you he came out of the womb embracing emerging technology. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been out there looking at new technologies, figuring out how to exploit them,” Maguire says. “I’m diligent about trying to keep up and have a good degree of confidence in my ability to do so.”
Maguire’s history as an early adopter contains successful and less-successful chapters. As the CIO of Legato, Maguire was one of the first IT executives to implement VoIP in 2001, saving the company more than US$3 million. The year before, running the US Postal Service’s primary datacentre as manager of computer operations, his organisation was among the largest, and earliest, users of VMware in the country.
A decade earlier, Maguire had introduced to the USPS one of the first virtual storage solutions in the country, StorageTek’s Iceberg disk-array storage subsystem. That didn’t turn out as well.
“It was bleeding edge,” Maguire recalls. It was also complicated. What should have been up and running in a few weeks took months to launch. “Once we got it, it put us way out in front,” says Maguire. “But it took three times longer than expected.”
Today, Maguire knows the right questions to ask in order to evaluate the business risks. “You have to understand your environment very well,” he says. “Then you have a good idea of whether a piece of new technology will really work for you or not.”
At Virgin America, where Maguire landed as CIO two years ago, that has been easier than at previous companies because Maguire built the architecture from the ground up. Yet risks still lurk in Maguire’s technology choices from the edge.
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