How to avoid falling for tech fads

Digital Transformation
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The general rule with technology is that one size never fits all. Yet, the lingering buzz around trends in tech developments, like generative AI, is a recent reminder that the nature of technology, and its cycle of self-sustaining betterment, means there will always technically be ‘the next best thing’. But that doesn’t mean every organization needs to rush to buy into it.

Businesses are often swayed by the promise of a technological silver bullet, which solves all their problems, without truly understanding the broader business picture. This means it’s often the case that leaders adopt the first solution they see on the metaphorical shelf, instead of the right solution, assuming it will improve their teams’ workflow or overall productivity. If that doesn’t work, they simply get the next option. In fact, nearly half of the respondents in our recent workplace alignment survey admitted to using five or more productivity applications at work. But 40% said they find it frustrating to have so many tools at their disposal.

The reality is, technology fads come and go, but as they do businesses can be left with a sprawl of redundant applications and platforms. This is particularly the case in the realm of multi-cloud, where IT teams can quickly lose visibility of what applications are having real business impact. As businesses layer multiple cloud providers or solutions, potential overlaps and redundant applications are trickier to spot. Cost leakages for unneeded applications are undoubtedly an immediate concern, but it also raises security risks too. Which is why it is so important IT teams can have a real-time view of their cloud infrastructure so they can spot these areas before it becomes a problem.

Executives need to ask themselves several questions before taking the leap on new technology. There are key questions informing tech investment, when it pays to watch and learn or jump on the bandwagon. Here’s how to develop a strategy that underpins the innovation process.

Ben Dilts

Ben Dilts is the Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Lucid.

When risk outweighs reward

Most organizations are acutely aware of the need to “innovate or die,” a phrase coined by Peter Drucker that serves as a reminder to stay ahead of the ever-growing pace of change. Sometimes, being forced to evolve is indeed the only way some businesses ever will. Yet iterating too fast can leave those organizations unable to get the best value from their new digital strategies.

The risk attached to rolling out any new system begins to outweigh the reward if any of these three things don’t materialize: the capabilities of the application or tool, its integration within the existing technology stack, and the required efficiencies intended for the people that use them. Any sort of change in a digital program can have an unexpected effect on other areas of the business – or the team members involved - if a new technology doesn’t perform as it should. The company has a responsibility to thoroughly onboard employees to a new app or software to ensure everyone understands how to use it and how it will improve their workflow.

But, executives, ask yourselves: does the tech make sense for those individuals that will use it? Will it help them to do their job quicker? If the answer to both these questions is undetermined, deployment could slow down the rate of digital transformation or even hamper morale of staff. In other words, it will pay to spend the required time to fully recognize and analyze the problem you’re trying to solve. It’s the people actually using the tech, day-in-day-out, who need to be able to handle the changes that come with digital transformation, and be engaged through the feedback loop to know what results are being derived.

The innovation framework

To achieve true digital transformation success, leaders must realize they can sometimes go against the grain and operate just as effectively – and cost-efficiently – by avoiding multiple overlapping technologies. An effective way to decide whether to pivot course, pause or fund a new/existing technology is by following an innovation framework. This is a foundational set of practices and tools that helps organizations generate, evaluate, and turn the best ideas into a value-add for the business. The framework provides just enough structure to create milestones and a clear path forward, while remaining flexible for emerging ideas that would influence the direction.

An innovation framework can be divided into three main phases: conception, validation, and growth.

  • Conception: Identify problem-solution fit by proving that your employees have a problem worth solving—and the proposed solution could solve their problem.
  • Validation: Determine whether that solution not only solves your current users’ problem but also could have a growth market opportunity.
  • Growth: Establish how the innovation will scale by repeating phases and jumping back in the process if necessary – you can fail and recover much easier than it is to contain the impact of rushed digital transformation.

Aligning business and IT teams is key to informing each phase of the innovation framework. The non-technical team members will have powerful insight on the practicality of a solution, so empower those stakeholders and involve them from the start. With over a third of respondents in our survey observing talent leaving their organizations due to alignment problems, this communication breakdown urgently needs to be remedied. This is a key pillar of the strategy behind the innovation process.

Turning (some) ideas into action

In the last few years, digital transformation programs that were planned to roll out over years were accelerated in months, weeks or even days. But, as the principles behind adopting new tech solutions evolve, executives are now realizing it can sometimes pay to lag behind. Taking the time to research and integrate technologies that are built for the user, and by following an innovation framework, you can help to distinguish between a tech fad and one that will lead to true innovation. Ultimately, and only then, can you lead a business towards the select technologies that match your business needs.

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Ben Dilts is the Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Lucid, having solely developed and built the first version of Lucidchart and today continuing to influencer product development.