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Tech paralysis: How to future proof your business in an age of short-lived tech trends

Part two of our series examines the reasons why technology investment roadmaps often end in failure

As many as two in five professionals believe that the investment and deployment of IT within their business is destined to fail, thanks to a lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

According to the Insight Intelligent Technology Index, a further 56% of IT decision makers say that their departments are struggling to both innovate with new technology and keep core systems running effectively.

What is evident across the business community is that having the right technology, and a strategy to keep these systems up-to-date, is critical. However, many business leaders feel they're unable to identify which technologies would best suit their business goals, with their future technological development out of focus.

An example is the explosion of voice recognition technologies, which first began in the home with the Amazon Alexa but is now rapidly moving into the workplace. Businesses can be slow to adopt technologies like this, yet their use could be transformative, provided they have a clear idea of the application. Parallels can be drawn to the use of mobile devices and hosted services that have become staples of business today - where technological innovation, placed within a well-defined business development structure, can prove vital to long-term success.

Chasing customer trends

Recent research by the Hackett Group found that in order for IT to truly transform business processes, strategies need to apply five core enterprise transformation capabilities: technology innovation; modern digital architecture design; advanced cybersecurity; accelerated service delivery; and advanced data and analytics.

"Businesses should stop basing their cost for technology as a percent of revenue since this is not a meaningful way of determining adequate investment or need," says Richard Pastore, senior director of IT Research Advisor at the Hackett Group, speaking to IT Pro. "Instead, companies should compare investment between peer organisations and world-class businesses based on cost per end user. World-class companies invest twice as much (20%) in emerging technology (such as digital tools) than non-world-class organisations."

Often, new technologies will be purchased to ride a consumer trend. Unfortunately, the business's infrastructure and processes that are needed to deliver those customer-facing services are usually ignored as part of this decision. Business processing that can evolve a company to become more agile, which itself provides better services to customers, are parallel and intimately integrated, and not mutually exclusive.

Instead of responding to short-lived trends, business should be spending their money on high-profile developments in the marketplace. Areas such as AI, blockchain, edge computing, IoT and automation are all vital technological developments, yet they are not yet mature.

All of these technologies will eventually have an impact across the business landscape. Business owners, though, need to place them into context and look closely at how they would like their company to develop, and whether these technologies can help them achieve those goals.

"The most interesting digital trends are not about technology, but about people and their behaviours," explains Ramyani Basu, partner at US consultancy firm A.T. Kearney."Everyone wants to talk about blockchain, AI and robotics, but what makes all of this technology relevant or desirable is the shift in human behaviour and how we work and live today. Businesses will seek to deploy technology that frees their people to focus on value-adding activities like creative problem solving and strategic thinking."

What world-class IT looks like for your business will be driven by your defined goals and the demands of your customers. Simply adopting more cloud-based systems, for instance, isn't a panacea for technology woes. The cloud can be transformative, but these services must compliment and support your broader business goals.It may be trendy to invest in technologies like the blockchain, AI and machine learning, but unless you're considering closely what they could actually offer your company in tangible gains, they could soon start to bloat your expenditure.

Smarter tech investments

IDC reports that organisations are investing heavily in digital - with $1.3 trillion forecast to be spent globally on digital transformation in 2018, yet the ROI from these investments remains elusive. Two out of three digital transformations fail, as reported by senior executives, and 20% of executives believe that digital investments have been a "complete waste".

"Usually, investment follows a poof of concept, pilot, then scale strategy," explains Terry White, associate senior analyst at Ovum. "If, and only if, the tech works for the business, then the next investment [should be] directed only at a pilot to demonstrate operational validity and rigour, monetisation and scalability. Each step acts as a business case for the next step (or not)."

It's possible to future proof your business without an all-encompassing digital investment. Once you get a clear idea of the pressure-points your staff are feeling right now with the technologies they are using, you may be surprised that even small changes can deliver massive rewards.

Where are the bottlenecks are in their daily tasks? What frustrates them about the technologies they use every day? These are simple questions, yet answering them with well-chosen technologies or digital services could transform your business almost overnight.

On a larger scale, strategic planning for technological development for your business as a whole has two key components: The first is a close examination of your customers and what they need to support them today and in the future. The second component is your own business goals. What are your ambitions? Where do you want your business to be in three to five years? Only then can you look at how technology could help you achieve those goals.

Short term technology paralysis is common, yet it doesn't have to be debilitating. Ignoring tech fads and the rush to implement the latest innovation will free your business to concentrate on what really matters: supporting your staff with the tools they actually need.

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