Deploying software is easy, but realizing value can be hard. Why technology adoption matters. Part 1

“Price is what you pay.  Value is what you get” Warren Buffett

In my career I’ve had the opportunity to witness a disturbing trend emerge of technology investments being orphaned within the enterprise post purchase or licensing.  In too many instances, it becomes “shelfware” before the check can be cashed by the vendor/consultant, and then proceeds to gather dust for months, if not years.

Read: Why Adoption of Technology Matters – Part 2

What is inarguably worse are instances wherein expenses are incurred to deploy the technology, perhaps even offering some level of training, but mostly there is no measurable, positive impact to the business.  There is no realization of value.  Sure, there may be successful, isolated pilots that department heads, IT and even the vendor/consultant will pronounce as the justification.  But how often has the total investment been recouped in ways that matter to the organization?  And what does that do to the credibility of IT within the organization, when the ROI can’t be measured or proves to be negligible?

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The fact of the matter is this: deploying technology without a plan for adopting the technology to drive the business forward is a luxury that no business can afford .  Often, the potential is there for lower TCO, increased productivity, positive ROI and other metrics that define success.  But I would estimate that 100s of millions of dollars are wasted, a result of poorly thought-out purchasing decisions (often based on “fud”,  soft business justification, or just not having a plan for actually using the technology in ways that address company needs.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to host a discussion on deploy/adopt about ways companies can maximize the return on their technology investments, by thoughtfully planning out the last-mile of that purchase: adoption.

Defining Adoption

When we talk about “technology adoption”, what do we mean? What exactly does ‘adoption’ suggest, in the context of IT investments?  Now, deployment is relatively easier to define – ‘bits on the device’ works well enough (though virtualization technologies has begun to make even that statement somewhat constraining). But in general most would agree that ‘to deploy’ something gives the ability to actually use it.

So then what does it mean to adopt a technology solution? And, does it really matter? Is deployment enough or synonymous with adoption?

The Encarta dictionary describes adopt this way:

choose and decide to use something: to take up something such as a plan, idea, cause, or practice and use or follow it

choose something as requirement: to officially select something as a requirement

We see in these definitions that adoption implies making a choice – a conscious decision is being made to choose something other something else. Think about how we ‘adopt’ things in life, whether it is a sport team, philosophy or animal. Why do we do this? Because a value has been associated, by ourselves or others, and we’re acknowledging that value in how we then act towards or interact that object.

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That seems simple enough to apply to business in general and technology solutions specifically, right? Then, can an enterprise deploy a technology solution without adopting it? Most assuredly – it’s an unfortunate situation many customers are facing now, justifying long-term service and sales contracts, when the technology and/or solution has yet to demonstrate measurable value back to the organization.  But can you adopt something without deploying it? No. In the vernacular of social networks you can “be a fan” of a technology solution without actually deploying it, but that relationship can be both shallow and fleeting.

We can now say that the act of a customer deploying a technology solution merely makes the applications, servers and services available to the enterprise. But the adoption indicates that all or parts of the system have achieved a level of value and appreciation within the company; they’ve become integral to their processes, their recipe for success.  And that realization of value is measurable using the metrics that the company itself deems relevant to their bottom line (satisfaction of employees and/or customers, productivity, lower costs, higher sales).

So then, in discussing technology adoption, can we break this down into pieces that are easier to quantify?  I think we can, and in my next article on the subject of technology adoption, we will do just that.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts?  Is the adoption of technology investments important, or does the purchase or installation/deployment good enough?  And what roles do the vendor/consultant, IT department, business units and sponsoring executives play in insuring a fruitful experience?

Why Technology Adoption Matters – Part 2

After the Technology adoption Matters – Part 1 post, in this article, I’m going to focus on the 2nd segment, workgroups.  Workgroups can be organizationally structured (e.g., departments, geographic offices) or they can be ‘virtual’ teams of two or more individuals working collaboratively.  What we’re looking at are how technology adoption requires buy-in from the groups within an enterprise that are intent on being productive and driving measurable results for specific projects.

Rhonda is a world-class seller, always on the lookout for a chance to engage her customers more effectively.  Over a casual lunch with her colleague Michael, she learns that he’s been piloting their new extranet, and with IT’s help created an online site that he shares with his customers.  He explains how it has allowed him to stay engaged and informed, a trusted partner in his client’s successes.  Rhonda can’t wait to talk with her Business Liaison to find out more – hopefully she can decrease the number of hours spent on the road just trying to ‘stay visible’ to her customers!

Workgroups are the segment where technology (and the partners that deliver it) seems to settle, enabling small to medium groups of users that are aligned by department, geography or project. In fact, anecdotes suggest that the usage (adoption) of technology in an organization is directly related to how broadly it is used in workgroups.

The thinking is that there is a ‘tipping point’ at which the enterprise will organically embrace it and IT will make it their ‘go-to’ platform for solutions.  How is this possible?  The importance of having a plan for piloting how technology will be used cannot be overstated.  Again, I’m amazed at how often organizations procure technology for the sake of ‘checking the box’, as if licensing is the hard work and usage will happen through osmosis.

Orphaned Technology”: technology purchased without a plan for deployment and/or usage

Here are my 2 recommendations for encouraging workgroups in supporting and accelerating a company’s successful adoption of technology:

  • Know your audience.  Engage that 20% of your workgroups that drive 80% of the important metrics in the company. Encourage their participation in technology decisions, through regular collaboration on the company’s technology roadmap and prioritization of solutions.  If your company has liaisons between the business units and IT, take them to lunch regularly – they are the eyes & ears of what matters most.
  • Pilot technology solutions immediately after the purchase.  Proof-of-Concepts are a waste of your time and money – seeing the potential is great, but do it on the vendor’s dime (i.e., pre-purchase).  In fact, negotiate help with the pilot as part of the sale.  Those partners that are confident in their solution will jump at the chance because they understand the long-term hook it can be.

Technology adoption at the workgroup level delivers the scale that can’t be attained focusing solely on individuals, or by reaching for the stars by targeting enterprise solutions alone.  But it is important that companies and their technology partners be diligent to engage as broadly and deeply as necessary to get the impact necessary for adoption.

My hope is that what I am sharing is not so much insightful as it is practical steps that you already know are needful – my goal is to encourage you that they are paramount to the successful licensing, deployment and adoption of technology in your company.

Where I have seen companies follow these activities, the rate of adoption and the speed with with the important metrics ‘lit green’ was markedly better than those than either did nothing or tossed technology over the IT wall.

In summary, don’t underestimate the importance of engaging work groups effectively when introducing technology in the enterprise.  With the right contacts and buy-in, you’ll find they will greatly influence the rate at which the company deploys and adopts the solutions that matter.

Google Chromebook Pixel. Crazy? Like a Fox

We all thought the same thing when we saw the announcement of Chromebook Pixel, didn’t we? Wireless only?! 3:2 screen?! $1299?! What?!

But you have to hand it to Google. They love to stir the pot, think outside the norm, push everyone to look out the window and image “what if”?

Also Read: Importance of Technology in 2 parts.

What if there was pervasive free or low-cost wireless connectivity outside our homes and offices?

What if mission-critical applications standardized on HTML5 rather than creating device-specific apps or (worse) old-school .EXEs?

What if the cloud was secure enough and easy enough for wider consumer and enterprise adoption?

In that near-Utopian world,  the Chromebook Pixel would make perfect sense. But we’re not there yet. Not by a long shot.

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Do I think the Chromebook Pixel will be a failure? Absolutely not. While it’s too expensive and requires a commitment to a variety of technologies that, while available, still aren’t ubiquitous, I don’t think that’s the goal here. What Google likes to do is demonstrate the possibilities, throw cash at a problem, and then let their community at it.

As an aspirational product, what the Chromebook Pixel will do is  get more people to -think about where a true ‘net book makes sense. And it will likely cause some to take a second look at the $199 and $249 Chromebook, both lower cost alternatives, without some of the bells & whistles, but a relative steal. Count me in that segment.

Well played Google, well played.

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Read: Why adoption of technology matters to everybody

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