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?