​Advice for the Board and C-suite on New Technology​

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​There's an interesting new post on the Cutter Consortium ​Blog. Bu​​t first, I want to draw your attention to a more detailed discussion of disruptive technology in McKinsey Quarterly.

"The Economic Essentials of Digital Strategy" makes it clear that understanding and taking advantage of new technologies is essential for survival, let alone success.

​These days, something of a mix of the fear of sharks and the thrill of big-wave surfing pervades the executive suites we visit, when the conversation turns to the threats and opportunities arising from digitization. The digitization of processes and interfaces is itself a source of worry. But the feeling of not knowing when, or from which direction, an effective attack on a business might come creates a whole different level of concern. News-making digital attackers now successfully disrupt existing business models — often far beyond the attackers' national boundaries:

  • Simple (later bought by BBVA) took on big-cap banks without opening a single branch.
  • A DIY investment tool from Acorns shook up the financial-advisory business.
  • Snapchat got a jump on mainstream media by distributing content on a platform-as-a-service infrastructure.
  • Web and mobile-based map applications broke GPS companies' hold on the personal navigation market.

No wonder many business leaders live in a heightened state of alert. Thanks to outsourced cloud infrastructure, mix-and-match technology components, and a steady flood of venture money, start-ups and established attackers can bite before their victims even see the fin. At the same time, the opportunities presented by digital disruption excite and allure. Forward-leaning companies are immersing themselves deeply in the world of the attackers, seeking to harness new technologies, and rethinking their business models — the better to catch and ride a disruptive wave of their own. But they are increasingly concerned that dealing with the shark they can see is not enough — others may lurk below the surface.

The authors describe many of the ways in which new technologies can disrupt an existing business as well as provide exciting opportunities for the future. They suggest one way to analyze the threats and opportunity, which I suggest is well worth considering.

Turning our attention to the much shorter Cutter piece, it is simpler and in some ways more practical.

In "Advice to C-suite(rs) About​ 'Game-Changing' Technology," Dr. Stephen J. Andriole suggests three questions that members of the C-suite should ask about new and disruptive technology:

  1. What's your technology plan?
  2. What game-changing technologies are you tracking?
  3. How will these technologies drive revenue and profit?

The article expands on each of these questions with examples of how they might be answered.

While he doesn't say so, the goal is to ensure that the organization is not only aware of the potential for new technology to contribute to its success (typically in radical fashion, as in the McKinsey piece) but has plans on which it will act to realize the potential.

If an organization does not seize the opportunity presented by new technology, it can fall behind its competitors and, eventually, fail. Just think of Nokia, Research in Motion, and so many more.

These three questions are a good start.

Let's build on them.

  1. What is your business plan — not just technology plan? Have you considered the potential for new technologies to change your objectives and strategies?
  2. Which game-changing technologies are you tracking — and why? Why are you not tracking others? How do you know you have identified all the possibilities?
  3. Are you considering uses for the technologies that are different from what others are doing? How best can each be used in your business? Is your plan driven by the technology leaders or are the business-unit leaders taking the lead?
  4. What are you going to do with your current technology? Will you keep and maintain it? Will you have the resources to do so? Can you eventually migrate to new platforms and capabilities?
  5. Do you understand the risk as well as the reward? Will you be able to manage one and seize the other? Are you introducing new cyber, compliance, reputation, or other risks, such as providing retail customers access to your systems or creating a risk that robots will fail?
  6. How will you measure success? Can you delay or back out if necessary?
  7. How will you modify your plans if yet another new technology emerges that renders your current plans obsolete?
  8. Have you involved your risk, compliance, and internal audit teams to ensure you get all the insight and advice you need? Are they helping as you develop the strategy or are they only brought in after decisions have been made?

If an organization does not have its eyes on the potential threats and opportunities presented by new technology, both the risk and audit teams should be concerned. The risk to the organization of being blind to either should be brought to the attention of the board.

Do you agree? Is your company ready?​

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