Innovation applied: How to embrace emerging technologies in your enterprise

By Pete Teigen

The demand for digital reinvention is great. The necessity for value-creating innovation is undeniable, yet it seems few have found a way to do it successfully. Only seven percent of companies surveyed by Ovum have completed the implementation of their digital transformation, even though half of them consider it “an extremely high priority.” IBM recently surveyed 2,000 global executives about their emerging technology initiatives and found that they had dedicated mobile strategy teams (93 percent) and innovation teams (95 percent), only 55 percent rated their own organization as being more innovative than their peers.

What’s more, only 39 percent of those who rated their organizations as more innovative also indicated that their organization significantly outperforms its peers in revenue or operating efficiency. Doesn’t that make you wonder what all that dedicated effort is achieving? This calls for a new way to innovate — and a new way to accelerate, scale and capitalize on emerging technology innovation.

The rapid evolution of emerging technologies requires organizations to simultaneously operate on both short-term horizons while still pursuing their longer-view innovation strategy. But how do they do that? How can they embrace emerging technologies as a competitive edge and accelerate the scale of their innovation? How can they pivot from a reactive approach — investing in emerging tech that merely mitigates or responds to the threat of business disruption — to a more proactive approach that uses emerging technologies to be the business disruptor?

If you’re second, you might as well be last

A variety of examples demonstrate that being first is paramount, even more so now with an accelerated pace of technological advances. In this fast-moving world of emerging technology, having dedicated mobile strategy teams and innovation teams has become “table stakes.” Being a fast follower is not good enough anymore. Organizations can’t wait to be fast followers, as the competitive advantage from second on down becomes indistinguishable. Market makers become market dominators and are handsomely rewarded for being the innovative leader that can scale and implement emerging technology fastest. Uber’s market dominance remains high, even though its uniqueness or buzz may be softening. Because it created its market, it owns the shared ridership platform. Facebook’s market dominance continues in social media/social networking because it created its market — it “owns” the shared media platform.

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The answer? These organizations need an emerging technologies approach that allows them to start fast, scale fast and evolve fast. Starting fast means you need to continuously and dynamically sift through the hundreds of emerging technology possibilities on the horizon to quickly evaluate, identify and separate those that will benefit your organization from those that won’t. This way, you’re constantly cycling out those that fail to show value and refreshing with new ones that potentially will.

Starting fast also requires those organizations with large legacy technology investments to avoid limiting their strategies to just that environment. An innovation culture must permit trying new things unbound by the day-to-day metrics and trappings of existing lines of business. As a continuous reminder of that, just look at how developing countries, nascent upstarts or even mature markets with no existing functional platforms can leapfrog the organizations stuck dealing with how to bridge legacy technologies and emerging technologies.

Innovation hurdles ahead of emerging technologies

To start fast, obstacles must be removed. In the IBM mobile and emerging technologies survey, the top four obstacles identified as preventing organizations from applying emerging technology innovations included costs being too high, emerging technology not being secure enough, regulatory compliance being too difficult and limited internal skills lacking availability. Fortunately, cost, skills and security can be addressed at the same time as scalability.

The survey results revealed cloud services, internal innovation hubs and infrastructure-as-a-service as the top three technologies useful for accelerating and scaling deployment of emerging technologies. Organizations employing those tools will have the advantage of achieving the “scale fast” mandate. Combining those tools with newer, fast-maturing technologies such as cognitive computing and the IoT enables the third key capability of evolving fast. Layering cognitive computing over these emerging technologies enables the dynamic self-learning to quickly evolve as they’re used more and more.

Thinking about emerging technology innovation holistically, rather than in a siloed or narrower single line-of-business way, is what brings it all together for synergistic value creation and leads to differentiation. Imagine the exponential value of robotics, drones or biometric security when they’re combined with the power of cognitive computing and become self-learning. Won’t an autonomous drone be more dynamic and useful when it can adapt to millions of unanticipated path variations, appropriately self-correct and return an optimal response?

Written By

Pete Teigen

IBM Institute for Business Value, Mobile Leader

Pete is providing mobile thought leadership and practical insights for business.

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