Emerging technology can drive innovation — if people come first – CIO Dive

Businesses strive for innovation to stay competitive, but adopting emerging technologies is not the be-all and end-all for transformation. 

Mature companies begin innovating with emerging technology by breaking it out into a workflow independent of daily technology needs. But cultural shifts and fitting the workforce into the equation play a role in the success of innovation, too. 

“Emerging tech is a separate workstream,” said Bobby Cameron, VP and principal analyst at Forrester. “It is not part of innovation. It is not part of solutions delivery.”

In 2021, 61% of organizations said they were implementing or planning to implement IT automation within two years, according to SWZD’s survey of 1,073 IT buyers in the 2021 State of IT report. Almost half have plans for IoT and 33% said the same about edge computing. 

IT execs adopting emerging tech should listen for forthcoming changes and research how new tech fits with company opportunities, according to Cameron. 

Companies can eventually integrate emerging technology into innovation processes if they are in a mature stage of transformation.

Public cloud and edge computing, for example, open up new opportunities for CIOs to accelerate software development and take advantage of other emerging technologies, according to Dave Bartoletti, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, at an event in November

But these efforts usually work best if they relate back to business strategy. 

“We recommend companies don’t just sit around [and] experiment with technology without some strategy,” said Cameron. 

Including strategy in the process drives the business toward strategic commitments instead of doing random research and development on emerging technologies, according to Cameron. 

“Run an innovation cycle with emerging tech feeding into it to ideate, to pick up some good ideas, incubate, test and validate with customers,” said Cameron. “And when you find one that works, put it into production.”

People and work first, then emerging technology

Innovation isn’t just a technology process. A cultural shift setting innovators free to try new things and keeping employees involved bridges emerging tech adoption with innovation. 

Leading with technology, instead of with the work, creates a humans vs. machine mentality, according to Ravin Jesuthasan, global leader for transformation services at Mercer. The mentality creates more work for humans to fill in process gaps.

When adopting emerging technologies and innovative processes, IT executives should consider “How do I keep my talent relevant and employed even as I bring on automation, as opposed to maybe viewing the humans as disposable,” said Jesuthasan.

Leaders can make it safe for employees to be a part of the emerging technology and innovation process by creating incentive. Skilling opportunities provide the ability to work with the technologies, and businesses can secure employees with other positions if their innovations minimize their current roles, according to Jesuthasan.

“Organizations who lead with the work, who are continuously experimenting with emerging technologies, are the ones who are the most agile and the ones who are able to proactively anticipate and deal with how technology is going to evolve the work equation,” said Jesuthasan.

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