Adopting Early and Often
Roughly one in five companies are early adopters, according to our survey. But before becoming early adopters, companies must overcome obstacles such as perceived risk--the reluctance to buy based on the uncertainty of the product's performance capabilities. "Perceived risk, if not the killer, is often an impediment to adoption time," says George Day, professor of marketing and director of the emerging technologies management research program at the Wharton School. "Any time you introduce uncertainty, people are going to hesitate."
That uncertainty begets more uncertainty. If companies aren't adopting the technology, it has no chance of becoming truly "disruptive" to the marketplace, Day says. And with little sales revenue, vendors and developers can't invest in improvements; it's a Catch-22.
For some, though, the rewards of early adoption outweigh the risks. Ruby Tuesday CTO Nick Ibrahim consistently seeks new technologies to automate operations and improve efficiency for the 900-restaurant chain. Two years ago, the company bought a software display system that guides cooks through step-by-step food preparation-- when to put a burger patty on the grill, when to flip it and when to plate it, for example. A DOS-based version of the program had been in use there for some time, but when the vendor built a Windows-based version with better functionality and graphics, Ruby Tuesday was among the first to take the plunge.
The early adoption paid off: The new technology eliminated Ruby Tuesday's need for kitchen managers; it also improved customer service, and speeded table turnover, helping cut average dining time from 55 minutes to 45 minutes. It eliminated the need to print and distribute instructional cooking posters, too, saving the company $1 million a year, Ibrahim says. The risk of early adoption may have been uncommonly small; the company could have reverted to the DOS version. But the reward, making progress on an important business goal, is not uncommon for companies that adopt emerging technologies with care.