Process Improvement Remains the Prime Payoff
Early and mainstream adopters are more likely than late adopters to get business value from emerging technologies. And with more respondents claiming to be early or mainstream adopters this year than last, the percentage of IT executives achieving significant payoffs has risen. In fact, investments in recently emerged technologies such as Web services and VoIP often exceed expectations. In general, emerging technologies are helping companies improve business processes and productivity; since process improvement requires IT-business cooperation, this suggests the two groups usually work well together. Fewer companies are using emerging technologies for new products and services, but these firms usually see payoffs. Reducing costs or increasing revenues by using emerging technologies is tougher to achieve.
Companies Show Strong Interest in Web Video
There's been an uptick in interest in emerging technologies. Process improvement, greater productivity and cost reduction are the main goals, but the "hot" emerging technologies don't fall neatly into those buckets. Yes, many of the leading items on our list of 48 emerging technologies, including virtualization, service-oriented architecture, ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) and business process management suites can streamline, integrate or improve processes and IT operations. But there's also interest in Internet and Web 2.0 technologies that could lead to new applications and IT innovations. The most notable example is Web video, the technology considered most likely to provide business value.
The high rate of implementation and experimentation indicates if there's a killer application on this list, it's likely to be this one. But video isn't getting all the attention: CIOs are experimenting with more technologies than they were last year, judging by the larger number of respondents who say they're testing or piloting emerging technologies. In particular, there's been a jump in interest in ITIL, desktop Linux and predictive analysis, and a significant increase in the number of companies that have deployed desktop virtualization, desktop search, Ajax (the Web development tool) and wikis. One surprise: Our survey turned up relatively little deployment, testing or piloting of emerging mobile technologies. Perhaps the strong interest in the iPhone will show vendors and CIOs there's a hunger for innovation here.
Culture Makes Emerging Tech Pay Off
It's important to support experimentation, remove fear of failure and create processes to implement promising new technologies quickly. This year's Emerging Technologies Survey confirms good practices identified in our 2006 and 2005 surveys. We also found that while it's important to involve business executives in emerging technologies, it doesn't matter whether new ideas for these technologies originate from inside or outside the IT organization; there is little impact on the ultimate payoff to the company. So, while CIOs should encourage ideas from outside the IT organization, including third parties, ultimately they should continue to turn to their own staffs. In addition, CIOs should consider ways to put new consumer technologies, including games, to business use. All in all, early adopters are more likely to follow these practices consistently, which helps explain why they are more likely to see payoffs from emerging technologies.
Cast Your Net Wide to Find New Technologies
In-house testing facilities help companies select emerging technologies. Are CIOs looking hard enough for new technologies? Only three sources are used by more than 50 percent of respondents to help companies identify promising emerging technologies: publications, vendors and associations. Companies that receive payoffs are more likely also to employ consultants and their own staffs to search for new technologies. And most IT organizations have dedicated testing facilities, which are helpful, but should not preclude employees outside IT who wish to experiment with new technologies, too.