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Delicate Balancing Act

By Brian P. Watson  |  Posted 06-05-2008 Print

Surprisingly, though, keeping up with the competition scored lowest in both categories. That's a striking counterpoint to the numerous experts who equate emerging technology investments to key drivers of competitive advantage.

One of those experts, IT benchmarking pioneer Howard Rubin, says businesses should use a tightly managed venture capital model for their emerging technology buys. That means picking the tools they think can deliver benefits, then analyzing performance scenarios and setting their patience timelines for the tools.

These considerations force CIOs and their teams into a delicate balancing act between pushing what's new and what the business actually needs--or thinks it needs.

All the while, executives must view these moves not as risky experiments, but as strategic investments. "Now is the time to take your boldest but most carefully managed bets," Rubin says.

To get the decision-makers on board, CIOs need to stick to a strategy, Innosight's Anthony says. For starters, that means coming up with a quantifiable result, whatever it may be. Then they have to remember that more modular tools--namely, those that won't have unpredictable interactions with other key systems--are more likely to get approval.

Finally, the more tangible the technology is to end-users, the easier it is to envision being successful. For instance, cloud computing is a great concept, but it's difficult for some to grasp. On the other hand, a collaborative tool like instant messaging can have a concrete impact on communication and teamwork.

The current economic climate doesn't help. Most IT leaders told us their emerging technology strategies shouldn't change in the near term due to the slowdown, but many pointed to scalebacks later in the year, if the bad news persists.

Rubin says the bad times are the best times to invest strategically in emerging technologies. Not doing so can cause almost irreversible damage. "This is not the time to be shy," he says. "The guys who aren't will take over their markets."

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