A few years ago, emerging technology started to become a thing. On one hand, it was a little weird—hadn’t we always had new things on the horizon? On the other hand, it felt like there was something worthwhile in this new trend. Cloud computing and mobility had been in place for the better part of a decade, and although there were some people debating the disruptive power of those new models, most companies were on a path of completely transforming the way they used technology.
CompTIA formed the Emerging Technology Community, and the research team began studying emerging technology through broad tracking mechanisms and individual reports on internet of things and artificial intelligence. Over time, two main takeaways became apparent. First, adoption wasn’t quite in line with expectations. Whether it was end users implementing technology or channel firms selling technology, adoption was more slow and steady rather than taking off like a rocket. At the same time, though, the concept of emerging technology wasn’t fading into the background. There were use cases for a wide variety of trends, and interest remained high.
It seemed like emerging technology was a little misunderstood, that the benefits and potential of all these new things were best realized in the context of a modern IT approach. With that goal in mind, CompTIA research started a new project to better define the role of emerging technology. The whitepaper is available now, and my upcoming panel discussion at ChannelCon will dive into the topic as well. Here are four quick takeaways that describe how emerging technology fits in to IT planning:
Emerging technology is a component of strategic IT.
A recent blog post of mine described how strategic IT is a shift from the tactical thinking that dominated for several decades. Emerging technology is a part of that. Generally speaking, companies are becoming more aggressive in their technology approach, so IT leaders need more awareness of new trends that might have an impact. In addition, the competitive landscape is changing dramatically, and forward thinking on emerging technology can mitigate the risk that a competitor will steal market share or a startup with a new business model will alter the playing field.
Emerging technology is less about the platform and more about solutions.
This is perhaps the biggest difference between today’s emerging technology and the trends of the past. Ben Thompson of Stratechery wrote an article at the beginning of this year describing how the basic computing platform has reached a stable point. If that’s the case, then more energy is being directed at solutions that sit on the platform, and emerging technologies are components of those solutions rather than being standalone pieces to be implemented. This changes the main task of IT from maintaining a platform to crafting tailored solutions.
Emerging technology evaluation is a new task for IT teams.
Eventually, emerging technology does become a tactical activity, with companies making a procurement decision, implementing the new tools, and modifying workflow to get max benefit. Before that, though, there is a new strategic task that businesses need to consider. Evaluation of emerging technology is becoming a formal exercise rather than a casual awareness. Companies need to balance budgetary concerns, appetite for technical change, and capabilities for support as they consider which new technologies might drive them forward. While this evaluation should be a cross-functional activity, it is an area where the IT team might take the lead since technical details will drive many decisions.
Emerging technology skills are needed in existing job roles.
One of the best examples of how emerging technology has caused some confusion is new job titles. Countless reports describe how novel job titles are poised for rapid growth, but the reality is that those highly specialized titles don’t necessarily apply across the full range of businesses. Instead, there is a relatively stable set of job roles across infrastructure, software development, cybersecurity, and data management; and all of these roles need to add new skills in emerging technologies.
There probably aren’t too many companies that have taken the time to sit down and consider the innovative aspects of the emerging technology trend. Instead, those cutting-edge companies that are experiencing success have embraced new behavior on the fly thanks to a culture of strategic IT. As we learn from these success stories, we can build knowledge and best practices for others to follow.
Don't miss The Role of Emerging Technology in Digital Transformation panel discussion at ChannelCon Online on Thursday, August 6 at 11 a.m. CDT.