How to beat the recession using underutilised technology

What are we missing? What’s been overlooked? History shows that exploiting underutilised technology is a way of getting out of trouble.

What are we missing? What’s been overlooked? History shows that exploiting underutilised technology is a way of getting out of trouble.

The Chinese used water wheels for agriculture, Europeans harnessed them for industry. This article is about finding under powered digital engines and seeing how we can turbo-charge them as a source of power to pull us out of recession.

So how can you identify the missed opportunities that the market has ignored? Stuff that could make our lives easer and safer but has never caught on. Innovations made and lost because no-one recognised what was invented.

In the IT business whenever someone asks for a new system or programme, it means inventing it.

Overlooked Areas of Corporate Innovation:

  1. Customer Oriented Innovation – areas where your firm had a lead over the competition but was never effectively marketed
  2. Product Innovation – possible ignored new products or incremental innovation – the small improvements in your products that are not only easier to come by but are easier to sell
  3. Process Innovation – the bread and butter of corporate innovation – indentify the places for improving the processes that allow your or client companies to run smoothly, legally and more profitably
  4. Strategic Innovation – creating fundamental changes in how your company operates, ones that requires vision and determination

Recognise that everyone has ideas about aspects of your company. Many of those ideas are well thought out. Some of those ideas are worth good money.

Focus on the ideas that are useful and not just fanciful. The ones that more practicable rather than speculative. "Big bad, small good."

Key markets

Digital applications have global potential. You need to develop a strategy and not only go hunting in areas where there’s quarry but critically where others aren’t hunting either. It’s not the size of the market, that’s important, rather the opportunity – look for countries without the required skill base.

For example, the US and China are huge markets but both have the internal skills and companies already producing technology products. They don’t need new products or services from us unless they are exceptional.

Hype Cycle

There is a cycle in the introduction of technologies (Gartner call this the 'hype cycles') that characterise the over-enthusiasm and subsequent disappointment which happen when new technologies are introduced. These cycles also show how and when innovations move beyond hype and become accepted.

The five phases of a Hype Cycle are:

  1. Technology trigger: the breakthrough that generates significant press and interest.
  2. Peak of inflated expectations: a frenzy of publicity leading to over-enthusiasm.
  3. Trough of disillusionment: technologies that fail to meet expectations.
  4. Slope of enlightenment: the period where businesses seek a practical application.
  5. Plateau of productivity: reached as benefits become widely accepted.

The current technologies believed to have a transforming effect over the next few years are:

  • Green IT
  • Cloud computing
  • Social computing platforms
  • Video telepresence
  • Microblogging

Emerging Technologies

The scientific, academic and business communities are dependant on digital technologies, be it biotech, nanotechnology or artificial intelligence and while Government is hoping to build the infrastructure; the private sector will provide the value to make it work.

For example, a truly semantic web, one with improved technologies for learning and innovative ideas such as peer-to-peer financing where a novel approaches to new way of loans is developing with algorithms to analyze the reputations of social-network members – a world of forensic economics not a self-assessed one.

A bundle of emerging technologies is listed below to give some food for thought and help you advise your organisation on the business and innovation potential in the marketplace.

Automotive Electronics - Vehicle innovation is driven by developments in electronics – it’s time to dust off any ideas from power management to GPS - the industry is crying out for thought leadership.

Compliance Technologies - Regulatory response activities can be made significantly easier through the use of technology and anyone with a new way of managing risk stands in-line for a fortune.

Consumer Technologies - With the digital home, centred on connectivity and the delivery of media to multiple devices, the market is open for auditing copyright infringement and data protection for the mobile workforce.

Content Management - Content and the management repositories where data is stored are increasingly linked across multiple applications. Mash-ups now make sense so ensure your apps benefit.

Data Management - Technologies and best practices for data management continue to evolve rapidly. The focus on Digital Preservation is a growth area.

Enterprise Portals - Portals deliver huge business benefits. With laggards following the lead portals offer a low risk opportunity for improving business process management.

Enterprise Speech Technologies - Speech technologies that automate call centre processes are maturing but the mobile phone is an open market for speech recognition applications.

Human-Computer Interaction - The rate of human/machine interaction is set to increase because of faster bandwidth, graphics capabilities and new I/O devices. The change in interactive relationship will affect the workplace and new ways of working will need to be codified.

Identity and Access Management - Regulatory compliance is a force for changes in identity and access management. Single sign-on delivers business value but the management of a changing workforce beckons for efficiency and innovation.

Information Security - Understanding the velocity of new security threats and the counter-technologies to protect the enterprise is an ongoing opportunity for timely investment.

Infrastructure Protection - External and internal menace pose a problem for organisations and the business prospect lies in increasing the efficiency of dealing with a broad range of threats.

Networks and Collaboration - Intelligent secure and automated networks supporting multi-media and collaboration tools offer business for the systems integrator and the business analyst alike.

Print Management - Organisations continue to squander resources on wanted print in every department. The incremental improvements happening around print are a win/win for consultants and customer.

Nanotechnology - Technologies based on semiconducting molecules and DNA structures may transform the industry it’s the area to prospect for a fortune.

Virtualization - With increasingly dense processors and improved data centre cooling technologies, server virtualization is a key area to develop services and expertise.

Storage Management - Storage needs grow exponentially, as does the need to ensure data availability and manage costs. Regulatory changes make building and managing tiered storage infrastructures a major initiative. Experts are needed in data reduction and content indexing technologies.

Risk Management - Increased vulnerability and growing compliance-related initiatives are spawning vulnerability management programs. It’s an area that requires both technology and processes to improve security exposure.

Web Technologies - The Web is now strategic to corporate infrastructure following the take-up of portals and Web 2.0 services. The technologies developing into general business applications need champions.

Wireless Networking - Advancements in wireless are certain to continue to take hold come but it won't just be new technologies that impact the spectrum, sociology and legislation will impact how it's used. Expertise in this area will be in strong demand.

XML Technologies - Covering security, analytics, semantics, content, e-commerce, and IP-based infrastructure. They affect every enterprise and need specialist skills

What if?

You need to encourage ideas in your organisation. Support any innovation strategy with an ideas management system. Encourage everyone in the firm to contribute ideas so top management can maximise the innovation potential.

You can start by asking “What if?” about everything you do. It’s a lateral thinking technique that helps you explore possibilities and challenge assumptions at the same time. The first question to ask is: "What if we don’t do anything?" That should get the creative juices flowing.

Old views of the world change and new uses for things come about. The Aurora Borealis was seen in Norse mythology as the flickering light from the shields of the warlike virgins the Valkyrior. It is now regarded as a future source of abundant energy as the plasma in the magnetosphere conducts electricity. Anyone want the job of plugging it in?

 

 

This was last published in February 2009

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