How emerging technologies make the grade

Evaluating new technologies which will make a difference to one's business requires a well-defined process and criteria,...

Evaluating new technologies which will make a difference to one's business requires a well-defined process and criteria, according to IS executives at the CIO Symposium.

United Parcel Service (UPS) set up a process and a group for evaluating emerging technologies in 1996.

So much new development was under way that in some cases one group might be developing the business case for a new technology while another was already evaluating it, said Jim Medeiros, vice-president of IS shared services at the delivery company.

UPS' process first involved an evaluation of a new technology on paper, then a decision is made on whether it is worth investing in a prototype. If the prototype meets the approval of the governance group, a development group writes the application, which must meet final approval before deployment.

"One of the big wins we had was using Linux," Medeiros said.

UPS felt it was important to stay ahead of the business needs for emerging technologies, and the open-source operating system was put through the evaluation process and a production-hardened version was ready a year before it was deployed.

At Verizon Communications the first question which must be answered about a new technology is whether it will have a positive impact on the company's earnings, said Shadman Zafar, senior vice-president of architecture and e-services.

The final element in making a case for an emerging technology, in particular one involving next-generation communications, is to "explicitly seek out power users as our advisers", Zafar said.

Power users can corroborate the need for a new service or technology, "they have the ability to verbalise needs ahead of other customers", he added.

Both executives, however, acknowledged that the processes they have created for evaluating technology are not always followed.

When the technology is one that will allow for market creation - not just market penetration - the initial phase does not always follow the programme, Zafar said.

Sometimes only 30% of the process is followed through, he said.

"In market creation you have to sometimes break the process or it won't happen."

Elizabeth Heichler writes for IDG News Service

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