Disruptive technology adoption

Having worked in high tech for so much time in my career, I’ve given some thought to how and why companies acquire disruptive and innovative new technology, especially when conventional consensus has not fully embraced it.   I believe there are five reasons to acquire “new” high tech, though often, more than one factor “drives” a particular company for a particular technology:

– Strategic advantage

– A necessity to do business

– A means to improve a process

– In response to competitive conditions

– For the sake of the technology

The buyers “get it”; they understand the wisdom of the innovation; they too may be driven by some of the same values expressed by the technology and nature of the sellers.  I’ve seen this time and time again.

The sellers’ job

Technology rarely sells itself. Don’t believe the software or hardware developers, engineers or analysts who believe “if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door”. No, if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. Instead, it is the sellers’ job to demonstrate to buyers how the new technology will make them more competitive, improve their workflow, cut costs, solve an identified and existing problem, improve their clients’ satisfaction, or resolve another problem – better than any other means of doing so.

Adoption of any new technology is not all that simple, or immediate. We begin to understand this truism when we accept that buyers do not usually readily understand the value of a new technology.  Buyers also usually have competing interests and priorities that may have to be dealt with, or re-prioritized while evaluating or considering another technology.

No one remembers it took IBM ten years and many millions of dollars to establish the Personal Computer or PC.  The ubigitous PC was an unknown entity for a long, long time.

A disruptive technology – one that upsets the status quo – does not sell itself.  To communicate its utility, it’s features and functions, it’s price/performance, it’s special attractions, it’s value, requires sustained activities and talented management that knows the intricacies of business.  It’s not strictly a rational discourse nor strictly a strategic vision that works.  To break through the clutter there is a necessity to position the innovation as a “must” in a concerted and coordinated campaign over time.  John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco Systems maintained that much of Cisco’s success was forged through focused and sustained, well researched execution.  A boilerplate execution program was shared and communicated internally for all to follow.

Seth Godin, entrepreneur, marketer, author and spokesperson says the most important question for the seller is not “is the price low enough” , “is it reliable enough”, “is the website cool enough”.  No, the most important question in marketing something to someone who hasn’t purchased it before, is “trust”.  He says: “Do they trust me enough to believe my promises?  Without that, you have nothing. Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest”.

But how many sellers do that?

What are the markings or signs that indicate a company, and it’s leadership is interested and committed and ready to evaluate your new technology? Depending on the nature of the technology, and its impact on the buyers’ business model, the evaluation may be an exhaustive process requiring  the commitment of numerous stakeholders (inside and outside the company) over time.

Why a Company Buys New Technology

I’ve been interested for a long time to learn why some companies adopt new technology, while others do not. Is it something about the companies and leadership that characterizes them, or is it something about how the technology is messaged or positioned by the seller, or a combination of the two, or something else altogether?   I let others fully understand the technical engineering while I focus on understanding the audience, the industry, the players, their problems and their priorities.  Only that way can a seller successfully market it’s technology.


Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

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