Misconceptions about new Technologies

I work with new technologies in Software, and there seem to be a groundbreaking new technology every six months, while year-old technologies are already fading. Or are they? It usually takes 10-20 years for a technology to go mainstream (yes – that long!), as observed by well-known experts like Everett Rogers, who introduced Diffusion of Innovations, and Geoffrey Moore, who wrote “Crossing the Chasm”. In fact, I had the pleasure to briefly work with Geoffrey Moore when I was with Post Communications.

New technologies are tempting, but when should be bet on them? How should the risk be managed? How do you identify a winner? I recently read a Cutter report on technology decision making, which brought up these issues all over again. Most of it you can read in Roger’s and Moore’s books. However, the report talks about the most common misconceptions, and that list I found exceptionally useful.

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Ken Orr lists the following misconceptions about new technologies:

Myth: “Best possible” determines the choice of technology.
Reality: “Good enough” is the basis for choice.

Myth: Choice of technology results from rational analysis.
Reality: Choice is strongly influenced by convention and past practice.

Myth: Technology advances or discoveries usually are adopted eventually.
Reality: Most don’t succeed – and shouldn’t.

Myth: The biggest hurdle is making the original discovery – the downstream development is just a matter of applying the necessary effort.
Reality: Most of what is not yet known about a new discovery is probably bad and requires creativity to overcome.

Myth: Technological advances have intrinsic value.
Reality: The customer determines value.

Myth: Radically new advances will win.
Reality: New is not necessarily better.

Myth: The power of a new technology determines its success.
Reality: The infrastructure required to support it is often the determining factor.

Myth: Progress in technology comes principally from continuing to improve performance.
Reality: Progress requires establishing standards, imposing constraints, and achieving routine.

Myth: A new technology can be grafted onto an existing business.
Reality: The new product and the business system developed to produce it should be created together.