02/03/2011

By Andy Coote

The pace of technological change accelerates by the week.

First, on 11th February, came the announcement of a partnership between Microsoft and Nokia to deliver Nokia smartphones running Windows 7 mobile to compete against the iPhone, Android and Blackberry operating environments. Nokia, for so long the market leader in mobile, surprised many in the market who assumed they would choose Google’s Android as their operating system.

A week later came Mobile World Congress 2011 (MWC11) in Barcelona, attended by over 60,000 people, with a slew of announcements of new phones and new tablets. LG offered a new 3D phone and tablet running Android. All of these devices will run what have become known as ‘Apps’, an innocuous name for potentially powerful programs that run on those devices, are easy to download and use and, in many cases, are completely untested for corporate security.

For you as CEO and your IT management, managing devices connecting to your data and the Apps that can then access and process it just got harder.

According to ZDNet blogger and Publishing Director for CBS Interactive's UK B2B publications and former editor of Silicon.com, Tony Hallett:

One visiting tech boss cited the US-based Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) as reckoning that by 2014, 70 per cent of CE products will be internet-connected. How about calls to the help desk when a user’s TV can’t get on the intranet?

That’s just mobile — though its reach is far greater than that. Whatever your business, there will be many more options for you to adopt and use new technologies through hardware and software. So how do you deal with this? Is it a case of accepting the inevitable and running to keep up?

To some extent, it may be, but, just because it can be done doesn’t mean that you should do it. Make sure your decision is considered and rational rather than railroaded. Keep the business plan in control and make technology your tool for achieving that. Unless your business is technology, being technology driven is probably a bad idea.

Further changes in technology are inevitable. There is a large industry dedicated to developing competing technologies. They need to generate revenue and they have a large publicity machine. There is always going to be someone telling you what you MUST do to be considered 'cool' or modern — be it adopting tools like Twitter, Social Media Marketing or the latest iphone or Android App. Is all this new technology relevant to you and your business?

If you apply an ROI approach to technologies, you can begin to put them into context. Ignore the hype and the jargon and concentrate on the basics. Will it save money, make more money or open new markets for your business? If not, maybe you don't need it for now and you can avoid the expense and dislocation that goes with the introduction of change.

That is not to say that the technology won’t be relevant and won’t give you a return in due time. You do need to be aware of industry-changing technologies. The technologies that require your attention will be the ones that allow you or your competitors to do things quicker, cheaper or better and the ones that allow new competitors into your market. Those will include smartphone and tablet apps.

In those cases, you may need to act quickly but with one eye on the ROI throughout. If it doesn’t pay, it shouldn’t play. Technology applied well can make a good business better. Applied poorly it can hold back an otherwise sound business. Your business needs should be driving the technology you adopt and not the other way around.

Andy Coote is a writer and editor and runs Bizwords providing writing services for businesses and individuals. Andy is a Chartered Information Technology Professional(CITP) with many years of experience of IT in business. These days he is more a user than a developer of technology. He has edited Fresh Business Thinking CEO Newsletter for over 4 years.

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