Adrian
3 min readMar 24, 2021

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The Impact of New Technologies - Part I: A Nail Keeps the Shoe

Strategic Management Series

Probably one of the most misunderstood aspects for businesses is the implications the adoption of a new technology have in terms of effort, resources, infrastructure and changes, these considered before, during and post-implementation. Unfortunately, getting a new BI tool or ERP system is not like buying a new car, even if customers’ desires might revolve around such expectations. After all, the customer has been using a BI tool or ERP system for ages, the employees should be able to do the same job as before, right?

In theory adopting a new system is supposed to bring organizations a competitive advantage or other advantages — allow them reduce costs, improve their agility and decision-making, etc. However, the advantages brought by new technologies remain only as potentials unless their capabilities aren’t harnessed adequately. Keeping the car metaphor, besides looking good in the car, having a better mileage or having x years of service, buying a highly technologically-advanced car more likely will bring little benefit for the customer unless he needs, is able to use, and uses the additional features.

Both types of systems mentioned above can be quite expensive when considering the benefits associated with them. Therefore, looking at the features and the further requirements is critical for better understanding the fit. In the end one doesn’t need to buy a luxurious or sport car when one just needs to move from point A to B on small distances. In some occasions a bike or a rental car might do as well. Moreover, besides the acquisition costs, the additional features might involve considerable investments as long the warranty is broken and something needs to be fixed. In extremis, after a few years it might be even cheaper to ‘replace’ the whole car. Unfortunately, one can’t change systems yet, as if they were cars.

Implementing a new BI tool can take a few weeks if it doesn’t involve architecture changes within the BI infrastructure. Otherwise replacing a BI infrastructure can take from months to one year until having a stable environment. Similarly, an ERP solution can take from six months to years to implement and typically this has impact also on the BI infrastructure. Moreover, the implementation is only the top of the iceberg as further optimizations and changes are needed. It can take even more time until seeing the benefits for the investment.

A new technology can easily have the impact of dominoes within the organization. This effect is best reflected in sayings of the type: ‘the wise tell us that a nail keeps a shoe, a shoe a horse, a horse a man, a man a castle, that can fight’ and which reflect the impact tools technologies have within organizations when regarded within the broader context. Buying a big car, might involve extending the garage or eventually buying a new house with a bigger garage, or of replacing other devices just for the sake of using them with the new car. Even if not always perceptible, such dependencies are there, and even if the further investments might be acceptable and make sense, the implications can be a bigger shoe that one can wear. Then, the reversed saying can hold: ‘for want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost’.

For IT technologies the impact is multidimensional as the change of a technology has impact on the IT infrastructure, on the processes associated with them, on the resources required and their skillset, respectively on the various types of flows (data, information, knowledge, materials, money).

See Part II, Part III

Originally published at sql-troubles.blogspot.com.

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Adrian

IT professional/blogger with more than 24 years experience in IT - Software Engineering, BI & Analytics, Data, Project, Quality, Database & Knowledge Management