Unit V Discussion Board

DBA 8671, Technology and Innovation Management 1

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit V Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

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3. Evaluate the role of portfolio management in governing the innovation management process. 3.1 Evaluate governance in regard to portfolio management.

6. Synthesize communication methods, leadership skills, and business acumen in the development of a

new technology strategy. 6.1 Assess the role of internal collaboration between technology and business functions.


Course/Unit Learning Outcomes

Learning Activity

3.1 Unit Lesson Unit V Annotated Bibliography


Unit Lesson Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Unit V Annotated Bibliography


Reading Assignment Chapter 11: Developing Thought Leaders in IT Chapter 12: Managing Disruption in IT Chapter 13: IT’s Role in a Culture of Experimentation

Unit Lesson Thought Leaders—Who Needs Them? Technology thought leaders in the industry today are both loved and hated. They tend to be passionate and brilliant individuals who bring a unique perspective to an organization. They often have insight about the underlying technologies and how they all fit together to add value. This strategic insight is frequently demonstrated when the thought leader observes an opportunity that others do not see. In a high-tech company, the thought leader may have quite a large internal following where employees seek to work alongside the thought leader in hopes that some of that “know-how” can rub off. This type of following extends to the industry where the customer base, competitors, and organizations, such as a standards body, look to the thought leader for ideas and advice. The thought leader is often observed to use this platform to advance ideas and promote the interest of the company through the publication of journal articles and white papers, through conference presentations, and through technological proposals to a standards body. It is not uncommon for an industry as well as its customers to struggle to understand the often abstract and leading- edge ideas; eventually, however, they do understand, and the industry moves forward as a result. These are some of the many reasons for companies and industries to love and appreciate the thought leader. However, the good that the thought leader brings to the table is not without some negatives. The fact that the thought leader has both an internal and external following is a significant source of power held by the thought leader. Senior managers and executives are often hesitant to provide direction, feedback


Thought Leadership, Disruption, and Experimentation




DBA 8671, Technology and Innovation Management 2



or criticism to the thought leader in fear of losing the thought leader to another company. Some thought leaders, in turn, may recognize this and, at times, behave in a way that is highly disruptive to the organization. The thought leader may be resistant to a given policy or strategy and build a political faction that pushes back against the company leadership. Another form of disruption involves the reliance on the individual thought leader to spark important initiatives. Although creativity and new ideas are good things, a sign of maturity in successful companies can be seen through a reliance on internal processes rather than the actions of individuals. Companies who are over- reliant on specific individuals are only successful if the individual remains in place. Finally, generally disruptive behavior can be a common characteristic of a thought leader. Thought leaders are observed to argue with colleagues, exhibit a less-than-collegial attitude, and may display arrogance at times. These characteristics could perhaps be expected among individuals who are creative, have an above-average intelligence, and have made themselves indispensable to the company (and perhaps the industry). Thought leaders are, therefore, both admired as well as resented. Disruption Is About Details The thought leader (or leaders) in an organization may be the one who says, “Have we thought about doing it this way rather than that way?” Although this may seem like a simple question, it bears remembering that some of the most innovative products, services, and business models came about by rearranging existing technologies to offer them or use them in a completely new way. A classic example of such disruption is the Semi-Automated Business Research Environment (SABRE) information system employed by American Airlines in the 1960s (Sabre Corporation, n.d.). What began as an effort to make reservations and ticketing more efficient led to an important but minor detail—offering access to reservations and ticketing directly to customers (and thereby bypassing the travel agent). Today, we find endless airline reservation and discount consolidation websites, such as Expedia (www.expedia.com), Priceline (www.priceline.com), and Booking (www.booking.com), where people regularly go to make flight reservations. It is much less common to book a flight through a travel agent because of this apparently minor detail that transformed an industry. Industry disruption also tends to arise via the preferential compatibility with a given company’s technology or architecture. For example, recall the period in which the Apple iPod was prominent as a means for listening to music. The market for audio equipment was then disrupted when most speaker systems required iPod interfaces—licensed by Apple—to be appealing in the marketplace. A final example of doing something in a new way and creating preferential compatibility and disruption can be found in the story of Ericsson and the company’s development of a system that minimized wired connections for peripherals. The technology became labelled Bluetooth and is now a near universal system for connecting peripherals, including audio equipment for music streaming. Apple’s iPod interface disruption was unseated by yet another technological advancement that we experience today. Telecommunications provides many examples of disruption by doing things in a new way. A classic example of this involves wireless nationwide paging networks, as they existed from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. A common approach for transmitter manufacturers was to match wireless transmitters to control systems and then advocate for open systems. An open interface would allow any transmitter or control system manufacturer to make products that attached to any given switch, control, or network system. However, consider one company with a significant installed base of switches that had initially considered the open interface route but began to think about the market in a new way. Since all wireless transmission systems included switches, control networks, and transmitters, the company with the installed base asked the question, “Why do we need to join the open interface movement? Let’s make our transmitters and control networks preferentially compatible with our installed base of switches.” Existing developments were halted, and the new direction was set. As a result, the industry was disrupted as it consolidated around the proprietary standard. Major competitors, such as Motorola, left the business due to the shrinking market share that resulted from the strategic moves of the competitor. Experimentation There is an old saying that states the importance of getting it right the first time. When it comes to innovation, this is not always the case. In fact, getting it right the second or third time may be much more common. One reason that examples of such experimentation are often forgotten is because later successes tend to obscure them in collective memories. Apple, for example, is thought to be an innovative company that always got it




DBA 8671, Technology and Innovation Management 3



right the first time. However, those who think of Apple in this way forget a failed experiment that was significant—the Apple Newton. The Newton was introduced before its time in the late 1980s. It was a small, wireless personal digital assistant that featured handwriting recognition. Given the state of technology at the time, it did not work well. However, it did spark innovative thinking that led to the development of the personal digital assistant industry with major players, such as Palm and Handspring. As cellphones grew more powerful, they gradually adopted the common features of the personal digital assistant. This disrupted the relatively new market for small digital handhelds, as smartphones became the primary mobile device. Later, Apple returned to this industry with the iPhone, and this time, they got it right. The iPhone did not offer the innovation of handwriting recognition in this case, but they did take the idea of the personal digital assistant further with the touchscreen, web browsing, and 3G and 4G data connectivity. Furthermore, although the iPhone does interface with a number of different personal applications, such as Microsoft and Google, its preferential compatibility with the iTunes and Mac ecosystem makes it a powerful competitor to Android. What is observed in today’s wireless market by major players may seem like the result of a carefully crafted and well planned execution plan; however, constant experimentation lies at its heart. Today’s wireless market takes for granted other examples of experimentation. There is an example that is hidden in plain sight, but smartphone owners use it daily. This is the camera found on every smartphone today. This is an industry disruptor that nearly happened by accident. At the dawn of the smartphone era, wireless operators were concerned about how to grow. Market penetration of cellphones had increased to levels approaching saturation, and most people used the phones to speak to each other. Text messaging was on the rise but was a rather small component of the overall wireless service portfolio. Wireless operators, therefore, were seeking ways to grow in a stagnant phone market, and growing the use of smartphones to transmit data appeared to be the only way to do this. Yet, how could wireless operators shift end users to switch from thinking of the phone as merely a phone to thinking of the phone as a way to transmit data as well? Putting a camera on a phone was one of many ideas for enabling data transmission. The end user did not need to consciously think about transmitting data; they only needed to take and send pictures. The experimentation with putting cameras on smartphones took off as wireless bandwidth increased and applications for storing and sharing photos became more widely available. The camera phone experiment worked. It solved the problem of how to sell more airtime when people are already talking on phones all of the time. In addition, the camera phone became the norm and consolidated the photography industry in many ways. This simple experiment led to the decline of film companies, such as Kodak, and even caused the digital photography market to decline. What is the lesson for technology managers? Do not be afraid to experiment. You may not get it right the first time, but you may find that something apparently small transforms entire industries. Implications of Disruption and Experimentation on Governance Governance in the context of managing technology is all about determining what the company will and will not invest in to maximize the potential of future business. Governance processes and policies also consider development efforts currently in progress to determine their ongoing relevance to the business. When markets are disrupted by novel technologies, it becomes increasingly challenging to make decisions regarding existing and new development efforts. This may spur experimental initiatives within the company, and these prove challenging to evaluate due to the high uncertainty. Disruption and experimentation, often led by thought leaders, may lead to the development of special evaluation criteria for a certain percentage of new projects. Although doing this leads to an acceptance of higher portfolio risks, it also opens the door for technology companies to benefit from the next wave of technology.

Reference Sabre Corporation. (2016). The Sabre story. Retrieved from https://www.sabre.com/files/Sabre-History.pdf

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