In making the case for the adoption of new learning technology, you are likely to run into the skepticism of your management team and/or CEO. In his well-regarded book, Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore explains that it’s the job of upper-level managers to be cautious about making changes in the business and taking on new financial obligations. So how do you overcome this baked-in adversity to change and successfully champion the adoption of new learning technology?
Of course, if you are lucky, you have a new CEO or new executive who has a vision that supports the adoption of new learning technologies and is an enthusiastic “early adopter.” But this approach to change is rarely found in those in leadership positions, where pragmatism and caution are the order of the day. In order to get your request taken seriously, you need to make a business case for the expenditure and effort that will be required to take on new technology. As Peter Drucker, father of modern management theory and creator of the term “knowledge worker” framed it, “management must always, in every decision and action, put economic performance first.”
In our new book, Shock of the New, Chad Udell and I develop the BUILDS Framework and use it to explain what is needed to make a successful business case for the adoption of emerging technologies.
Here are some of the elements required for making a successful business case:
Articulate the business value
Business value is not the same as return on investment (ROI) which is a numerical technique that appeals to accountants but does not capture the full range of value of new technology. New technology brings business value by enabling the business to execute its business plan, create sustainable business success, and extend its reach to enable future growth according to the overall business strategy.
List strengths and weaknesses
The technology you are championing should match the task at hand. Technologies should never be adopted because they are the “next big thing.” The technology should feel like a natural match; it shouldn’t have to be shoehorned into a process or event. In the case of emerging technologies, the bar is even higher; the technology should not only fill an obvious gap, but it should do it better than the technology or process it replaces. Here, techniques include a SWOT analysis and the development of use cases that capture all the needs of all the possible users, and that include an analysis of any existing computer systems that might interact with the new technology. (In use case analysis, connected computer systems are regarded as users as well).
Identify new opportunities
New technologies open avenues for innovation. With new technologies, there will be new affordances that create opportunities for new processes and support the implementation of innovative ideas. For example, mobile computing and the use of smartphones enables almost instant performance support, providing business information and training materials to a user any place, any time, whenever needed.
Plan for risks
There are always risks involved when any new technology is adopted. But there also may be risks in not adopting that technology. Your business might lose the opportunity for a competitive advantage such as being perceived by customers as a first-mover or a leading-edge vendor. You may later get shut down due to trademarks, patents, or other intellectual property issues. You may enable smaller, nimbler companies to pick away at your market share. You may lose employees. But by anticipating the risks, you can plan for ways to mitigate them.
Present case studies
Cautious executives will always ask the question “so who else has adopted this technology?” If you can’t find examples in your field then look for case studies in related fields and be prepared to clearly explain similarities to your field. You may have to look outside the learning industry altogether. Scour trade magazines, technology journals, websites, academic publications, research reports, and Department of Defense documentation to find examples that are similar to your situation. While there are advantages in being the first mover, many executives will shy away from trying something new until they see that someone else has had success with a similar approach.
Making the business case for a new learning technology will greatly enhance acceptance at the top levels of management. In Shock of the New, you will find guidance on other aspects of the BUILDS Framework that we developed to help you evaluate emerging learning technologies. Float has a 10-year history of helping companies with strategic planning for technology development and adoption. Float uses a human-centered design process to build custom award-winning software apps that meet the requirements of our clients. Please contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.
-Dr. Gary Woodill
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