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Adoption of New Technology: Lead or Lag?

Originally published October 4, 2012

I was recently overseas, and I spent a week with some very nice professionals discussing the state of their technology. For lots of reasons, it was a really good week.

One thing that I have noticed as I visit other countries – something that is pretty much true of most countries outside of North America – is that many organizations are several years behind in terms of their technology. This is as much a reflection of business circumstances as anything else. But however you want to measure it, it is simply true – overseas countries lag behind North America by several years.

Now there is an interesting question. Is lagging behind the market leaders in technology a bad thing? While it is true that overseas countries do lag behind, it turns out that there are some real advantages to doing so.

The main advantage to lagging behind market technology leaders is that the overseas countries see what works and what does not work and do not make the mistakes that American companies make. And it turns out that this is a very good thing to do in many cases.

New technology, much of which originates in America, ALWAYS comes with hype – not just a little hype, but major doses of hype. For whatever reason, when a new technology appears on the horizon, the new technology is attributed with all sorts of powers and advantages. Some of the hype is true and some is not true, but the American corporate consumers go for it hook, line and sinker.

Why are Americans so gullible? There are probably several reasons for the gullibility of the American corporate consumer:

The trade press covering the new technology marketplace is typically not skeptical at all. Consider the trade press for more mature professions. In medicine, new medicines and new procedures undergo tremendous scrutiny before being released to the general public. In other professions, new advancements are tried and proved before the trade press starts to talk about them. This is not the case for the technology trade press. In truth, most of the trade press for new technology merely recycles press releases created by the vendor. The vendor has every reason to stretch the truth, or at least expound on features that have not been proven in the marketplace.

Americans are always looking for the new edge in business. Does anybody remember the derision once associated with “brick and mortar”? It was once a badge of being behind the times if a company was based on old school brick and mortar. Take a look at the companies that have had financial success over the long run, and you’ll find that today we value the solid foundation of brick and mortar.

The venture capital companies operate as a bunch of lemmings. A few influential venture capitalists make some pronouncements, and the rest of the venture capitalists accept those words as if they were written on stone tablets along with the Ten Commandments. Case in point – how many venture capitalists had the intelligence to question the dot-com companies’ basic business plan? The dot-coms threw away huge amounts of money on an industry that had no valid business plan.

Looking at the history of new technology, it makes sense to take new technology with a grain of salt and an ounce of skepticism, and not just for the very obvious reasons that are mentioned here. Our friends overseas do exactly that and have a much more efficient and less error-prone approach to the integration and absorption of new technologies.

Kudos to the overseas corporations.

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

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