Advanced Technologies or rather Technology today gets defined as ‘that which is changing fast’ by the people. If some things are not moving at a fast pace, they aren’t defined as ‘technology’. We tend to filter them out and don’t even look at them.
This is what happens with the advanced technologies. Initially only in a few industries use them as they have just entered the market. However, they still make progress. Even if researches are in line, it is not visible to the consumers. It is all a game of visibility and humans tend to make decisions about new innovations with their gut rather than evidence and hence end up neglecting advanced technology by labelling it trivial.
After analysing multiple trends across various fields, I am sharing some of the major reasons for advanced technologies to lag behind popular technologies in terms of market usage, adoption by companies & sales.
What’s in it for me?
- Incomplete Product/Technology on arrival
- High Cost of advanced technology on arrival
- Scarcity of skilled labour/experts to use the advanced technology on arrival
- Resistance to change in the organisations
- Legacy Systems or Migration Problems
- Ambiguity or Unclear vision/motive about using the advanced technology
- Lack of leadership, support for innovation and legal issues
- Performance and reliability doubts regarding the technology
- Lack of awareness regarding the advanced technology
- The Cost versus Benefit gap perception
- Lack of proof of value
- Time to understand, adopt and comfort levels differ for everyone
- Need for social acceptance
Incomplete Product/Technology on arrival:
Many modifications & rectifications are required in the the advanced technologies that are recently introduced in the market to form a final product . This will provide some value to the business & customers. Popular technologies have already spent a considerable amount of time in the market and hence have undergone various modifications & changes to suit all the business and customers.
Example: The UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) technology is a new & advanced technology but is still yet to be used in full swing by any player in the market. It still needs tuning to be used by any business in the world.
High Cost of advanced technology on arrival:
When a new & advanced technology arrives in the market for the first time the creators of the technology price it high to skim the market and subsequently recover their R&D investments. The early innovators do not care much about the price and are willing to take a risk if the technology is worth it. After the technology spends some time in the market and becomes a norm or a tried & tested necessity for every competitor to have, the price of the technology decreases & everyone starts to adopt it. Hence, advanced technologies lag behind already popular technologies.
Scarcity of skilled labour/experts to use the advanced technology on arrival:
To leverage any advanced technology and gain a competitive advantage from it, any business/company needs skilled labour or experts. On arrival, any advance technology has very few people/students/candidates well versed with it since it is new in the market. The popular technologies already have many people studying them due to abundance of resources available to master them. Thus, Technology Managers of companies generally wait for expert personnel to hire before adopting a advanced technology.
Resistance to change in the organisations:
All the employees in an organization are usually comfortable with using the popular technologies and whenever a new & advanced technology arrives in the market they resist this change of adopting they new technology because they don’t want to get out of their comfort zone. To master and use new & advanced technologies effectively, it takes a lot of effort including re-skilling, learning and practice. Therefore, this is another good reason why advanced technologies are adopted later as compared to popular technologies.
Legacy Systems or Migration Problems:
Many businesses have been running on a particular popular technology for years. Hence, sometimes it is a tedious task for the company to migrate to an advanced technology. The nascent technology is new for organizations and there could also be issues about compatibility of the technology. Thus, advanced technologies are not easily adopted on inception.
Ambiguity or Unclear vision/motive about using the advanced technology:
Often when a new & advanced technology enters the market for the first time, many companies do not know much about the technology and are unclear about how to use the technology effectively to gain a competitive advantage out of it. They do not have a strategy or a plan of action to utilize the technology and reap the benefits. Sometimes many companies don’t even know whether a new technology is useful or relevant to their needs. Majority of business/companies spend time, money & energy to find out maximum information about the technology and only then think of acquiring and using it. Hence, every body takes a longer time to actually use and adopt advanced technologies.
Example: IBM unveiled its first commercial quantum computer, the IBM Q System One in 2019, but majority companies are yet to use it for automating their business processes instead of the popular technology of personal computing/cloud computing or PCs. This is another reason why advanced technologies lag behind popular technologies in terms of adoption.
Lack of leadership, support for innovation and legal issues:
Governments think about innovation in a slow and linear way. That’s how it’s been in the past; that’s not the case anymore. Innovation is responsible for disruption and even decimation of many industries, . But the lack for support by the centers can also be the reason for the lag.
The emergence of new technologies can also result in a shift in economic and political power. Thus, it leads to redistribution of wealth and influence away from some groups and toward others. Those with a vested interest in the status quo may push their governments to impose bans.
Example: Uber disrupted the entire taxi service business leading to a lot of pressure on governments globally. There was a need to regulate cab aggregators to protect the interests of local taxi service providers on its inception.
Performance and reliability doubts regarding the technology:
Performance changes as not as significant as a change like in the past when Electricity lit up the whole world. The measure of performance and productivity is not as clear with technologies.
Another threat doing rounds is that machines are learning to keep their secrets. Technology is starting to behave in intelligent and unpredictable ways that even its creators don’t understand. It is basically a black box and we can even lose control over our own technologies.
Example: When Google Maps first came into picture, people were not sure if it was reliable. They still used manual help to reach places. Once businesses started developing around GPS services, people started to see that it is good at catching value to business. Hence, businesses started to rely on them.
Lack of awareness regarding the advanced technology:
Any advanced technology, when it enters the market, is first used in very few segments or industries. Most of the people are not even aware about its existence. They only seem to know and use already popular technologies. Even if the advanced technology could be of greater relevance and benefit to them, they prefer to lie in their comfort zone. People are more likely to notice and adopt technologies that are vastly superior to their predecessors, or don’t have any predecessors .
Example: Let us consider the case of Brain Computer Interfaces. BCIs help us control computers just with our mental activity, without even having to use our hands, legs etc. Although being such an advanced technology, many students have not even heard about it. This is way advanced than all other computer control mechanisms. Moreover, with the spread of COVID-19, everyone is looking for ways to minimize human contacts with surfaces. BCI is taking the forefront now and may be a popular technology in the coming years. However, in the present situation, it still lags behind keyboards and joysticks because of lack of awareness amongst people.
The Cost versus Benefit gap perception:
It all boils down to what benefits one is getting out of anything as compared to the cost it is incurring. People also resist new technologies as the public perceives that the benefits of new technologies will only accrue to a small section of society. They believe that the risks are likely to be widespread. This is why technologies promoted by large corporations often face stiff opposition from the public. Similarly, public oppose new technologies as the public perceives that the risks are likely to be felt in the short run and the benefits will only accrue in the long run.
Example: Despite of having so many benefits, people do not adopt electric vehicles easily . Due to the high initial investment, people think benefits will be reaped years down the line when fossil fuels will start going out of the picture slowly.
Lack of proof of value:
It turns out the hardest things at companies isn’t building the technology but getting people to use it properly. There is new technology all around us. Some of it is pretty important, but people don’t know what value it could add to their lives.
Example: Let us take the case of UPIs. Earlier, only banks and very few online transaction platforms used it. Now that people see the convenience it brings along, UPI based payment can be seen in every nook and corner.
Time to understand, adopt and comfort levels differ for everyone:
The rate of adoption usually starts low for any advanced new technology. The rate only accelerates until about 50% of the community has adopted the technology, then decelerates. Eventually approaches zero, as nearly everyone in the community has adopted the technology i.e. when it becomes a popular technology. That gap is described as a break between two stages or types of adopters; the technology enthusiasts and the early majority adopters. It’s a gap between visionaries and pragmatists. To describe, it is between those who see how ideal things could be and those who just want to make it work.
Example: We already have smart appliances such as refrigerators that will tell you when you’re low on a certain food item. Secondly, we also have an oven you can control with your smartphone. IoT is the advanced trend right now. Still it is lagging because people don’t understand how it works. Since, they need time to adopt to these smart devices and are not that comfortable using them at present. In sometime, an aggregated, entire home unit may be formed in the near future. Also, you’ll be able to control it with your smartphone, tablet, or computer. It won’t be too much longer before your house talks to you and you can talk to it. The tech is already there, it’s just a matter of putting it all together in a comfortable enough manner for consumers.
Need for social acceptance:
Technology is as much about fashion as function. Staying technologically relevant has suddenly become a full-time responsibility. People eagerly embrace technology when they support their desire for inclusion, purpose, challenge, meaning and alignment. Using popular technologies boosts this sense of inclusion, making people turn a blind eye towards the advanced technologies.
These were some of the reasons I think, prevents companies & businesses from trying & using an advanced technology on inception. Although we can’t expect everyone to be an innovator or to be apart of the early majority, we can surely expect some improvements when it comes to adopting a new technology & taking calculated risks to obtain a sustainable competitive advantage using an advanced technology in the Indian business environment. Technology Management is a complex process as it has a lot activities and tools like Roadmapping, S-Curve, etc. involved in it. If you wish to learn more about technology management you can check out my blog on Ways to acquire a new technology for your business.