The new year has passed, and social media is awash with post-mortems of last year, as well as ubiquitous forecasts on what will happen or what we should be doing in the coming 12 months.
At PI, our year-round interactions with manufacturers, their CIOs and IT leaders, gives us a thought-provoking insight into challenges faced by these companies. In 2016, perhaps more than previous years, technology seemed to move at an unprecedented pace, at least it felt that way.
As a peer-led platform, we’re not in the business of telling manufacturers what they should be investing in, and while interesting, nor do we make expansive forecasts such as ‘key technology trends for 2017’.
However, there is one dogma worth mentioning that has come across loud and clear in 2016. Simply, step away from the bandwagon.
We’re practically hardwired these days to believe that technology represents progress. In equal measure, we’re too often motivated by a fear of being left behind. Selecting technology from within this mindset is a recipe for failure. Manufacturers seeing success are those who are applying technology when linked to a clear purpose, and where it supports their vision and values, not when it is technology for technology’s sake or even worse, because competitors are ‘doing it’.
This isn’t a new concept. In Jim Collin’s best-selling ‘Good to Great’, written around the time of the dotcom boom (& bust), his team’s research illustrated that primarily, mediocrity results from management failure, not technological failure. And the dotcom bust demonstrated no shortage of technologically advanced companies that failed to prevail. There’s nothing to suggest that this principle isn’t as true now as it was then.
Noticeably in 2016, IoT became a buzzword of epic proportions, and will surely be speeding its way into the ‘trough of disillusionment’ in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, or perhaps disappearing altogether – or maybe this is simply semantics. However, for manufacturers, there can surely be no denying the impact the industrial internet will have, and indeed, you won’t find anyone at PI underestimating the long-term significance of connected physical products and machinery. But once the hype has died, companies seeing benefit will be those who have evaluated this and other technologies in the context of a coherent primary objective, not those who have invested without this underpinning principle.
As Jim Collins says:
“Consider the United States debacle in Vietnam. The US had the most technologically advanced fighting force the World had ever known. The Americans lacked not technology, but a simple and coherent concept for the war, on which to attach that technology. It lurched back and forth across a variety of ineffective strategies, never getting the upper hand. Meanwhile, the technologically inferior North Vietnamese forces adhered to a simple, coherent concept: a guerrilla war of attrition, aimed at methodically wearing down public support for the war at home.”
2016 has illustrated more than ever that many technologies are on the cusp of being truly transformational – to name just a couple; blockchain offers far wider potential than just the cryptocurrency for which it was created; 3D printing has certainly come of age (noticeably, it’s of particular interest to attendees at our fashion / apparel events). But IT leaders should avoid the fads and only invest with thorough evaluation and thoughtful awareness of their primary objective. In other words, step away from the bandwagon.