The best advice for those about to start a software development project of any kind is to seek out a technology consultant. Strategic technology consulting is very inexpensive and acts as a crystal ball for a project life cycle, providing important insight on areas where you should spend more money, features to include, avoid or add later and other industry tips that are crucial to the success of a system. A technology consultant can help validate strategy and project planning and advise on more technical decisions about requirements, performance, third party software, hardware selections, payment processing, security, and much more. Tech consulting is not only for future planning, but also very useful for current state analysis (generally in the form of a code audit).
One of the hardest decisions clients have to make during the planning stages of a development project is the choice between a transitional technology and a disruptive technology. Such a decision has enormous impacts on every single aspect of a project, particularly the budget and the life cycle of the system once it is in production.
Transitional systems are basically technologies that are straddling a line; they have one foot still in legacy systems and the other in new. Because the world of technology is extremely fast-paced, the lifespan of most programs, programming languages, hardware or other technologies are rather short compared to other fields. Holding a spot at the bleeding edge of the tech industry is an expensive and exhausting endeavor as it requires ongoing development and innovation. Companies like Apple and Microsoft are able to do so by constantly acquiring smaller companies and patents to add to their product suite. Many companies outside of the tech industry simply do not have the resources to maintain state of the art software at all times so they choose to make incremental improvements to sustaining systems instead. Transitional technology helps companies bridge the gaps between their legacy systems and newer technology, which is why many choose them, but the risk is that gaps close quickly in the tech industry. There are several reasons transitional systems continue to spring up are:
- New technology concepts can be difficult to bring to fruition because often hardware, software, security, payments or other architecture needed to support the idea must also be created. This means extra time and money, two resources that are in short supply for most businesses.
- A stop-gap system is utilized because of resourcing issues with the intent of fully transitioning away from the legacy system gradually or down the road.
- The transitional nature of the software is unintended or unwanted. In the words of Steve O’Bannon of rexophone.com, “other times designers are using an old paradigm that doesn’t quite fit the new tech, creating an awkward product that is quickly supplanted by a more elegant idea.”
Besides the reductions in development time and cost, incremental innovation can also cut down on training time for employees while also simplifying support and maintenance.
Coined by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen in his best-selling book The Innovators Dilemma, the term disruptive technology is used to describe any new technology that unexpectedly displaces other established technologies and radically changes the marketplace. Innovative systems change paradigms within their industry, rendering some systems obsolete by offering a new level of optimization and efficiency for businesses. The biggest issue with disruptive technology is its lack of refinement, according to Christensen, leading to performance issues. Industries or markets unaccustomed to change are often hesitant to adapt new technology and therefore fail to capitalize on the potential cost-savings, efficiencies or marketing opportunities they afford.
Some game changers of this type from 2012 include Augmented Reality (AR), gesture-based interfaces and compressed air batteries, and coming innovations for 2013 are expected to be equally as ground shaking. However, not all disruptive innovation is as drastic as those I have listed, a mere tweak or hack to an existing concept can turn everything on its head.
Some considerations for those investing in disruptive innovation:
- Is your industry ready for it? A crucial element in the planning stages for innovative projects is market research; when your new system launches will the decision makers from your industry be willing to take the leap with you? Marketing and promotion must be front of mind at all times.
- Developing new technology means longer project timelines and increased resourcing needs. A technology consultant can help you estimate the cost and timeline, and a project manager (or team of project managers) will help keep everyone on the same page and weather any storm.
- Ongoing support and maintenance will be your best friend once the system is in production. Even if there are bugs in the system, which there likely will be, responsive and friendly support professionals will ensure that your customers are satisfied no matter what.
GlobalTranz, one of our long-time enterprise clients, is a great example of how technological innovation can totally transform an industry. To read more, check out the GlobalTranz client success story here.