Fear, uncertainty and doubt: tech’s constant companions
1 March 2019 | 0
“If you don’t invest in this technology/buzzword/acronym now, you’ll be left behind/your competitors will eat your lunch/you’ll be out of business in five years time.” Delete as appropriate. Or keep all the above.
We’ve heard these statements so often over the years that we’ve become inured to just how bombastic, hyperbolic and over-dramatic they are. Can you imagine anyone else in any business essentially threatening your company with destruction if you don’t buy their product or service? Imagine if your electricity provider said you would be in danger of going bust in five years if you didn’t sign a contract with them? Or if the local car dealer claimed you’d be left behind by your competitors if you didn’t buy model X? Or if someone warned one of your children that buying a particular laptop brand risked them falling behind other members of their class at university and the inevitable incineration of all their dreams?
IT never quite lives up to the hype, or rather that the hype is often subject to delays. Those delays could be attributable to providers failing to deliver the technology that they promised in the time scales they set out or customers not buying and adopting the technology as rapidly as the vendors want them to. Cost would be the main issue.
I’m guessing here, as we’re dealing in hypotheticals, but I’d hope you would be ever so slightly sceptical. You might even laugh. But if everybody sold you everything based on the premise that your business and/or life would be ruined if you didn’t buy their product, what kind of world would we be living in? One of constant fear and terror? Or cynicism and scepticism?
The reason I ask this question is because of tech’s old friend FUD. Everyone in the IT industry knows FUD, who has been a faithful servant to those marketing and selling technology for many, many years. In fact, I’m surprised FUD hasn’t received a lifetime achievement award yet.
So much of how technology markets itself in the business space is based on the fear of being left behind, of being shut out of the future. And yet, somehow, many, many businesses manage to survive into that future. Admittedly, they might not have arrived there as quickly as the IT industry said they needed to if they wanted to stay alive and prosper, but lo and behold, five years later, many of them are still there.
Why is that? One reason could be that IT never quite lives up to the hype, or rather that the hype is often subject to delays. Those delays could be attributable to providers failing to deliver the technology that they promised in the time scales they set out or, equally as likely, customers not buying and adopting the technology as rapidly as the vendors want them to. Why? Cost would be the main issue.
Innovation is not cheap. For many companies, there is a balancing act between what that innovation could bring and the cost involved in implementing it. Vendors can keep telling businesses they need to invest in innovation but if they can’t afford it, they won’t do it. At least not until the point where it becomes affordable. That point, weirdly, may be when it isn’t so much innovative as tried and tested – and mature.
For SMEs in particular, the case for innovation can easily be lost in the cost associated with it. A recent story on the MicroScope web site highlighting the reluctance of SMES to “embrace innovation” quotes Patrick Gallagher, group CEO at CitySprint, who says: “Business owners know that innovation drives growth, but testing and adopting the latest tech is expensive and time consuming, and without more support small businesses struggle to keep up with technologies that can help them stay ahead.”
While it may be true that innovation drives growth, you have to assume that other factors play a role too. Otherwise, judging by CitySprint’s figures, only the one in ten who had bought new technology in the last year would be thriving. The harsh fact is that IT innovation is only one factor – and it might not even be the biggest driver of growth for many businesses. IT may well shout the loudest and utter the direst warnings, but failure to implement the latest and greatest technology does not automatically condemn a company to a gradual process of ruination and decay. Perhaps the IT industry should stop giving the impression that it does.