Creating an Innovation Engine

By: Stephen Watt

Staying current with the latest emerging technologies and trends and identifying which ones are a fit for your organization is not easy. Even the most experienced IT leaders will stumble without a consistent process for evaluating and adopting emerging technologies, leading them to ask questions like, “How can I identify which technologies are the most promising? How can I align them with my organization’s long-term strategy? What steps can or should be taken to make the most of my investments?”

Establishing the team

Before jumping into how to manage the introduction of emerging technologies within your organization, leaders should first consider creating a specific team that will be responsible for driving the company toward their emerging technology goals. Given the speculative nature of emerging technology work, it’s recommended that emerging technology teams work alongside existing product or IT development teams as peers rather than report up to them. This helps maintain balance between prioritizing new endeavors and projects already established on a roadmap.

Typically, leaders of emerging technologies groups are dedicated to guiding and managing their team while maintaining their own technical breadth. The teams themselves are often small and consist of a team lead who is responsible for prototype architecture and design, alignment with product engineering and product management or IT delivery and basic project management. Other team members include software engineers who find constantly working on new projects energizing rather than draining. Once an emerging tech team is established, the team can begin employing a repeatable playbook for discovering, aligning, developing, and commercializing emerging technologies, regardless of which technology they are exploring.


One of the most effective ways to discover new technologies is to identify the most credible voices that are providing information about emerging technologies applicable to your industry. These voices can be found on social media, in blogs, at industry conferences, and participating in sandbox projects within open source or industry foundations—any place members of your community communicate and collaborate about topics that are relevant to your business. Of course, many of the best ideas will come organically from within your own company, so it’s important to make sure your emerging technologies group is visible internally and that associates understand what channels can be used to present ideas to the group.

Alignment to your strategy

Once a technology has been identified, the next step is to evaluate it and decide whether it's relevant for your present or future addressable market. In my experience, one of the best ways to begin this evaluation is to create what I refer to as an emerging technology point of view report. The point of view report provides your emerging technologies team and other internal stakeholders within an opportunity to articulate and discuss various elements of the new technology, including: 

●      The definition of the technology

●      How the technology can or should be utilized for your business and customers

●      Your strategy regarding the technology

●      The market’s view of the technology

●      Potential challenges

●      Your initial approach

While your emerging technologies team is drafting the point of view report, it’s important to welcome contributions from as many parties as possible to understand the areas in which there is alignment and consensus and the areas which may require more deliberation. 

A point of view report should also outline the business case around what needs to be done to take the emerging technology to market. This is an important validation step that justifies whether any future work surrounding the technology should take place. Many efforts to develop emerging technologies take longer than they should to fail


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