When considering any transformational technology, it’s important to first evaluate your organizational culture. Does your organization view information technology as a tool, a weapon, or a vital resource?
Large, well-established, risk-averse organizations naturally gravitate toward proven solutions from large, established suppliers. They are rarely first-adopters of technology from startups. They source products from suppliers that have a test lab staffed by more employees than the entire staff of the typical startup. They may also, however, have their own lab to evaluate new technologies that can be transformative to the business two, three, or four years in the future, once an emerging technology matures.
Other organizations view transformational technologies as a weapon to enable them to compete against the goliaths in their industry. For these organizations, the risk of using new, unproven technology is much less than the risk of remaining uncompetitive against established market leaders, and the advantage of adopting new technology years before their larger competitors is significant.
Finally, some organizations have jobs to do or problems to solve that simply aren’t being served by the established players in the industry. The problem is too large, the customer budget too small, or the disruption to suppliers’ current product strategy and profit model too small to attract the full focus of established market leaders. For these organizations, leading-edge technology from emerging startups becomes a vital resource. Such is the case at BU School of Medicine, which was featured in the May 15, 2012, Peer Incite.
Lest anyone be confused, it is important to understand that the world of academic research is highly competitive. Research institutions and faculty thrive or die based upon their ability to win competitive research grants. BU School of Medicine wanted to transform the way in which the school delivered IT services to its researchers and its clients. The school took a clean-slate approach and turned siloed IT into a cloud service. They broke the model on grant-based research funding, by using server and storage virtualization combined with charge-back systems, rather than grant-specific capital equipment purchases, to allocate compute and storage resources.
Central to maximizing efficiency and flexibility was the creation of a shared infrastructure for backup, disaster recovery, and archiving. By being an early adopter of technology from Actifio, BU School of Medicine dramatically lowered the cost of providing these vital services. Just as importantly, Actifio enabled what the school previously considered impossible: the protection of massive repositories of large files from applications such as medical imaging and gene sequencing.
Action Item: IT professionals must understand their corporate culture as they evaluate transformative technology from emerging suppliers. Established companies should evaluate early, but adopt carefully, by leveraging new technology in labs or lower-risk application areas. Organizations that are fighting for differentiation against larger competitors need to balance technology risk against the risk of being uncompetitive. The bias should be towards being early adopters. Finally, organizations should recognize that emerging startups may offer the only solution to some problems, particularly when the solution may disrupt the business model of established suppliers.
Footnotes: Dr. John Meyers, who was a guest speaker on the May 15, 2012 Peer Incite, serves as an advisor to Actifio and has a financial interest in the company.
A replay of the May 15, 2012 Peer Incite is available here.