When Technology Fails to Deliver

Avoiding pitfalls when integrating tech into business

With so much hype around disruptive and innovative tech, it’s often easy to forget that technology isn’t infallible. In many cases, it’s the hype that kills the product. In the 1980s, when Virtual Reality first hit mainstream audiences, its technological limitations nipped it in the bud until lightweight, high resolution headsets were developed. Another longterm example is commercial aviation. When United Airlines forcibly dragged a passenger from Flight 3411, they demonstrated a lack of customer care in air travel enabled by automation. Whilst generating revenue, streamlined flight bookings have encouraged low customer service which, as United quickly found out, can be ultimately more damaging. Integrating technology into a business model has consequences, and not all are positive. So, what else has caused technological disappointments, and how can businesses avoid these pitfalls?

Why does technology fail to deliver?
According to a recent report by Fujitsu, 75 per cent of 1,200 global C-suite executives stated that technology is vital to the ability of a business to thrive. This suggests that the majority of companies are aware of the importance of tech, and want to use it as part of a successful business strategy. However, this is far easier said than done. There are various reasons why technology can fail to live up to expectations. More often than not, early adopters have high hopes for a concept when there isn’t enough processing power or the right materials to actually make it work. Companies can also forget to focus on the consumer, which is clearly behind the events on Flight 3411 – and in commercial aviation as an industry. It’s notoriously difficult for businesses to predict which technology will produce the best results and the biggest ROI, and this doesn’t always have to be monetary. As much as technology can enhance customer service, it can also erode it. In some cases, technology doesn’t so much fail to deliver as delivering a bit too much. Amazon Echo, for example, immediately ordered a giant dollhouse and four pounds of sugar cookies after a six year old girl asked the device if it could play dolls with her. Even technological powerhouses can get it wrong by using tech that is, ironically, too efficient.

How can companies avoid technological disappointments?
When used correctly, technology is massively important for successful business strategies. Fujitsu’s report highlights that businesses have recognised the importance of digital disruption and innovative technologies, but the next step is to come up with a suitable response. It’s about finding a balance between investing in useful tech, and knowing when something isn’t relevant. Overall, companies need to remember to focus on the needs of their customers. Online payments, for instance, might initially lead to more revenue in retail, but not if it means that shoppers feel like they’re on a production line. Before investing in tech, executives should seriously consider whether or not it will make a positive difference, instead of just jumping on the bandwagon. Is the technology ready in terms of quality? Does it serve a purpose, or answer a question? Will it improve customer experience? If the answer to these questions isn’t a resounding yes, then expect disappointments and disillusionment.

Technology is key to success in business. Unfortunately, adopting novel developments and integrating them into existing business models can present a minefield of potential setbacks. Companies are hindered by legacy infrastructures, over-enthusiasm – or, at the other end of the scale – by reluctance to make changes. However, it’s not impossible to avoid these pitfalls, as is routinely demonstrated by serial disruptors and innovators. When considering the use of new hardware and software, businesses have to ask themselves whether their investment is worth it, and what the point is. Technology is undoubtedly fantastic – but only when it serves a purpose.

Has your business invested in technology which didn’t produce ROI? If so, why did this happen? What other considerations should a company keep in mind when deciding whether to invest in new technology? Share your thoughts and experiences.