in business building

A question to enterprise CxO’s: When is the right time to look at emerging technology?


A few days ago I was having a coffee with a friend of mine that’s heading up his firm’s supply chain organization. We were catching up on each others area of work, which led us to start talking about growth and innovation.

We argued a bit in terms of the timing for when large enterprises should start experimenting with new technologies much earlier than is currently done. I believe it is critical that large firms orient themselves and create points of view with regards to how their future may change.

My friend had a slight different view: A use case and business objective needed to be present and one should look for technology to fix an existing problem.

Pros and cons to orienting yourself early on emerging tech

Below I’ve listed a number of pros and cons for orienting yourself to technology that is relevant and may possibly impact you


  • Minimize risk of disruption from relevant technology
  • Increase your likelihood of securing capabilities that can be turned into competitive advantage
  • More quickly identify basis for new revenue streams, doing more with less, increases in profits.
  • Builds your digital DNA
  • Builds digital competencies at a leadership level
  • Possibly aligns Business & IT
  • Increase your corporate alertness and Digital IQ with continous cycle of scouting – hypothesis – build and test – learn
  • More nuanced understanding of the various trajectories / growth patterns of technology
  • Build cross line of business intelligence and alignment around the corporate strategic vision and how the overall organization is prepared
  • Unleashes innovation and innovation talent
  • Find your next big growth business??!


  • Requires resource commitments and new capabilities (Lean Startup, Agile, Technology + Business working together)
  • Where to start, where to focus, what to test for, what to build, etc.
  • Lots of waste (perceived)
  • What’s the ROI?
  • Big risk of missing an important angle on the tech due to the inside-out view. Is it even worth doing yourself?
  • Why not just go to the annual industry conference and let them do the work for us?
  • Why monitor technology when I can monitor the business KPI’s (Leading and lagging). These will indicate the changes I’m looking for.


I strongly believe that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to technology scouting and experimentation.

There are a couple of important recommendations and things I’d consider, if I was to establish such an initiative for an enterprise organization:

  • Keep it simple. Example: Select the top technologies that apply most to you.
  • Keep it cheap: My recommendation is for you to take the Lean approach and leverage tools such as Design Thinking and Rapid Prototyping to secure “real experiences” (see my blog on rapid prototyping).
  • Dedicated resources: Commit dedicated resources, otherwise it will likely creep to the bottom of
  • Orient your lens towards customer experiences. Emphasize how technologies will enable new and improved customer experiences.
  • Engage your ecosystem for an outside in perspective. Must-haves: End-users and customers! Seek an outside-in view.
  • Bring in startups and outside talent to fuel new insighs and ideas (ex. hackathons)
  • Leverage your technology vendors and experts in the area for nuance and input
  • Connect the initiative to your corporate strateg
  • Get visibility with the C-suite
  • Connect it to your innovation efforts
  • Define success and the WHY and create simple KPI’s to incentivize, measure and iterate: Example: Make it a KPI for the scouting resource to enable X number of innovations with the technologies selected
  • Keep in mind the following frameworks: Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation including understanding the Jobs-To-Be-Done approach to looking at your market. Keep in mind the Singularity U’s Exponential Technology framework.
  • Maintain an understanding not just of the emerging technologies but also the trends that are impacting you. Your lens should be your customer.

What else? When do you think it is the right time to experiment with emerging technology?