Forecast 2014

Forecast 2014: How to master disruptive technologies

Upsetting the status quo is exactly the point, as companies dive into social networking, the cloud and more.

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"It's easy to take your enterprise to the cloud, but very difficult to bring the cloud to your enterprise," he says. "We are not a greenfield company, so any cloud offering has to integrate and interoperate with existing information assets." That's why Mehta advises others looking to implement cloud technologies to focus on integration and the architecture behind the integration. "Integration is absolutely critical," he says.

His other advice is to work closely -- perhaps more closely than before -- with leaders in the business units so they understand that moving to the cloud involves trade-offs. For example, to collect information on mobile devices, EWIE had to change its established workflow to accommodate the software.

"The business gets speed and agility, but you also give up some customization," Mehta points out. "Once in the cloud, you are working with constraints that the software imposes. There needs to be a willingness to align our business processes and adapt."

Quick Action Required

Dave Finnegan, chief information and interactive officer at $394 million Build-A-Bear Workshop, knows all about adapting to outside forces and adjusting quickly to constraints imposed by providers. In the midst of rolling out its new "store of the future" concept, which incorporates leading-edge mobile and interactive touchscreen technology plus analytics and gamification elements, one of the St. Louis-based retailer's key technology providers decided to discontinue development on a technology that was a cornerstone of the project.

"One of the key challenges is that [vendors] can also change platforms really quickly, and not just move to a newer version of it, but discontinue it completely. We had to scramble for the next platform and how to build the next store-of-the-future elements. When [vendors] cancel or change direction, we have to be able to react," Finnegan says. "Things like that cause my biggest heartburn."

Finnegan has formed a core team of IT professionals dedicated to managing disruptive technologies and outside service vendors. "It helps us be really nimble with external players," he says.

The ROI on these technologies also has been significant. Last year, sales at newly designed store locations were up 30% or more.

Another -- perhaps bigger -- benefit of mastering disruptive technologies can't be measured in dollars but contributes directly to the company's long-term success.

"There's an excitement that is generated from stepping into the future," Finnegan says. "We found that our store-of-the-future initiative has served as a catalyst to thinking about innovation in our company in a unique way. We can use what we learned in the store-of-the-future concept and apply it to other parts of the business and how we drive innovation."

"It helps to breed next-generation thinking," he adds. "In that way, it's a very positive disruption for us."

Next: Boost your mobile bandwidth

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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