CXO

CIO or Luddite redux

The CIO as salesman? Columnist Tim Landgrave uses examples from a classic book on marketing to illustrate how to move employees to new technology in an organization.


After I wrote the article “CIO or Luddite? Use the technology,” many readers asked for more detail on how to get their technology agendas (and the products or services that support them) adopted in their organizations.

The good news is that it’s much like the process of developing, releasing, and supporting a commercial product into the general market. The bad news is that most CIOs don’t come from backgrounds in sales and marketing, but from technical or financial backgrounds. Most CIOs need some training in the basics of sales and marketing to sell their vision successfully.

You can’t just create a good “platform” or other set of “products” for your “customers” and assume that they’ll follow along blindly. As the CIO, you’re responsible for the creation as well as the sales and marketing of your vision inside your company. It’s imperative that you view yourself as the technical marketing function in your organization.

When you look at your responsibilities in this context, it’s clear that off-the-shelf management books dealing with technology adoption can give you many insights into the best way to persuade your employees to adopt the products and standards you’ve provided for use in delivering your company’s business services.

Finding the Holy Grail of technology marketing books
Recently, I took the time to re-read one of the classic books on developing an effective marketing plan for technology companies. In Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, by Geoffrey Moore, the author discusses a methodology for defining products and attacking markets in a way that moves customers between various stages of technology adoption.

Moore defines the “technology adoption stages” of customers as the innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. His definitions for each of these groups are:

Innovators
Those who help convince others that the products or technologies work by aggressively pursuing and implementing new technology, sometimes even before it’s publicly announced.

Early adopters
Non-technologists who find it easy to adopt new product concepts because they see the potential benefits of adopting the technology.

Early majority
Those who adopt new technology only when it’s proven to be practical and “implementable” and who prefer to install only after they talk to people in similar situations who have already succeeded with the technology.

Late majority
Those people only interested in installing a technology when it has become a standard and there’s a large support network for the product.

Laggards
Those who don’t want to have anything to do with new technologies and will only adopt when it’s the only remaining way to do a particular task.

In Moore’s model, the early and late majority as a group make up the largest part of the bell curve that define the total number of users of a given technology. Innovators, early adopters, and laggards make up the beginning and end of the adoption cycle.

The “chasm” referred to by Moore in the title refers to moving your technology from early adopters to the early majority. This jump is the biggest hurdle to overcome when attempting to get the market to accept your new ideas.

Although Moore goes into great detail about focusing your efforts toward “crossing the chasm,” he makes one major point that you should focus on as the CIO: Pick the beachhead for your technology and attack it with all your resources.

In the corporate environment this translates to finding the appropriate groups in your company who are likely to find early benefits in your technology and to adopt it. Focus all your efforts on getting this group converted and then count on word of mouth to get the rest of the groups moved over.
Of the five groups taken from Geoffrey Moore’s book, which one is the hardest to handle in your company: innovator, early adopter, early majority, late majority, or laggard? Which technology type best fits the CIO? Give us your opinion by posting a comment below or sending us an e-mail.
How do you know if you’re in trouble?
If your key executives (president, CEO, CFO or any C?O) happen to be innovators or early adopters, your job is much easier. You can pick your beachhead logically and be sure that you’ll be able to take your vision into a specific area of the business with the support of upper management.

On the other hand, if your key executives are in the late adopter or laggard group, you will have a difficult time gaining the acceptance of any new technologies that are part of your overall technology vision.

In these cases, you should focus your efforts on getting key departments to adopt or require pieces of your platform in order to deliver on their key business initiatives.

First, you need to identify the technologies that need to be adopted in order to deliver your overall technology vision effectively.

Next, use criteria like those discussed in Moore’s book to determine which of your business unit managers or vice presidents tend to be innovators or early adopters. Then you can work with this management group to match the new technologies with the business objectives of the group (identifying the beachhead).

In many cases you won’t get a direct match between a specific technology and the work of the business unit, but if the head of the unit is an innovator by nature, he or she will be willing to work with you on finding ways to use the technology effectively. Finally, develop and implement project plans that put into place the key technologies in these departments.

Once you have your platform implemented in pieces across the innovators and early adopters in your organization, you can use these success stories to pull the other departments forward into your vision of the organization’s technology future.

Tim Landgrave is the founder, president, and CEO of Vobix Corporation, an Application Service Provider based in Louisville, KY.

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