What is the Technology Adoption Curve, and How Should You Use It?
Technology adoption has never been faster.
While the principles associated with the technology adoption lifecycle may be the same, the time lens through which you view it has altered dramatically.
If you are involved in innovation consulting, you know the challenges in getting even the best ideas implemented in client organizations. But perhaps it is a good idea to look at them again, taking what we now so glibly call the post-Covid “new normal” into account.
The New Normal for Technology Adoption
According to McKinsey research, “Covid-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point – and transformed business forever.”
It has significant implications for management and digital consultants – and especially for innovation consultants.
The Speed of Adoption Is Extraordinary
The speed at which companies executed changes in response to the pandemic is remarkable.
Here are just three of them, where respondents to the McKinsey survey reported actual vs. expected number of days to execution:
Table 1: Time required to respond to or implement changes - expected vs. actual
|Expected (days)||Actual (days)||Acceleration Factor|
|Increase in remote working and/or collaboration||454||10,5||43|
|Increasing use of advanced technologies in operations||672||26,5||25|
|Increasing use of advanced technologies in business decision-making||636||25,4||25|
The first statistic – the increased use of remote work - is a good indicator for consultants working as freelancers or using online consulting platforms. The chances of being found online and employed are significantly better than they were even a year ago.
The acceleration factor is remarkable. Businesses implemented changes 43 times faster than anticipated.
Technology adoption in operations and business decision-making is just as surprising. What might have taken nearly two years to implement in the past is now happening in less than a month.
What Does This Mean For Innovation Consulting?
The obvious conclusion is that economic imperative and business survival are massive drivers of technology adoption.
A second conclusion is that the technology must meet the business need. This is why we saw digital adoption for e-commerce and logistics solutions and the rapid conversion to online meeting tools like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams.
Whether the speed of adoption will continue at the current rate or not remains to be seen. However, it is unlikely to go back to the old ponderous pace. So, consultants must consider the methodologies they use.
Agile sprints will probably work well. Break down the project into small deliverables and deliver a workable product every month or two. They will work together towards the “end” result, but organizations cannot wait for that distant outcome.
Consultants will also have to be more aware of the “people” side of technology implementation. This includes being alert to what the technology adoption lifecycle describes.
Using The Technology Adoption Lifecycle In Innovation Consulting
Let’s start with some definitions.
Technology adoption refers to the acceptance, integration and use of new technology in a particular environment.
For consultants, this implies a systematic approach to implementation into an organization or section of an organization.
Steps typically include:
- Selection of technology to solve an identified business problem
- Planning for implementation, considering infrastructure, staff, and
- Communicating the change
- Training, both before and after launch
- Testing and deployment, preferably with a beta group to test for usability and functionality
- Expansion into the organization
- Monitoring, making use of tracking tools to identify and remedy issues quickly
The Technology Adoption Lifecycle
The technology adoption lifecycle describes the personas of adopters at each stage of the acceptance of new technology. This is also referred to as the demographic and psychological characteristics of adopters.
The personas were initially described in 1962 by Everett Rogers in his book “Diffusion of Innovations,” where he explained how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread.
Adopters are characterized according to their innovativeness, i.e., the degree to which an individual adopts a new idea.
- Early adopters
- Early majority
- Late majority, and
Identifying where your key contact people fit on the technology adoptions lifecycle is a critical element of innovation consulting.
Rogers went beyond just describing the adopters, however.
He also proposed the main elements that influence the spread of a new idea:
- The innovation itself
- Communication channels
- Time, and
- A social system
Those involved in innovation consulting should probably consider both lists. For any innovation to be sustainable, there must be a critical mass of broad adoption. But this depends on the innovation itself meeting a genuine business need and being communicated effectively.
It used to be that a fair amount of time had to be allowed for acceptance to grow. The pandemic has shown that this may be a fallacy – organizations will change according to the urgency of the need.
The Role of Adopter Categories in Technology Innovation
Let’s look at the five adopter categories in more detail and consider their impact on innovation consulting.
The percentage of people in each category, according to Rogers' bell curve, is shown below.
Crossing The Adoption Chasm
According to Moore, there is a critical stage in the technology adoption lifecycle. This is where new technology is being used by early adopters, but not yet by the early majority.
There is a wide “chasm” in thinking between these groups. Innovation projects tend to fail if they cannot bridge this chasm and have the early majority pick up the ideas.
Your primary contact person or project leader may be excited (an Innovator) and the senior management team enthusiastic (early adopters). However, the masses don’t want something new. They want something that works, that makes their lives easier, that many others are using.
They don’t want innovation. They want trust.
The challenge for consultants is, therefore, to reach the early majority group. You will get traction if you make what you are proposing appealing to them. Be aware that they will be open to useful solutions but will be on the lookout for fads and hype.
This stage of the life cycle is particularly tricky for innovation implementation, as it often coincides with what some have described as the “Trough of Disillusionment:”
- Experiments and implementations don’t deliver as promised
- Interest, even from enthusiasts, starts to wane
- Consultants, change agents and project team leaders back away or fail
- Investment in the project will continue only if the surviving drivers improve their
- products to the satisfaction of early adopters
A customized approach for user adoption and product adoption for a new product will pay dividends.
The technology adoption lifecycle is a sociological model that describes the personas of the employees who will respond to the new technology you are proposing.
Understanding these defined adopter groups and adjusting your adoption process to accommodate them can differentiate between successful innovation consulting and failure.
Technology adoption has speeded up in response to the Covid pandemic, and innovation consultants will have to adapt their methodologies to match this speed.
However, understanding how people react to technology adoption remains an essential requirement for implementation success.