Founder and CEO at Ludi, Inc., a health care technology and physician advocacy firm.
There are myriad reasons why new technology can fail. Some technologies fail before they ever make it to market. Others fail to keep up with changing user needs — take MapQuest as an example. The website introduced a generation to finding driving directions online. It even became a verb in casual conversation (perhaps the truest sign of tech success). But MapQuest failed to keep up with the way consumers were using technology, and Google and Apple ultimately won online mapping.
While there is no one formula for sure-fire success in launching a new technology, there are some patterns that have emerged over time that organizations should follow. One way to look at the landscape is to examine the reasons companies fail in launching a new technology product or solution. I’ve identified four key areas that invite failure in this space.
No matter how revolutionary your technology may be, it is worthless if the customer can’t implement it. Many technologies fail in this area because they haven’t dedicated a team to ensuring a smooth implementation. The client needs the project management tools to see the implementation through to the end and track milestones along the way.
When the Covid-19 pandemic shut down offices across the country, the virtual conferencing software Zoom saw an exponential increase in users. They went from about 10 million daily users to 200 million daily users over just a few short months. One way they accommodated so many newcomers was to create quick training videos on using the software. While the product was already easy to use, these videos offered tips for running meetings and webinars as well as tutorials on more advanced functions. Most likely, your clients won’t be in the tech business. Rather, they are using your technology to solve an issue and do their jobs better. Whether that job is — making widgets or saving lives — they want to get back to it as quickly as possible. The smoother you make implementation, the better adoption you’ll see.
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Twenty years ago, the common consumer thought of technology as complex and perhaps a bit mysterious — like “The Matrix.” Today, our lives are lived online and we expect internet connectivity on virtually every device we own. This surge of connectivity and the information available have pushed users to crave simplicity.
Still, tech companies fall prey to the idea of solving every problem. You don’t have to boil the ocean to be successful. If your technology can reduce the number of steps to solve a problem or increase convenience for the customer, it will last. In the hospital world, the goal typically is to make things easier on physicians and medical teams. Why? So that they can focus on the true priority of a hospital: patient care. When electronic health records (EHRs) were launched, they made more work for the doctors. This led to pushback and some resistance to a new technology that had promised to vastly improve health systems. Technology companies working with provider organizations need to keep that front of mind: Does this make their lives easier?
Have you ever watched a home remodeling show where the team gets to work only for the homeowner to add a million little projects along the way? The end result is often a hodgepodge of customizations that — while they sounded great individually — add up to a much larger headache for the construction crew.
Your technology is your house in this scenario. You need to keep in mind the foundation and the reason you’re implementing this tech in the first place. Let that drive everything else. Whatever you do, don’t let customizations and add-ons bog down the tech. When it comes to data technology, follow the “garbage in = garbage out” rule. You can’t have it all, and you risk undermining the original purpose of your project if you try to customize your tech a million different ways.
To continue the homebuilding metaphor, your expectations should center around a sound structure with a floor, walls and windows. Stay grounded in what the tech was built to do and work toward that goal. To do this, you need the support of your stakeholders. They need to be good advocates to help ensure high adoption, but they should also help you keep your team grounded in what the goals are. Be intentional in fostering relationships with stakeholders so that they can champion your product from development to launch and beyond. Also, communicate constantly with stakeholders. And when you think you’re done communicating, communicate more.
A prime example (pun intended) of this is Amazon’s nearly over communication with customers. Most e-commerce companies alert when a package is shipped, but Amazon takes it a step further. Amazon’s app alerts customers when a package is close and even shows a map of where the truck is and how many stops away until delivery. Plus, once the package hits a customer’s front steps, the delivery driver snaps a photo and uploads it to the app so they can see their package awaiting them. All of this may seem like logistical overkill, but it’s really an example of setting expectations and then going into great detail to communicate those expectations.
Keep these four areas in mind as you build new technology. Ultimately, a focused and realistic approach will serve you well. Lean on the guidance of those who have come before you in the space and look to stakeholders for support. If you remain clearheaded and deliberate, you will have a much higher chance of success.