For those of us who started writing about technology for business in the early 2000s, there are a few key themes we will remember having worked our way through – from the arbitration of outsourced application development and maintenance, to the miracles of system integration and real-time processing, and more recently of course, the disruption and consumer focus of the digital age. While each wave of technology has involved highlighting a certain set of business challenges, I see a shift in the way marketing content addresses this space today. The talking points are changing.
It’s no longer only about solutions. Or products. The advent of digital technologies saw a shift in the technology-to-business discourse from solution or product-based adoption, to one of transformation or re-imagination. And with good reason: effective adoption of digital technologies, spanning social media, mobile computing, cloud computing, analytics and machine learning or AI, all require significant changes in companies’ business and operational models.
The context is broader, and a piece on the viability of advanced analytics in insurance may well cover fraud management, product definition, and customer service, with all implementations ideally drawing from a conflated, if not merged, pool of big data. And it has started to get broader still. Blockchain, now squarely in the limelight from a business adoption point of view, enables shared records across organizational boundaries and has been acknowledged as a foundational technology that can potentially shape entire ecosystems. Talking decisively about technology adoption today involves a fair understanding of the impact on a business, right up to its mission statement in some cases.
Regulations are another strong force in technology adoption and often frame the gap between potential and reality. Blockchain is, again, an easy example here as the legal acceptance of smart contracts and consensus validation of transactions lags the technology. EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is another regulation that will impact the customer data analytics and monetization strategies of companies globally. Understanding regulations governing a certain domain or technology area can thus help pitch adoption at the correct pace and rate of return.
The discussion of benefits is more nuanced. I recently read an article where the author questioned, in the context of using artificial intelligence for risk management in insurance, whether we are talking enough about the newer risks that doing so will bring in. I see a similar vein emerging with blockchain where experts, while talking about its exponential benefits, also forewarn companies about rushing into adoption; not only is blockchain very expensive, its benefits accrue in only certain, specific contexts. As technologies evolve, meaningful conversations are becoming more about trade-offs and priorities rather than straightforward benefits like efficiency and revenue boosts. From a writer’s point of view this may involve digging into on-the-ground implementation stories with your subject matter expert to gain insights on what’s working and what’s not. Projects run by academic think tanks are also a rich resource to understand what the real-world success factors for a certain technology are.
Use cases become a narrative tool. Given the increasing complexity of the newer technologies and the balancing act involved in driving adoption, it is no surprise that use cases are being used more often in blogs, articles and white papers. Where case studies are best used as implementation stories, use cases help contextualize a technology to highlight its best application. They allow the narrative to touch upon pre-conditions, trade-offs and impact, while also illustrating the internal and external changes that the solution will indicate.
Setting the Stage…
It is not the job of a marketing piece to deep-dive into a technology, or to offer a specific business case for adoption. However, the technology market for business has deepened to a point where generalities are not enough to get the ‘right’ conversation going. Navigating today’s technology market mandates that businesses identify the right problem to be solved. And marketing content can best serve this need by helping them look beyond trends of adoption, implementation, and spend to unearth the specific, contextual drivers of success and failure.