Timing the next disruption

Timing the next disruption

Oopportunities can come from unexpected places

I ain't gonna lie. Pitney Bowes is weird.

That's pretty much what I told Brett Roberts and Eitan Silverman when I interviewed them for a story in this issue.

What I mean is, as a reseller proposition, the vendor is coming from its analog roots with one of the more unusual technology prospects I've come across in the last 18 months.

It doesn't jive with the orthodoxy about reseller channels as I've come to know it. I'm used to hearing about solutions for managing mobile devices, securing networks, virtualising infrastructure, and turning as much of a client's IT into something that can be serviced on an annuity basis. But intelligent locker systems? It'll be interesting to see what resellers can do with that.

My interview with Pitney Bowes fella illustrated for me that, despite the pressure resellers face to remain viable, opportunities can come from unexpected places. Pitney Bowes is in a nascent stage of developing new channels, with Roberts on board as the new technology lead. His excitement about his new role is contagious.

But this isn't new, as Optimation's Neil Butler can attest. The company he founded 20 years ago is growing strong partly because inscribed in its business model is an openness to change. That's why the organisation took a 50 percent stake in an Australian cloud specialist a few months back. Butler says, in essence, that Optimation doesn't want to be blinkered by the past.

Technology announcements almost always include purple prose about innovation and market disruption. One gets inured to the effusive language. As a vendor is only part of the picture, can anything be called "innovative" before its tested in the market? And what do people mean by market disruption anyway?

End users have varying awareness of what is considered "disruptive". A technology consultant can probably frame anything as disruptive, if by disruptive they mean a better, if not new way for clients to do business.

As technology journalist Nicholas Evans recently wrote in a recent opinion piece for Computerworld (US) , end users are faced with so many technology options in mobility, big data, social networking and on and on, that adopting technology is a matter of timing.

He suggests users gauge when to take up an emerging disruptor based on the technology adoption life cycle, a " sociological model, invented by researchers at the University of Iowa who were studying the adoption of hybrid seed corn by farmers" as Evans describes it.

The model describes technology adoption as following a bell curve, with the first adopters being the innovators, followed by the early adopters, the early majority, the late majority and finally the laggards.

"The good news," Evans writes, "is that, while product cycle times may be well under a year, the overall trend upon which the technologies are carried typically unfolds over many years. Within each trend there are multiple enabling technologies, all at various stages of maturity and adoption."

Evans gives cloud computing as an example, a broad nomenclature the belies the fact that SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and everything-else-as-a-service, each follow their own adoption timelines. Other broad technology areas such as mobility have been around for decades, but are continuing to unfold based on decreasing costs for devices, increased features, and whatever else makes your phone or tablet a useful business tool.

Evans says that timing is critical for end users to move into emerging technologies, and I would add that it's the reseller's value-add, as a client's trusted IT professional, to help guide decision makers from one disruption to the next. Resellers, like end users, can learn from the early adopters. They can work together to roadmap their adoption according to the client's core business needs, and come up with a strategy to satisfy corporate objectives. All balanced against an appetite for risk, of course.

I'm not saying Pitney Bowes is claiming to be on the edge of disruptive technologies. Just unusual ones. Whether or not they are disruptive depends on the reseller and the client, and when they're willing to hop on the adoption lifecycle.

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