The tools we use today are wildly different than they were 30 years ago, and they’ve changed hundreds of times since then. Every leader in technology faces pressure to keep up, even if their development process is moving smoothly and infrastructure is up and scaling. There is a low-level, constant fear of missing out on a net positive for the business: “Could we be moving even faster? Are our competitors better at this than we are?” Additionally, most great engineers want to work with the newest and best tools. Recruiting and retaining those engineers means choosing a cutting-edge tech stack and can be an advantage in building the company you want to build. But the adoption of new technology can also be scary and difficult.
When the adoption of new technology goes wrong, a leader ends up pushed out, and new features go on hold while changes are made or new features are developed but can’t be shipped to production.
The world I live in is the Kubernetes world, so I’ll focus there. This is a tool that has caused a massive shift in how development is done and how infrastructure is built in cloud environments. The more people read about it, the more they want to know whether the hype matches the reality. The key barriers to the adoption of any new technology are rooted in fears around efficiency, reliability and security.
In building a B2B sales company that works with new technology, you should be setting out to solve at least one of these three problems:
Efficiency: Can we adopt this tech quickly?
It doesn’t matter how exciting a new piece technology is — if it’s going to take years to adopt, then most execs are going to shy away. New trends in tech come and go so quickly that many fear by the time their organization has moved to one thing, there will already be a new hot thing.
If companies could adopt new technology in weeks, rather than months or years, there would be heavy incentives to experiment and try out new things. The forces needed to overcome long-lasting migrations require an organizational inertia few companies can overcome, even if the migration is worthwhile. Technological innovations that show tremendous promise emerge all the time, but they aren’t anywhere close to a sure bet, so why take the risk if the change can’t be made efficiently?
Reliability: Can we use this tech well?
The adoption of new technology always includes an (often terrifying) knowledge gap for engineers, and there is often fear within the executive team that this will cause downtime or that things will be built in a way that seems fine now but can’t scale in the future or will eventually fall apart. It’s often the CTO’s job to worry, “What if we adopt this today and have problems six months from now because we haven’t battle-tested it?”
Companies spend a fortune making sure they’re monitoring the right parts of a system so they can know when a service is faltering. And most would happily spend their money to avoid that faltering in the first place.
If you’re a CTO and you genuinely believe your engineers have the knowledge and tooling required to reliability implement new technology, much less risk is required to make the leap.
Security: Can we trust our product and reputation with this tech?
It doesn’t matter how great new technology like Kubernetes is or how big the hype is; a company with any kind of security concerns (and that should be every company) can’t adopt new technology without understanding the security impact of that solution. It feels like there are only a small handful of security experts who have deep familiarity with any new technology, but how do you find them or hire them? Very few tools are inherently insecure, but if used incorrectly, just about everything can have a revenue-crippling security hole.
If security concerns were easy to solve, CTOs and CSOs could easily greenlight new technology. It doesn’t matter how excited engineers are for a new kind of technology if the executive team doesn’t have confidence that it can be run securely. This is especially prevalent in SaaS (software as a service) applications and similar solutions.
It’s time to build something truly innovative.
If a new piece of technology comes along and it can be adopted efficiently, reliably and securely, time to adoption will dramatically decrease. If time is money, less time for adoption means less cost for the company adopting it.
For those building something truly innovative, these are the issues that you must address.
Companies looking to make money working with new technology can build a business model on solving just one of the problems above. Then again, if you get ambitious, build your company to solve all three for some segment of the market.