Your business needs to start wasting money on technology.
Yes, we’re telling you to waste money.
And that’s coming from a company that rewrote our mission this year to state that we will only entertain an engagement when a client is significantly rewarded.
Unlike some software developers that run past timeline and budget with no regard to how it affects their customers, we measure our success by the value and ROI we create for our clients. We often create fixed-price contracts with clients for projects worth $150,000 or more—taking the risk on ourselves instead of putting it on our clients.
An approach based on certainty works very well for our clients in many cases—especially when we are rebuilding or revamping existing software.
But when it comes to new horizons of technology—like the ones you find in the annual Gartner Hype Cycle—certainty is impossible. To unlock these kinds of possibilities, you need to be willing to spend money with no guarantee of return.
Here are three reasons why:
Innovation requires experimentation
To ride the wave of new technology like machine learning, artificial intelligence, or one of countless other opportunities, you have to take a theoretical idea and actually make it work. And not just work, as in function—but work in the real-world context of your business.
That path of exploration is not a straight line.
When a technology is extraordinarily new, it lives in flux. So many people are working on it at the same time that innovations will come fast and furious. And one innovation will reveal a problem in another area, or will affect how another innovation works. So change is constant. Throw in the unique constraints and options present in your business, and the uncertainty ratchets up even more.
Something that works now many not work in a few months. And there’s no telling if an idea you have will ever be supported by the technology.
The only way to know is to try. There’s no guarantee that what you try will work—but if it does, you could unlock a world of possibilities.
Failure can be fruitful
As you think about experimentation, it’s important to remember that even failed experiments can provide value.
* Maybe they will reveal other areas of your tech stack that should be improved.
* Maybe they will highlight a bug you need to fix to proceed.
* Maybe they will disprove a hypothesis and send you back to the drawing board to be even more creative.
While these outcomes aren’t the straight line to success, they are valuable. They provide essential information that helps your business move forward toward innovation.
So when your software engineer comes to you and says that something didn’t work for a specific reason, don’t curse at him or her (or under your breath). Instead, ask how this failure illuminates the path forward, and then encourage that next step.
Of course, this approach comes with an assumption—that your developers know why something didn’t work, and what to do differently next time. If that kind of learning isn’t happening, then it may be time to slow your roll. Otherwise, you run the risk of spinning your wheels with developers making the same mistake or trying the same wrong path repeatedly.
But if you’re learning, then you’re making progress. Recognize this progress as part of the process of technological innovation.
Risk unlocks value
Software initiatives should be about unlocking value. That value may be measurable in terms of ROI—greater productivity or efficiency, increased sales, or in some other way. Even it’s not quantitatively measurable, there should be a qualitative benefit—employee satisfaction, or a decreased risk of data errors, or the like.
If a project cannot create value, then it goes on the back burner. But if it can create value, then you know what to push go on.
The uncertainty of innovative projects makes the ROI calculation more difficult—but it’s just as important.
Experimentation is the only way to find out if you can adopt the innovative technology. There’s no way to guarantee a measurable percentage of ROI when it comes to these uncertain projects—but there is a valuable chance of capturing that ROI if you can provide enough room for innovation.
By now, you may be convinced that your business does in fact need to risk wasting money with the ultimate goal of leveraging new software technology in your business.
Before you open the checkbook, you should make sure your business is ready for this kind of transformational innovation. And you should get buy-in from the C-level about both the potential benefits and the financial risks of your efforts.
But don’t let uncertainty dissuade you from innovation. Risk is the only path to value. Innovation requires experimentation. And even your failures can be fruitful.
So blaze a new path. And record your success once you get there, so that the path to value is a bit clearer the next time you’re considering innovation.