The Manager's Guide to IT Innovation Waves
The relentless advance of information technology today means that a key task of the business manager now is to cope with one wave of IT innovations after another. At any given time, an executive is likely to feel more or less inundated by a current wave, unsure of what all the commotion is about, unable to avoid the topic in conversation and yet suspicious that the latest "killer app" may be mostly hype. Is there a better way? Drawing years of research as well as the research of others, this article asserts that the IT adoption cycle is a kind of wave machine that carries an innovation through five stages: (1) breaking the surface, (2) sending out ripples, (3) causing a squawk, (4) building the swell and (5) riding the crest. An important characteristic of IT innovations is that implementation is frequently costly, time-consuming and highly problematic. One consequence is that the number of adoptions of an IT innovation — which are essentially commitments that organizations make to implement the new technology — may outstrip successful implementations, resulting in a worrisome "implementation gap" that calls for explanation and can serve to dampen enthusiasm for the innovation. The rate at which value is achieved by an IT innovation is likely to peak long after the community's attention to the original organizing vision has dissipated. Thus, managers need to distinguish carefully between the attention an IT innovation receives and actual adoption, implementation and value gained from its use. Understanding these dynamics more clearly can lead executives to make better decisions about which "waves" to catch and which to let roll by.