Every company aims to offer products or services that seamlessly match clear market needs. Many, however, overlook the importance of technology as a means to differentiate, build and retain their competitive edges. In an increasingly fragmented global technology landscape, aligning your technology strategy with your business strategy is an absolute must.
What is technology?
In the book A Brief History of Mechanical Engineering, the answer to that question is given in the form of a short parable:
Once upon a time, three friends were passing through a forest. They were feeling thirsty, but their water pot was empty. Suddenly they saw a well, but there was no rope to draw the water from the well. The first man asked the second man: “You know a lot about plants. Can you identify the grass around here that is strong?” The second man identified the grass, which had a good tensile strength. Then, the first man asked the third man: “You are very skilled. Can you join the number of grass plants by making strong knots and then tie it with the pot?” The third man made strong knots and the pot was tied with the grass rope and water was drawn from the well. Among these, the first man was an engineer, the second a scientist and the third a technologist.
This story immediately clarifies technology’s value as an enabler: a practical way to meet a need. In the ‘three layers of business’ model, the market (layer 1) is the reason ‘why’ you’re offering something, products (layer 2) are ‘what’ you offer, and technology (layer 3) is ‘how’ you develop(ed) these products or services. This shows why it’s so important to think your technology strategy through and ensure that it aligns with your overall business strategy.
From superlabs to startups
From the post-war years till the nineties, key technologies were developed in research labs, linked to major companies like Bell Labs, DuPont Labs and others. At the time, these ‘superlabs’ had seemingly infinite resources, thanks to the companies’ near monopolistic positions. Back then, research was not directly linked to valorization.
During the last 20 to 30 years, the technology landscape has become increasingly globalized and fragmented. In today’s market-oriented R&D landscape, technology is only interesting if it fits market and business drivers. The era of the superlabs is over: many of the breakthrough technologies developed in the last three decades come from startups with high degrees of specialization. They, in turn, have become acquisition targets for multinationals to feed their own R&D activities. In this way, the risk involved with technology development is reduced as well.
Technology management framework
This also means that in order to maintain its competitive edge, a company needs to consider a technology management and strategy that is perfectly aligned with its broader business strategy. This technology management ‘roadmap’ consists of five phases:
- Identify relevant technological evolutions (monitoring, concept generation).
- Select technologies that fit your business strategy.
- Acquire the selected technologies (internal or external).
- Exploit the technologies and integrate them within the company’s next-generation products, processes and services in line with market and business drivers.
- Protect the technology and expertise through copyrights, trademarks, patents, etc. to ensure that only the firm benefits.
While that may sound simple enough, We’ve learned that many companies — even industry leaders — are still struggling to set up a sound technology management framework. That’s why, in the next few blog posts, we’ll dive deeper into the phases listed above and unveil how a good technology roadmap can increase competitiveness.
At CREAX, we live and breathe technology management and keep a close eye on technological evolutions in and beyond your industry. Find out how we can help you build a solid technology strategy by dropping us a line and subscribing to our blog.
Par Uday Shanker Dixit, Manjuri Hazarika, J. Paulo Davim. (2017). A Brief History of Mechanical Engineering. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.