integration of emerging information technologies


COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM August 2005/Vol. 48, No. 8 113
T echnology executives tend not to con- sider the integration of emerging information technologies (EITs)— inno dar accessibility (such as beta versions of dization or limited commer vations with incomplete stan cial –
software or prototypes of hardware)—when planning an IT strategy. A survey of 212 CIOs from Fortune 1000 firms revealed that only 31% of the
respondents evaluated an EIT during a recent IT
strategic planning session [3]. Of the responding
CIOs who had not explored the possibilities of EITs
in their IT strategic planning phase, 68% indicated
they lacked sufficient time during strategy planning
to explore and acquire knowledge regarding EITs as
potential components of their respective IT strategy
[3]. This is unfortunate, since more than half of
those CIOs who did not consider EITs in their
recent strategic planning sessions stated that such
consideration might have contributed to the development of a more timely IT strategy [3].
Given these survey results, we offer several
insights and an evaluation model that CIOs can utilize to organize an expedient investigation of an
emerging technology’s potential fit into organizational IT strategy.
The surveyed executives indicated unanimously
that access to information regarding EITs and the
time resources required to evaluate the new technologies are critical preliminary evaluation factors
[1, 3]. In order to expedite the data collection
process and subsequent evaluation process, the study
participants offered the following recommendations:
• Review new technologies on a continuous basis.
Each week allocate time to investigating what’s
new.
• Create lasting resource files. A new technology
may not provide potential value to your
organization today, but tomorrow may be a
different story.
• Define your existing business processes and
A model for quickly sifting through emerging technologies to
find the best organizational fit.
CASEY G. CEGIELSKI, BRIAN J. REITHEL,
AND CARL M. REBMAN
Emerging Information Technologies:
DEVELOPING A
TIMELY IT STRATEGY
114 August 2005/Vol. 48, No. 8 COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM
supporting IT for each
process. One executive says
“drawing a diagram [of your
systems] works because it
creates a ‘drag and drop’
overview of your entire
infrastructure. From that
drawing I know what might
work for each process.”
• Create a collection of
trade journals and online
publications for quick
references. “I can find most
of my preliminary information
at two sites: CIO.com and
ZDNet.com,” says the CIO
of a public utility in the
southeastern U.S.
• Listen to your people in the
trenches. Your organization’s
frontline programmers, analysts, and other techies are
valuable sources of insight into emerging technologies.
• Collect data in a preliminary fashion, not as if to
prepare a final analysis. Get an overview of the
new technology. After a cursory review suggests
the new technology applicable for your organization, do additional research.
• Ask questions. When
collecting data on a
new technology, correspondence with the
product’s developers is
often the most expeditious means of getting
the facts.
BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING
T o gr our ev ation model, we conducted a four- round Web-based Delphi study. S who classified their organization’s IT eventy-five senior IT executives, ound alustrategy as “innovative” based on their previous use
of EITs, participated in the study. Initially, each
executive read three separate vignettes describing a
different technology (Bluetooth, XML, and Virtual
Retinal Display) that qualified, per the definition
described herein, as an EIT. Next, each executive
contributed, via the study Web pages, his or her
thoughts regarding the potential integration of the
sample EIT into corporate strategy. Finally, the executives reviewed all 169 of the
unique comments and formulated a set of 23 unique
issues they perceived as
important with respect to
integrating EITs into corporate strategy. In subsequent rounds, the group ranked and re-ranked the
issues to produce a consensus of the most
important issues to consider when contemplating the integration of
EITs into IT strategy (see
Table 1).
Qualitative feedback
collected via a series of
online chat sessions with
the study participants
revealed that the overwhelming majority of the
participating executives
believe the integration
decision of EITs is stratified into two separate but
interrelated assessment areas: business alignment
issues and technical alignment issues. Interestingly,
alignment, in numerous facets, was noted as a key
issue in IT strategy in several previous research studies [2]. According to a global IT firm CIO, whose
sentiments were widely supported by the group, the
two areas differ in that “business issues address the
general ways and means that a particular technology
will support an organization’s objectives,” while
Cegielski fig 1 (8/05)
Business Alignment Examples
Gain/Sustain Competitive Advantage
General Questions: Can the technology foster greater
organizational efficiencies in areas such as production
cycle time or inventory control? Can the technology
provide additional useful information to those who
need to make timely decisions?
Specific Application: What is the estimated payback
period for our ERP implementation if we are able to
reduce our inventory carrying cost by
$1 million per quarter?
Compatible with Current/Future
Business Operations
General Questions: Can we continue to conduct
business in our current fashion? Will this technology
support our planned future objectives?
Specific Questions: Is the technology able to support
current product distribution process? Will the
technology support the business’s planned
development of a South American
production division?
Appropriate for Use by External Entities
General Questions: Will the technology disrupt current
client/supplier/regulatory relationships?
Specification Application: Will the EPA accept
our reports in XML?
Technical Alignment Examples
Current/Future Uses for Technology
Performance Aspects of Technology
General Questions: What aspects of the
technology are usable today? Tomorrow?
Specific Questions: Will the new Open Source
Office Suite support our current document
standards? In the future, we will require
integration with our project management software.
Is it possible with the new Open
Source Office Suite?
General Questions: How secure, robust, and
reliable is the technology?
Specific Questions: For e-transmission of our
patient records, we must use 128-bit encryption.
Does the wireless network allow
such a configuration?
Systems Compatibility of Technology
General Questions: Can the technology be
seamlessly integrated with our existing systems?
Specific Questions: Our transaction processing
system runs on a AS/400. Will the proposed Web
portal software be capable of querying data
from that system?
Business Alignment Examples
Gain/Sustain Competitive Advantage
General Questions: Can the technology foster greater
organizational efficiencies in areas such as production
cycle time or inventory control? Can the technology
provide additional useful information to those who
need to make timely decisions?
Specific Application: What is the estimated payback
period for our ERP implementation if we our able to
reduce our inventory carrying cost by
$1 million per quarter?
Compatible with Current/Future
Business Operations
General Questions: Can we continue to conduct
business in our current fashion? Will this technology
support our planned future objectives?
Specific Questions: Is the technology able to support
current product distribution process? Will the
technology support the business’s planned
development of a South American
production division?
Appropriate for Use by External Entities
General Questions: Will the technology disrupt current
client/supplier/regulatory relationships?
Specification Application: Will the EPA accept
our reports in XML?
Technical Alignment Examples
Current/Future Uses for Technology
Performance Aspects of Technology
General Questions: What aspects of the
technology are useable today? Tomorrow?
Specific Questions: Will the new Open Source
Office Suite support our current document
standards? In the future, we will require
integration with our project management software.
Is it possible with the new Open
Source Office Suite?
General Questions: How secure, robust, and
reliable is the technology?
Specific Questions: For e-transmission of our
patient records, we must use 128 bit encryption.
Does the wireless network allow
such a configuration?
Systems Compatibility of Technology
General Questions: Can the technology be
seamlessly integrated with our existing systems?
Specific Questions: Our transaction processing
system runs on a AS/400. Will the proposed web
portal software be capable of querying data
from that system?
Figure 1. Examples of
business and technical
alignment issues (adapted
from online chat sessions
with participating CIOs).
Cegielski table 1 (8/05)
Italicized issues relate to Business Alignment Non-italicized issues relate to Technical Alignment
Issue
Ability to gain competitive advantage through the use of the EIT
Ability to sustain competitive advantage provided by the EIT
Security aspects involved with using the EIT
Appropriateness of EIT for use by customers/clients
Reliability of the technology
Compatibility of EIT with existing information systems
Supports current business operations/processes
Capable of supporting future business process/operations
Standardization of technical specifications of the EIT
Rank
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Table 1. Consensus ranking of
top issues from final Delphi
round (1 = most important).

technical alignment issues focus
on “the nuts and bolts of a particular technology like compatibility
with existing systems.” Generally,
the business alignment issues
reflect concerns that are universal to all organizations: competitive advantage, customer relationship
management, and organizational fit. Conversely, the
technical alignment issues are firm specific, as the
study group described. The group provided specific
examples of both business alignment and technical
alignment issues during an online chat session (see
Figure 1). From the context of the online chat, concise definitions of the alignment categories were
developed (see Figure 2).
The consensus ranking of the top issues presented
in Table 1 illustrates a clear distinction between business and technical alignment. Particularly, Issues 1,
2, 4, 7, and 8 represent business alignment issues
while Issues 3, 5, 6, and 9 pertain to technical alignment issues. While the group saw both areas as
“equally important,” a consensus formed among the
executives that the integration decision regarding
EITs must focus initially on business alignment
issues in order to ensure support for organizational
objectives. A CIO from an international petrochemical conglomerate summarized the group
sentiment as follows:
“It is easy to become fascinated by cutting-edge technologies, but we all know the bottom
line. If it [an emerging information technology] won’t make us
better at what we do, than it has
no place in our organization.”
From the initial listing of 23
unique issues and the subsequent
executive classifications solicited
during the online chat sessions,
we developed the EIT evaluation model presented in
Figure 3.
BUSINESS ALIGNMENT ISSUES
Many practitioners and researchers have long held the popular opinion that competi- tive advantages derived from using IT are often short-lived because of the ability of competitors to replicate, and subsequently eliminate, the
advantage [4, 5]. The participating CIOs unanimously agreed that gaining and subsequently sustaining a competitive advantage via the integration
of an EIT into strategy are paramount concerns in
the EIT evaluation process. Interestingly, most of the
participants expressed competitive advantage not in
terms of a single application of technology that produces a benefit for a finite amount of time, but
rather as a continuous effort to manage the integration of technologies as they develop. Given this
information, we have modularized competitive
advantage into the single components shown in the
model.
According to the executive respondents, the sec
COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM August 2005/Vol. 48, No. 8 115
Cegielski fig 2 (8/05)
Gain/Sustain Competitive Advantage
To continuously identify and integrate emerging
technologies that contribute to a more
effective/efficient firm
Appropriateness of Technology for Use
by External Entities
To consider technology preferences of
customer/clients/supplies when
evaluating emerging technologies
Compatibility of Technology with Current/
Future Business Operations
To establish a “fit” between the core competencies
of the business and emerging technologies
Current/Future Uses of Technology
To identify specific existing/future applications of
emerging technologies within an organization
Performance
To assess the quantifiable operations aspects of
an emerging technology within an
organizational context
Systems Compatibility
To evaluate the implementation impact of
an emerging technology into existing
information systems
Business Technical
Figure 2. Definitions
of EIT business
alignment and
technical alignment
issues.
Most of the participants expressed competitive advantage
not in terms of a single application of technology that produces a
benefit for a finite amount of time, but rather as a continuous effort
to manage the integration of technologies as they develop.

ond business alignment
issue to consider when
evaluating an EIT is the
appropriateness of the
technology for the organization’s customers or
clients. The former CIO
of an international women’s fashion retailer
explained his perception
of appropriateness of
technology with the following example:
“We evaluated an ecommerce plan prior to
1996. It was a comprehensive plan we had on
the table and it would
have been costly. We
learned from preliminary market studies that our customers would not
purchase our clothes online. For them, there is a
need to see and feel a garment before they buy. They
like to come into the store and try it on, see it in the
mirror, and get some opinions on how it makes
them look. Because of that, we decided not to incorporate an e-commerce platform in our Web presence. I’ll also tell you that watching all of our
competition move to e-commerce platforms made
us all worry. We wondered if we had made the right
decision. Five years after, we know our assessment of
our customers was right on. I know that our competitors haven’t experienced the kind of return on
their sites that they expected. We know it all boils
down to our customers’ preferences.”
Within the domain of business alignment, the
respondents defined business operations compatibility as the final qualitative issue to consider when
evaluating an EIT. One CIO suggested that by
appropriately evaluating the compatibilities of an
EIT with current and
future organizational
operations, an IT strategist can avoid the difficult lesson learned by so
many adopters of ERP
systems in the late
1990s: integrating technology for the sake of
technology is a poor
approach to developing
an IT strategy. The overriding theme expressed
by the group regarding
EITs and operations
compatibility is the paramount importance of
ensuring that organizational operations are not
altered solely to allow for
technology integration.
While all agreed that it is
completely acceptable to
utilize technology to facilitate organizational
change, attempts to conform organizational
processes around an EIT are tantamount to placing
the cart in front of the horse [6].
TECHNICAL ALIGNMENT ISSUES
A ccor an IT strategist has completely assessed the business alignment issues regarding an EIT, it is appro- priate to explor cal issues of the emerging ding to the study gr e the relevant techni- oup, once
technology. Initially, the technical analysis should
focus on the current and future uses of the EIT
within the organization. The CIO of an international paper products manufacturer explained the
analysis of potential uses of an EIT as a “proactive”
116 August 2005/Vol. 48, No. 8 COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM
Cegielski fig 3 (8/05)
Business Alignment Issues
Technical Alignment Issues
Impact on Timeliness of
Information Technology Strategy
Ability to
Gain/Sustain
Competitive
Advantage
Provided by
Technology
Appropriateness
of Technology for
Use by External
Entities
Supports
Current/Future
Business
Operations/
Processes
Current/Future
Uses of
Technology
Technical
Performance
aspects of EIT
Technical
Compatibility of
EIT with existing
Information
Systems
Figure 3. EIT evaluation
model.
Most of the executives indicated that the key to future use of
an emerging technology is the analysis of the wealth of information
available from technology developers.

activity. Several of the group participants suggested
that identifying future uses of an EIT is very difficult
because of the nature of technology evolution. The
CTO of an international logistics firm summarized
the problem as follows:
“One problem with anticipating future uses of
technologies is that developments can take place like
an explosion, but it usually takes time for support to
catch up. Look at ISDN. The technology was developed long before the rules were ever worked out. By
the time everybody finally agreed on the standards,
ISDN was an afterthought for broadband.”
Although the identification of future uses of an
EIT requires some forecasting, most of the executives in the study indicated that the key to future use
assessment of an emerging technology is the analysis
of the wealth of information available from technology developers.
The final two assessment areas in the EIT evaluation model are components of technical alignment:
performance issues and systems compatibility issues.
Performance issues collectively reflect the myriad of
technology specifications of an EIT. For example,
many of the participating executives were particularly concerned about the technical security factors
associated with new technologies. Given the events
of Sept. 11, 2001, the concern for security is understandable. However, performance issues also include
other technical areas such as product reliability, particularly with respect to hardware and end-user
training for new software. Systems compatibility
issues, on the other hand, center on the specifics of
integrating an EIT into an organization’s existing IT
infrastructure. Most of the systems compatibility
issues focused on specific areas such as cross-platform connectivity, software application integration,
deployment, and product support.
CONCLUSION
Giv tion, the ex available commercial technologies often creates a rapidly outdated IT strategy nology executives to apply the en the rate of technological ev . It may be useful for tech- clusive use of currently olumodel presented herein to remedy this problem. In
doing so, a CIO should first focus on the business
alignment issues and conduct exploratory research to
identify whether an EIT can be leveraged into a
competitive advantage through enhanced operating
efficiency, greater access to markets, or otherwise.
Typically, this task requires the CIO to visualize his
or her organization as it competes with its rivals in
the global marketplace. Next, and assuming some
competitive advantage may be obtained via integrating an EIT, a CIO must determine whether the technology is appropriate for his or her user base. One
can accomplish this through a formal or informal
survey. Finally, the CIO considering the EIT must
subjectively decide if the new technology will fit
within the current as well as long-range operational
plan of the firm. Often, this step requires the CIO to
discuss operational objectives with other executive
directors as well as operations level managers. After
the business alignment issues have been addressed,
the CIO, with the help of IT staff, may assume the
responsibility of conducting a technical fit analysis
for the EIT.
Using the model presented herein, IT executives
can work toward the creation of a more timely IT
strategy by quickly assessing the potential fit of
emerging information technologies within a firmspecific context. As a result, forward-looking IT
strategies that capitalize on early innovation are
developed. The net effect is a longer useful life for an
IT strategy.
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Casey G. Cegielski ([email protected]) is an associate
professor of MIS in the College of Business at Auburn University.
Brian J. Reithel ([email protected]) is the dean of the
School of Business and a professor of MIS at the University of
Mississippi.
Carl M. Rebman ([email protected]) is an assistant professor
of Information Systems and Electronic Commerce at the University
of San Diego.
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