Technology is a tricky thing. When you adopt a product or service too early in its introduction it’s more costly and prone to those first year errors/bugs. You’re akin to a very underpaid beta-tester. As the technology becomes more widely embraced, the cost drops (unless it’s an Apple product) and the online community of users become gurus in its operation. In personal technology we refer to people as early adopters or late adopters.
In professional technology the terms bleeding edge and cutting edge are more frequently employed. Bleeding edge is a danger because it’s costly to organizations. You take a leap of faith that the technology will pass fad status and become a trend and you’ll lead your competitors. It’s a large leap and failure is possible as you are first to claim it as yours but if it catches on, the new technology is now synonymous with your organization. Cutting edge means you wait around for others to do the testing, to work out the kinks, to educate the users. It allows you to appear to be a leader in the usage of technology for less investment both financially and through time but you run the risk of someone getting there first. Still, caution is not a bad thing and the positives may very well outweigh the potential negatives and costs behind too early of an adoption.
But unlike personal technology use (where you can pick up the newest iPhone at any time regardless of whether you’ve owned any of its predecessors), in tech for business embracing technology too late can be costly as well. If you adopt technology AFTER your members are looking for it — if they have to come to you asking — your reputation as an industry leader is tarnished and you may have missed an opportunity to capture their hearts. To use a non technology-related example of eating at a restaurant, when you’re waiting for your meal it’s a much more memorable experience when the waiter or waitress anticipates your needs and fills your glass or bread basket without having to ask. When you have everything you need for your meal magically appear, you’re receiving extraordinary service. It’s frictionless. You don’t have to think about it. The same can be said for your organization. If you are anticipating most of your members’ needs before they even realize they need it, you’ll never want for members.
Ideally, where does your organization want to be with technology adoption? For some, it makes sense to be on the bleeding edge regardless of cost. If you are an association of technology wizards — it’s an absolute expectation of your industry. If not, cutting edge is fine but you must stay ahead of member needs. If you have not embraced an online community component as part of your membership management software, you’re leaving engagement opportunities on the table. Your members are already members of other online communities. They can’t be a part of yours if you don’t have one.
Where is your organization when it comes to technology adoption — Bleeding Edge, Cutting Edge or Off-the-Edge?