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With Technology, Is Timing Everything?

Posted November 21, 2016 in Articles

When launching a technology-based enterprise or considering a substantial technology investment, timing can often play just as big a role in a product’s viability as the product itself. Consider the example of daily deal applications like Groupon and LivingSocial. While these service providers were viewed as novel in their time (and Groupon even famously turned down a bid from Google in order to pursue an IPO), just a few short years later their value has dropped significantly as more-integrated solutions are taking hold.

Then, of course, there are the famous examples of everything from the lightbulb to internal combustion automobiles – and some would even say social media – being questions as “fads,” only to eventually take on central roles in our daily lives. So, if you have a product that is before its time, how can you reliably assess whether it has staying power or will go the way of daily deal sites and never quite catch on?

Taking Technology Lessons from History

When assessing the viability of a novel product, history can often tell us a lot. While there certainly is no universal set of the elements that make up a successful product, innovations that last tend to be those that meet both immediate and long-term needs (or, if they do not meet long-term needs, they are capable of adapting to changes in the market over time). Daily deal sites worked because they were unique and gave brands a new way to connect with loyal customers, but they ultimately proved largely unprofitable for participating businesses while tools like social media provided significant ROI. In other words, they served an immediate need, but they did not stand the test of time.

Let’s contrast this with some other more-recent examples:

  • Wearable Technology – While the verdict may still be out on wearable technology, manufacturers’ and developers’ willingness to adapt their products to the needs of their customers appears to be gradually shifting the market from one of novelty to one of long-term sustainability. As companies continue to bring other types of connected devices to the market as well, wearable technology seems to be developing into a product of its time.

  • Big Data – When “big data” became the buzzword du jour for consultants and analysts around the country, there were tools to gather the data, but few that could digest it in a meaningful way. As a result, some began to question its viability. However, while big data may have been at risk for being ahead of its time, companies that recognized its long-term value were able to develop software that has since led to deep integration of data analytics across a broad spectrum of industries.

  • 3D Printing – 3D printing is another innovation that once seemed destined for obscurity. It was novel. It captured the imagination. But, it lacked widespread commercial applicability. That, of course, has changed substantially, with companies ranging from medical device manufacturers to engineering firms using 3D-printing technology in a wide range of commercial applications.

So, if your business has a concept for a new product, is it worth investing in the research and development needed to bring it to market? If you are considering a major technology investment, will you be able to achieve a lasting ROI? Timing isn’t everything, but it is certainly something to keep in mind.

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Mithras Investments is a consulting firm that advises companies on technology investments with a sharp focus on both short-term and long-term viability. If you would like to discuss your company’s product or technology investment strategy, please call (305) 517-7911 or get in touch with us online today.

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