Becky’s Affiliated: Tips for tracking disruptive technology with Dr. Robert Phaal

Its easy to list off disruptive technology touching the online gambling industry today, but its much more difficult to actually integrate such technology into a business plan.  As an industry, we learn about the latest technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and blockchain at conference sessions and as we browse expo floors, but how should we adopt these technologies into our roadmaps?

As Chris North revealed in our interview earlier this week, the Digital Transformation Academy will be taking place in Cambridge, UK, May 10-11 and one of the speakers, Dr. Robert Phaal, will be educating attendees on strategic technology management.  Phaal is a Principal Research Associate at Cambridge University and an expert in tracking emerging technologies by using tools such as roadmapping.

Mastering tools to help track pertinent technologies such as AI, VR, AR, and Blockchain are essential for the growth of just about any business in the online gambling industry and any other industry, for that matter. Roadmapping is one of the best tools available to track these technologies and according to Phaal, a company can use their roadmap in a couple of different ways.

“Firstly for their internal strategy, to make sure all the activities in the company are aligned.  But also to help them understand how the environment is changing…technology is moving fast and companies need to be aware of those evolving signals and to be able to contextualize the relevance for their own firm”, he explained.

He continued, “To help understand these trends and help companies through the consequences in terms of how these technologies such as artificial intelligence, or virtual/augmented reality or Blockchain, for example, might impact on their business and why they need to start worrying about it and what might be the immediate actions they need to take”.

Determining elements such as what technology to track and how many years out to plan a roadmap are important steps for building any successful internal strategy.

“These are fast moving trends, so traditionally roadmaps in software would be a relatively short time frame, so one, two or three years”, said Phaal.

“I think in this case I would recommend a linear scale, so to have the first couple of years with more resolution if you’d like, but to think a little further bit out, what might be happening in five to ten years, because not all the trends are as fast as the technology trends.  There’ll be lots of other factors evolving like regulations and so on, so I always encourage a longer outlook, but we don’t give too much space on the roadmap to that”, he added.

With fast-moving trends or “exponential technologies”, its absolutely essential to keep on top of them, otherwise organizations could find themselves getting suddenly crushed by their competition.

“These things are really difficult to judge, they are very non-linear, they tend to bubble along for a long time and then you get a sort of tipping point, that’s why companies need to have their radar out all the time, I think.  Just keeping track and trying to judge those signals that tell us that things are getting serious”, he said.

“So even if you’ve got your eyes on the technology trends, you can easily miss these signals anBecky’s Affiliated: Tips for tracking disruptive technology with Dr. Robert Phaal d things can suddenly happen fast”, he added.

Two examples of industries that hit tipping points with exponential technologies are televisions and photography, when liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions displaced the cathode ray tube and when digital photography displaced film.  In both cases, companies that did not have a plan for embracing these disruptive technologies were put out of business overnight.

“If you look over time at industries its technology that’s the key disruptor in many cases and you often find companies fail.  It’s a Darwinian process, but if you want to increase the odds for survival, it’s the companies that have a better sense of what’s coming up and an ability to judge the impact and having the guts to go for it when the timing is right. But if they don’t have the right information, they’re far less likely to be able to make those tough calls”, pointed out Phaal.

The good news here is that the cost of tracking disruptive technology doesn’t have to be outrageously high for a business, its more about dedicating time to track it.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be that expensive in terms of making sure you’re aware of the signals.  I think its keeping on top of the trade press and the technology press and there are certain firms who provide information services and just to keep track of it.  I think one can often anticipate if the technology reached a certain point, ‘what would we do’, so companies who are well prepared for the future have these pre-prepared scenarios, really”, explained Phaal.

“I don’t think it’s a huge amount of time and effort other than awareness to put yourself in that position.  When things get serious, of course, you have to bet on the new technology and that would become quite a substantial bet.  Until that point, it’s a relatively modest insurance policy”, he said.