| Expanding access to science and technology |
|Session 5: From new technologies to new modalities of cooperation|
|Systems management for information technology development|
It is possible to characterize existing conditions in a developing nation along several dimensions relative to development or transfer, and implementation of a new information technology. Two questions seem to be of primary importance relative to judgement and choice as concerns exploitation of a potential technology development and/or transfer venture. They can be expressed in slightly different form for individuals, groups, and organizations. In generic form, they are:
(1) Which new technology markets should a unit enter?
(2) How should the unit enter these technology markets so as to maximize the likelihood of success and the reward to be obtained from success, and at the same time to control the risk of failure and the losses to be suffered in the event of a failure? Entry may occur through internal development of a new technology or through a technology transfer process. There are a number of related infrastructure questions and questions of system integration associated with either approach.
A potential new technology can be nurtured by one unit, which may vary in scope from one company to one nation, through the use of a combination of the following two basic approaches:
(1) internal development of the technology, or
(2) venture funding of others and subsequent acquisition, or transfer, of the technology.
There are many ways through which the questions just posed could be resolved. In part, the appropriate development strategy depends upon an analysis of four related questions:
(1) How new and different is the technology for the unit in question?
(2) How new and different is the market for the technology for the unit in question?
(3) How familiar is the unit in question with technological development needs?
(4) How familiar is the market for the technology to the unit in question?
The responses to these questions lead to a 16-cell selection matrix, shown in figure 9, that determines the extent to which a specific unit might be able to use various types of knowledge in order to determine solutions to the many potential problems that may arrive in making a potential new technology operational. The terms "base technology" and "base market" are used to describe technologies and markets with which a unit is presently concerned. Roberts and Berry  have described appropriate entry strategies for the nine cells that are most supportive of success in development of a new technological product or service. These are the nine cells associated with the three left columns and top three rows in figure 6. The 16-cell matrix is appropriately called a "newness matrix."
"Newness" is the key concern in the newness matrix entries in figure 9, which indicates a basic 16-cell model of experiential familiarity with technology and market. Certainly, much about many information technologies will be new to a developing nation. But a potential innovation may be a new technology or a new market, in general - or for a specific company within a developing nation. Also, there are questions of existing technologies with which a new technology must be integrated, and experiential familiarity with the system integration process can also be expected to vary. Expanding on these concepts so as to be able to indicate generic costs and effectiveness indices, including success and failure possibilities, is a goal of a new technology identification study.
The newness matrix, illustrated in figure 9, suggests an approach for analysing the risks, hazards, and uncertainties associated with introducing a new technology. Such uncertainties, both in the market-place and in the technology itself, constitute, in the terminology of business, the risk factor. Risk, of course, is of fundamental importance as a decision-making influencer in both systems management and enterprise management.
The newness matrix is particularly relevant in the early stages of a technology's development, where there are numerous uncertainties. For example, Florida and Keeney  have argued that American industry has tended to rely on major technological breakthroughs rather than incremental improvements in technology as the major mechanism for technological progress, with substantial competitive disadvantages as a result. The newness matrix approach attempts to focus attention on just the types of problems that this, perhaps prevalent, breakthrough mentality might overlook.
Newness, or uncertainty, in markets may be due to any of the following problem areas:
- New uses. There will always be uncertainty where a new use, or function, is being offered, even if there are only relatively minor changes in the technology. For example, the widespread adoption of personal computers might seem to involve only minor changes in software technology for mainframes; but, this led initially to widespread user apathy and an entirely new and beneficial approach to development.
- User skepticism about improved performance characteristics. Many technologies are developed with the notion that they will substitute for existing technologies by providing more effective performance at a modest, or at least acceptable, increase in price. However, the ultimate consumer and purchaser may not be particularly impressed with the performance improvement. For example, supersonic commercial air travel has proven far less popular than developers of the Concorde had initially hoped. High definition television (HDTV) might well prove similarly disappointing, as consumers may find that intermediate forms of enhanced definition TV are quite acceptable for their needs.
- Requirement for human behaviour adjustment by the user. The most imaginative and potentially useful new technology can fail because users cannot, or will not, adjust their behaviour to meet the needs of the technology. A promising innovation, video phones, may flounder because people do not want callers peering at them in their home or office, but may be reluctant to turn the video off after responding to call. As a general guideline, technologies should and must serve humans. Humans will generally not serve technologies, nor should they be expected to do so.
- Competitive technologies. Competitive technologies are volatile and operate in high-velocity environments. This results in very significant uncertainties. For example, efforts by commercial earth satellite-based transmission firms to boost their share of the telecommunications market necessarily must confront exciting changes brought about by fibre optics and cellular radio communications. Initially, this may make a marketing strategy for any particular technology highly uncertain.
- Unpredictable technological developments. Scientific or engineering breakthroughs can add enormous uncertainties to markets.
- Legal barriers. Regulatory and standardization requirements can add considerable uncertainty to the technology adoption process. While these may be very beneficial, there is no reason to assume that they are always beneficial.
The other axis of the newness matrix is technology uncertainty. This may be due to any of the following factors:
- Innovativeness of technology. Almost without exception, potentially more innovative technologies will be initially associated with greater risks and uncertainties than less innovative technologies. A need in this regard is to be able to identify what is genuinely a technological innovation and what is simply an extension of existing technology. While formal knowledge will usually be needed to deal with totally new technologies, there will exist known-to-work approaches that allow one to cope with extensions of existing technologies.
- Number of constituent technologies. Uncertainty may well increase geometrically, rather than arithmetically, with the number of technologies involved in an innovation. For example, successful development of HDTV requires integration of three emerging technologies: flat-screen video displays, digital video transmission, and very high-speed processing of digital video data. Success needs to be obtained in all three, and this results in current substantial technological uncertainty.
- Manufacturing difficulties.
- Institutional changes. Required to bring about process improvements such as to lead to high quality and trustworthy products .
Another taxonometric dimension for consideration is the type of unit involved in a possible emerging engineering technology effort, and the nature of the technology itself. Horwitch and Prahalad  have identified three ideal organizational modes, and we can easily add a fourth that concerns the individual innovative researcher, such that we have:
(1) the technological innovation process practiced by the individual researcher in an academic research, or potentially industrial research, laboratory environment;
(2) the technological innovation processes found in small, high technology-oriented firms;
(3) the technological innovation processes that occur in large corporations with multi-products and multi-markets;
(4) those processes found in conglomerates, multi-organizations and transnational multisector enterprises.
The types of technologies most suitable for potential development and/or transfer investigation in each of these four modes of operation will be different, as will the appropriate risk behaviour. It would seem reasonable to augment this model to allow consideration of other modes, such as those due to individual entrepreneurs and government development assistance. Also, the dimensions of the taxonomy could be enlarged through consideration of the roles, potentially very different roles, of the technology developer in organizations of four generic sizes; individual, small to mid-size, large, and multinational. Other desirable augmentations of importance involve the gateways through which a system development must necessarily pass, and the phased life cycles that involve research and development, systems management, and enterprise management.
Of much importance also will be the type of coordination structures, or patterns of information flow and decision-making among a set of agents who accomplish various activities in order to achieve objectives associated with technology development or transfer. The study of Malone and Smith  illustrates that, both for human organizations and computer systems, these structures are very important in determining production costs, coordination costs, and system vulnerability to crises of various types. Decentralized markets, functional hierarchies, product hierarchies, and centralized markets are the four fundamental structures, with functional hierarchies and centralized markets being further characterized as small-scale or large-scale. The historical evolution over time of these is in the order listed. Since market pull is generally the dominant force in the long-term success of technological innovations, it is appropriate to devote abundant attention to establishing coordination structures and associated perspectives that will enable successful development of a selected technology. It would be particularly interesting to associate the following different patterns of information flow and coordination:
- goals to be achieved, or products or services to be produced (products);
- people who perform various tasks (task processors);
- people who decide which tasks should be done (task managers);
- people who decide which task processors should perform individual tasks (functional managers); and
- communications between people (information or message patterns), with different approaches to development and/or transfer of technologies so as to obtain the most appropriate relationships between organizational communications and coordination, and the development and operational implementation of specific engineering technologies in a developing nation. Figure 10 indicates some general relations among these five elements. Again, it illustrates that we have a dynamic process and that the evolution of the process variables over time is a very important consideration.