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technology adoption

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addressing adoption cycle
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Adoption is an event that occurs when an actor (which may be a person or community, or an agent or artefact to which some responsibility has been delegated) decides to adopts a device.  A manager with sufficient authority may make this decision on behalf of a large community of users.

We can often identify several phases of adoption: early, mainstream and late. We can often recognize a chasm - especially between the early adopters and everyone else. 

Typically, one of the key challenges for new technology is making the transition from being a novelty only suitable for early adopters, to becoming a serious mainstream product. One popular book on the subject calls this Crossing the Chasm.

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change

Types of Adoption

veryard projects > technology change management > adoption > types

A central planner makes a recommendation, which individual users are encouraged to accept, perhaps by an alteration in the cost-benefit equation for the individual user.  Perhaps the central planner negotiates a price reduction, or absorbs some elements of the total cost of ownership. 
Contingency The adoption decision may be tentative or contingent.  A person may decide to adopt a device on trial, perhaps for use in a pilot project.  Further adoption decisions may be held off until more information is available.
Rationality This decision is made on the basis of some view of the potential utility of the device for the user(s), as compared with the expected total cost of ownership.  The decision may also be dependent on the degree of confidence of these estimates, together with an assessment of any relevant risks.

This supposedly rational decision is highly sensitive to the way the overall system is conceptualized, as well as the costs, benefits and risks that are deemed relevant to the decision.  An observer that takes a different view of these things may be critical of the decision that is made, and may regard it as a manifestation of a defective rationality.  In particular, when a potential adopter declines to adopt something, which someone else (such as the vendor) thought he ought to have adopted, this is often characterized as resistance.

You accept an email or email service, or download some software from the Internet – and find that you’ve also unwittingly accepted a virus. Or perhaps a colleague gets infected first, and then passes it around the company.  There are thousands of software components on my computer – from cookies to DDL files – and many of them have been loaded automatically as a consequence of some other installation or interaction.  I hope they’re all benign – but I can never be sure.

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change

Adoption Cycle

veryard projects > technology change management > adoption > cycle

A technical product needs to be attractive to both early adopters and mainstream adopters.  These two communities have significantly different procurement criteria.

Early adopters are typically attracted by novelty – the ability to address wholly new classes of problem or application.

Mainstream adopters are typically attracted by evidence of success and low risk, supported by a reassuring body of practitioners and experience.

A significant portion of the evidence and experience required by mainstream adopters will be generated by early adopters. This evidence and experience must be planned and collected from the outset, to maintain business continuity between early adoption and mainstream adoption.

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Content last updated on November 20th, 2001
Technical update October 7th, 2004
Copyright © 2001 Veryard Projects Ltd