Practical Pitfalls and Dilemmas of Technology Transfer
Edited by Richard Veryard in association with IFIP Working
This material represents a bucket of experience in technology transfer.
It is intended to be used in two ways:
To improve the prevailing practice in technology transfer and implementation.
To challenge the prevailing theoretical models.
IFIP working group 8.6 contains academics and practitioners from around
the world with an interest in the dissemination, transfer and implementation
of information technology. To know more about our group, please
go to our home page.
This material originates from a brainstorming session we organized at
our second working
conference, which took place by the side of Lake Windermere in the
North of England, in June 1997.
Suspicion. (Can be either way: practitioners' suspicion of researchers,
researchers' suspicion of people in industry).
Expectation that the nature of the solution can be deduced from the nature
of the source. (E.g. because this software comes from a university, it
must be an untested prototype.)
Fear of technology. Fear of change. Fear of the consequences of change.
Fear that benefits of change may be too long delayed or too indirect to
compensate for fear.
Individuals don't own the technology - therefore don't change how they've
been working - therefore obsolete procedures retained.
Lack of common ground among stakeholders.
Assumptions about speed of adaptation.
Technology inhibits previous good practices.
Cascading requirements: the solution keeps needing additional elements
before it will work.
Risk-averse or cost-averse environment.
Investment decision without clear-cut business case - therefore lacking
management incentive to implement properly.
Insufficient community of 'translators': people who can communicate between
technology opportunities and business opportunities. (Technology brokers
/ agents) Also need translation from business needs to technical requirements.
Mismatch between intentions and funding.
Inattention to training. Poor timing of training.
Raising false expectations.
Experts are isolated: cannot or will not pass knowledge on.
People-phase mismatch; different kinds of people are required for different
phases of the technology transfer process.
New technology incompatible with prevailing standards.
Not recognizing relevant features of context.
Insufficient time and resources to adapt technology to context.
Thinking of process as product. Technologists asked to implement
a flexible process, but thought of it as a fixed product.
Break in continuity of technology transfer process.
Inability to communicate complex research results - translate into business
Inexperienced project management.
Not keeping users informed.
Unwillingness to provide human resource - wrong people allocated - not
enough time from the right people.
Champion not powerful enough.
Existence of a powerful anti-champion: someone who doesn't want this innovation
to succeed, usually because it conflicts with a rival pet project.
Interaction effects: the combination of many small things, none of which
would be significant on its own. (One participant in the brainstorming
session mentioned a project in which several parties cut corners.
The cumulative effect of these cut corners was disastrous for the project
as a whole.)
Competition between initiatives: Either because they compete for resources,
management attention, or the organization's capacity for change. Or because
the technical features conflict.
Biting off more than you can chew.
Inability to quit.
Vendor dilemma: how to retain intellectual property rights while fully
supporting users over time.
How to give away enough intellectual property rights (IPR) to make something
How to maintain relationship between suppliers and users through a succession
of developing technologies.
How to maintain continuity of technology transfer process, through different
styles of activity, involving different kinds of people.
Looking at the above list, we identified the following recurrent themes:
Mutual understanding. Between technology and the organization, including
its culture and politics.
Mutual adaptability of technology and organization.
Fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Balance - tension. (In an effective implementation, a balance often needs
to be struck between two conflicting demands.)
Risk and commitment.
Receiver takes ownership. (This may involve transfer of intellectual property
rights as well as 'emotional' ownership.)
Partnerships and relationships.
Resources. (Technical, Time, Material, Human)
Participants in the brainstorming workshop were: Steve
Ball, Monika Buescher,
Corsi, David Dickinson,
Chris Sauer, Chris
Turgoose, Richard Veryard and
Please contribute further experiences to this material. Additions
to the list should be supported with an anecdote from a real-life situation,
or a reference to a published case study, wherever possible.
Please also email me with comments
about the material. Do you see any interesting patterns in the material
itself, or any interesting relationships with other stuff? Do you have
any suggestions for the further development or use of the material?
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Copyright © IFIP and Richard Veryard, 1997.