How do people respond to an increasingly rapid pace of technology change?

We all respond to new technologies in our own ways, at our own pace.

Some take to the latest and greatest technologies with zeal. They're known as early adopters, techno-enthusiasts at heart. They keep pace with new developments and strive to keep up with the latest and greatest. They speak a language of their own. To call them geeks may understate their passion. They're the ones who stood in line for an iPhone. This group comprises about 2.5% of technology users.

On the other end of the spectrum are laggards. They could care less about the iPhone, if they even know what it is. For them, technology is a burden. They get flustered by it and ask others to set it up for them. Begrudgingly, they learn rote tasks, but their focus in life is on other things. They like things the way they are. Only when a technology becomes truly mainstream will they use it. This group represents about 16% of technology users.

Within that spectrum are early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%) and late majority (34%). You can get a better sense of the groups and how they respond to change on the Innovation and Adoption Curve. These middle groups make up the vast majority of technology users.

On a university campus, IT departments have to play to both ends of the spectrum. We test and play with new technologies, we remain current in our field. We adopt new technologies that survive the initial hype and become new footholds. Once we implement new technologies, we lay out plans to help the early adopters and the majority of users to absorb the new technologies so they can perform their work in new ways. As for the laggards, we hope they come along, but we do not spend an exorbitant amount of time with them. It's not that we are insensitive, we simply have to play to the masses.

Often times, ITS staff are on the front lines of change. We don't ask for software and hardware upgrades. There are times when we want to develop new systems to help you in your work, but most of our change is imposed on us from a hyper-competitive industry that waits for no one. If Oracle, Sungard-SCT or Microsoft upgrade their products, we have little choice but to go along. If there are changes in our systems hosted by USNH and Durham, we need to respond. We are dependent on them. We can bide our time, but sooner or later we're going to have to go with the flow. And we do.

But lest you think we are all passionate geeks that chase new technologies with reckless abandon, take heart. We scrutinize many changes in our industry and assess:

  1. is the technology aligned with our mission as a comprehensive, regional university,
  2. what are the short- and long-term costs, and
  3. do we have a choice?

This semester, many of you are experiencing the fruits of our upgrade labors this summer--for better or worse. Some people roll with the flow. Others are cursing ITS. Banner and WebCT were upgraded. myPlymouth has a new look and feel. Many of the new computers on campus will be sporting Microsoft's new Vista operating system and Office 2007. We also have a new email and online calendar program called Zimbra. Every one of these system changes requires us to do aspects of our work a little differently. We need to learn and adapt to how these systems work.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Do you curse or thirst for new technologies?

Me, I just want everything to work. 😉

One thought on “How do people respond to an increasingly rapid pace of technology change?

  1. I fall on the spectrum of "I don't hate new technologies, but I don't leap to them when they first come out". Basically, I fall in the middle. Take the iphone for instane. I know that that is just a fancier versian of a cellphone, but I'm not all that interested in buying it because a) if it just came out it's very expensive and b) I already have a cellphone that works pretty well. I would never consider technology a burden because we've come a long way thanks to technology. I just want my stuff to work well.

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