Why Are These Industries So Slow To Adopt New Technologies?
Sean McGowanNovember 30th, 20183 minute read
Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest innovations in app design, Sean can be found cooking, watching old movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
Though it often seems like it, mainstream adoption of new technology doesn’t occur overnight. It may feel like one day everyone you ever met suddenly had a smartphone or something called a Facebook, but in reality sea changes like these are almost always incremental.
True paradigm shifts, at least the ones borne of new technology, occur over years. And even then, adoption is typically fragmented across different social lines. Continuing our Facebook example, the social media giant grew piecemeal by the age demographic: it started being used by college students, then teens and young adults, and then finally the middle-aged and elderly (the youth adopting early is a common course for new tech.)
But we can also examine how new technology spreads and becomes mainstream through lenses other than age, like industry. Seeing how quickly industries adopt technology offers insight not just about the nature of that sector, but also actionable knowledge for the players in it. If you’re in an industry that’s transforming quickly but are still relying on outdated technology, you might have a problem.
On the other hand, if the industry you’re operating in is falling behind, this could be an excellent opportunity for you to differentiate your business. Offering a value prop made possible by new tech that few, if any, of your competitors can match is a powerful tool.
Here are some of the industries that have been modernizing at a sluggish or even non-existent pace, and what they may be missing out on because of it.
A recent study conducted by KPMG found that two-thirds of the construction firms they surveyed reported not using data analytics to track project timelines and performance, and fewer than twenty percent said they were planning on incorporating new tech into their workflows.
That’s a sorely missed opportunity, especially in an industry that prizes efficiency and safety. It isn’t hard to imagine the potential use cases for tech like advanced data and analytics, automation, or even just mobile platforms in the construction industry—the possibilities are endless.
In fact, a survey by Dodge Data & Analytics reported that the major challenges these firms faced were “the inability to conduct real-time or daily financial tracking, poor resource utilization, and the office’s lack of visibility into cost-related issues in the field”.
That same report found what you and I probably see as obvious: the solution to these challenges likes in mobile devices, well-designed applications, and cloud connectivity.
So what gives? According to Grace Ellis from Construction Productivity, the problem lies not in the higher-ups or decision-makers, but a rejection of that technology from the ground workers. These groundworkers aren’t tech-adverse—the tech solutions that have been provided to them simply haven’t been easy-to-use.
The tech could be fantastic, but if it has a poor user experience, the end-users are going to stick with their tried-and-true old ways, even if they’re less efficient.
It might not surprise you to learn that the agriculture industry is also lagging behind the curve when it comes to leveraging technology, but it may not be for the reason you think. Contrary to popular belief, it is not rural farmers being allergic to the latest and greatest in tech.
In fact, a study from McKinsey found that when asked, hundreds of farmers expressed their desire for better farming digital tech, even ranking a few different ones by its desirability.
So if acceptance isn’t the issue on the user-level, why is ag lagging? Unlike the reported user experience issues plaguing construction tech, the agriculture industry’s modernization pains are a bit more complex. The McKinsey study referenced above reports that the biggest obstacles in the way of digitizing agribusiness were “long cycles for experimentation, connectivity issues in rural areas and complex systems affected by weather.”
The connectivity issues will eventually resolve themselves—telecommunications companies wielding new tech will continue their tireless and unrelenting quest to provide Internet connectivity anywhere, at any time.
Weather systems and experimentation cycles seem inherent to agriculture, but in the future, this may not be the case. With the right software development company and a prudent digital strategy, anything’s possible.
Embracing Digital Change
The numbers cited in this article are surprising statistics for 2018. Compare construction or agriculture to something like retail, or the travel industry. It only took a handful of years before online shopping began its rule over commerce, and the idea of a ‘travel agent’ has been eliminated almost entirely.
Some industries are more conducive for digitization than others, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never see the modernization of construction or agriculture. Once forward-thinking companies (with the help of a software development agency) can crack that digitization, the floodgates will open, and the competitors will follow suit. That’s the prize for being a trailblazer.