As often as we hold meetings for planning projects to meet our short-term goals, many of us lose sight of longer-term goals or payoffs. Of course, planning for the long term requires up-front investments of time and effort that can conflict with short-term demands, and reaching a balance between the two can be extremely difficult.
The excitement of new and emerging technologies frequently makes us feel like little kids in a candy store. Children, however, tend to live in the "now," flitting from one thing to another with almost no notion of what tomorrow or the next week really means. Many times, although our perspectives have extended to weeks, months, and even years, we act much like these children. With project cycle times shrinking and new technologies literally bursting onto the market, it's becoming harder to plan for the future.
Still, we must plan. Now entering the mainstream are technologies that didn't exist just three years ago. Bluetooth and Infiniband are two prime examples. Who knows how long it will take for yet another new technology to move from concept to mainstream in the future?
Granted, we can usually plan a project through. Very often, we can project out one or two evolutionary generations based on performance improvements and advances in circuit integration. But it's difficult to plan when revolutionary technologies spring on the scene, because they're frequently disruptive. The revolutionary technologies are considered disruptive because typically entire support chains need to be created, and new ways of approaching the system design must be thought through.
It may be hard to account for disruptive technologies in strategic planning, especially because some technologies could be false starts due to technology or implementation limitations, or even overenthusiastic projections of market need.
To plan for the future, short-term thinking isn't the answer. Projecting technology trends half a decade or more into the future is the key to developing a strong product portfolio and growth path. To do that, though, you must sort through what are often contradictory and overwhelming amounts of information.
The financial analysts and venture capitalists, who frequently seem to view the market day by day and quarter to quarter, can provide some additional perspective on various trends. But as recently brought to the fore by the demise of many dot-com organizations—now hitting about 20 closures per week in the U.S.—the analyst community can become overenthused when it comes to "revolutionary" technology as well. So, we must evaluate their views ever more closely. By combining our in-depth technology evaluations with the market analysis provided by analysts, we should be able to develop long-term strategies.