The evangelist of new technology

Part 1: Deep Tech

The Chief Digital Officer (CDO) is now responsible for leading the data monetization movement in the organization. Any organizational movement has 3 key pillars – people, process, and technology. We have discussed people or culture and processes or ecosystems in our previous blogs here. In this blog, we will discuss the third important pillar i.e. technology.

The era of technology for technology’s sake is long gone. Today, technology must solve real problems and help the organization achieve its key goals. Otherwise, it runs the risk of being just a ‘shiny new object’. Core to the organization is building/creating/delivering and selling/marketing. The CDO must therefore evangelize digital technologies that enable exactly that.

Let us start with how to build for the digital present and an even more digital future. How to make products and deliver propositions that will fundamentally change human life?

Think fundamental, think deep – think deep tech! It is the broad term for technologies that are not centered around just end-user services but around fundamental human challenges. It has a clear, quantifiable, and significant impact on our lives, and serves as a catalyst for deep change albeit with simple usage. And it includes anything from IoT, AI/ML, blockchain, and robotics to advanced material sciences, biotech, and quantum computing.

Deep Tech investments have quadrupled over the 5-year period from $15 billion in 2016 to $60 billion+ in 2020, a testament to the increasing interest driven by great returns. Deep tech can deliver dividends of exponential proportions for organizations and brands. As the impact is life-altering and usage is simple for the customer, it results in a high pull, high retention, and habit-forming in the target segments. What holds the key to such success is the focus, convergence of technologies, and continued innovation. This is where the CDO steps in.

Evangelizing Deep Tech: The 3 pillars

As companies pursue commercial applications, technological innovation moves from the lab to the marketplace. Here, the importance of the CDO in aptly monetizing data and delivering ROI on digital comes to the forefront. Here are the 3 pillars of successful deep tech initiatives:

  • Solving fundamental issues
  • A deep ecosystem
  • Convergence of technologies

Deep tech addresses complex, fundamental problems, and targets high-impact opportunities. It is rooted in design thinking rather than established solutions. The CDO must lead the converging approaches and technologies that include the diverse ecosystem of smart and focused contributors. The process of deep technology creation starts with design (through interdisciplinary context analysis, problem finding, and idea generation), then moves on to advanced science (that provides the theory underpinning the solution), and finally ends with engineering (ensures technical and economic feasibility) the product or software. The process might seem linear, but it is parallel: the engineering and advanced science team have to be at the table from the go, as their depth and competence will influence the solutions that emerge. The Chief Digital Officer remains at the helm of this ecosystem of diverse specializations.

Very recently, the power of a proper ecosystem was seen in the teams of Moderna, BioNTech, and Pfizer, as they individually took Covid vaccines from the genomic sequence stage to the market in a matter of months. Historically, this has taken years! Sure, there was hard work and tight deadlines,  but the joint effort and contribution of academic experts in regenerative biology, bioengineering, and stem cell research, a venture capitalist, and a former biotech CEO, combined with the fully functional ecosystem of investors, supporters, and partners made it happen.

Technologies, like people, can no longer work in silos. The advancement of cognition and computation coupled with sensors and motion have made room for innovations such as the IoT, autonomous vehicles, and robotics. Meanwhile, advancements in gene sequencing, writing, editing, and nanotechnology have paved the path for biotech innovation. The ability to use AI and bioprinting in the prediction of protein folding is touted to revolutionize drug discovery and medicine. Ginkgo Bioworks along with some other biofoundries are employing AI to design genetic constructs and using robotic process automation to create and test them. This is leading to incredible advances in organism programming.

Take the example of e-scooters going through a revolutionary phase where the combination of AI and IoT is redefining smart mobility. The success of e-scooters closely follows a series of steps starting from ideation, basic research, concept formulation, and proof-of-concept, to alpha and beta prototype building and field demonstration in real-life conditions, and mass production and commercialization. The efficacy of this prolonged process lies in the hands of the ecosystem of diverse multi-talented teams led and pooled together by the CDO.

Thus, an ecosystem, convergence and fundamental or first principles thinking are key to building for the digital future. Now, who is the most suitable to ensure these 3 pillars come together in the evangelization of deep tech? The CDO, of course!

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