Monday, October 11, 2021

What is ‘Tech Intensity’ and Why Won’t the Tech Industry Stop Talking About it?



If you work in tech, you’ve probably come across the term ‘tech intensity.’ It’s been the hot-button topic of the last couple years, this decade’s version of “digital transformation.” But what is it? Buzz word or business term? Hype or strategy?

Starting at the beginning: where did ‘tech intensity’ come from?

The phrase “tech intensity” was first introduced by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in his keynote speech for Microsoft Ignite 2018. He based the concept off research by Dartmouth economist Diego Comin, who analyzed the role of rapid industrialization in determining a country’s economic success. According to Comin, speed is not the only important success factor. What’s key is the intensity of technological adoption: the ability to train people to use it.

Digital transformation has been the hallmark of a modernized company for decades. In his speech, Nadella suggested that digital is now the norm. To consider themselves innovators, companies need to go above and beyond the norm. They need to invest in tech intensity.

So, what is tech intensity?

In the simplest terms, tech intensity is a company’s ability to adopt and fully integrate emerging technologies. Through tech intensity, companies build a strong digital foundation. In a blog post Nadella explains, “I think of tech intensity as being an equation: (tech adoption) ^ tech capabilities."

Let’s break that down further. Tech intensity is your ability to adjust your tech capability to your adoption rate of new technology. That is: it’s not just about moving to the cloud or migrating to Power BI. Tech Intensity is about using the cloud and Power BI to build custom solutions for your company or your industry.

There are three main pillars to tech intensity:
1.    Integrating technology as quickly as possible
2.    Investing in digital intellectual property
3.    Achieving trust in technology

When it comes to integrating modern tools, you don’t need to recreate the wheel. Using open-source and low code/no code (LC/NC) solutions, it’s easier than ever to improve the way you run your business. Of course, for a globally distributed company implementing a new digital initiative, keeping everyone on track can be challenging. Here, the cloud is your greatest ally. By using cloud services such as Microsoft Azure, you centralize your insights, updates, and data. With a single source of truth, you leverage one of the most important elements of tech intensity: speed. 

Tech intensity goes beyond using new technologies. You need to adapt and create solutions where you identify gaps. At MAQ Software, our expertise lies in the Microsoft stack. We build solutions in Power BI, Azure Synapse, Power Apps, Dynamics 365, and more. However, we also created several custom tools we use to strengthen our solutions. For example, our Azure migrations are faster than standard cloud migrations because our cloud assessment tool shows a complete overview of all cloud assets within an environment in less than half an hour. 

Ultimately, it’s not enough to just be fast in adopting tech. With today’s security, a company’s relationship to technology must be built on trust. This means regularly updating your privacy, security, and compliance protocols, investing in cybersecurity, and creating solutions that are accessible across your organization. Small changes can make a big difference. For example, our implementations include data dictionaries to ensure business audiences understand the meaning of metrics.

Why is tech intensity important? The world is changing fast.

“Technology moves faster than our imaginations can keep up with. We invent one breakthrough technology today and then tomorrow’s inventors transform it into another we never imagined possible.” - The Atlantic 

Go back twenty-ish years and we don’t have Facebook, OneDrive, YouTube, iPhones, or USB flash drives. The world has changed astronomically in the last two decades. According to projections, this isn’t a trend that will slow down anytime soon. This year, the United States federal government spent over $5 billion on the civilian IT budget, which will lead to better technology, which will lead to faster changes. Tech intensity is how companies can not only keep up but stay ahead of the ever-accelerating curve.

Why is tech intensity important? Data is more important now than ever.

According to several projections, the world will have 50 billion (yes billion) connected devices by 2030 and 175 ZB of data by 2025. That is a volume of data that is almost impossible to comprehend. Picture every song, movie, book, poem, short story, painting, photograph, and YouTube video ever created in the history of humanity. That adds up (roughly) to 100 exabytes. If you saved 100 back-up copies of everything humanity has ever created, you’d still only have about 1 ZB worth. 

Tech intensity enables companies to use and analyze the previously unthinkable volumes of data they work with every day. Usually, size and speed are opposites. Big data means slower processing, collection, and visualization times because, well, there’s just more to work with, right? Not anymore. This is where tech intensity really shines. Of those 175 ZB, Forbes estimates that almost half will reside in cloud environments. The technology to respond to big data is there; it’s just a matter of integrating. According to digital analyst and business strategist Brian Solis, “We are looking at a future in which companies will indulge in digital Darwinism, using IoT, AI and machine learning to rapidly evolve in a way we’ve never seen before."

Why is tech intensity important? A changing world needs a changing mindset.

Tech intensity is not just about the tech. It’s about a mindset shift towards adoption and innovation. “Simply put, technology intensity is a critical part of business strategy today.” Nadella explains, “In my experience, high-performance companies invest the most in digital capabilities and skillsets.” 

Tech intensity means democratizing tools, technologies, and business data across your organization. There is a delicate balance between ensuring key data is available and ensuring only authorized people have access to it. When you achieve that balance, you enable team members to build their own solutions to problems they’ve identified, and make critical business decisions using real-time data. Enabling and supporting democratization efforts ensures you can adopt tech quickly and build your custom solution portfolio. Tech intensity begets tech intensity. 

On the process side of things, companies that want to invest in tech intensity also need to invest in Agile. A modern mindset needs a modern process. One of the challenges that comes with the speed of tech intensity is a disconnect between company initiatives and individual skillsets. However, if you’ve done the work to refine your process, you can ensure that no one gets left behind. 

For example, when we help large-enterprise companies migrate to Power BI, it’s never just about the technical process of moving from one system to another. Yes, there are many technical parts of migration, from analyzing the existing data architecture to optimizing DAX. But one of the most important parts of our custom migration process is our Center of Excellence trainings. During our CoEs, we train team members in Power BI capabilities and best practices, ensuring they are familiar and comfortable with the new platform. These trainings speed up adoption time frames from a matter of years to a matter of months. After all, tech intensity is not a mindset reserved exclusively for leadership; it needs buy-in from every person at the company.

Why is tech intensity important? Covid-19.

If there’s anything the business world has learned from the last year and a half, it’s that systemic change that might have once seemed impossible can occur in the blink of an eye. For some, the transition to work-from-home took place over a weekend. The key differentiator between the businesses that struggled and businesses that flourished? Tech intensity. 

“While the pandemic has taught us that no business is 100 percent resilient, those fortified by digital technology are more resilient, more capable of transforming when faced with these secular structural changes in the marketplace. We call this tech intensity, and every organization and every industry will increasingly need to embrace it in order to be successful and grow.” - Satya Nadella, Microsoft Inspire 2020 keynote

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Want to invest in tech intensity for your organization and not sure where to get started? Check out our consulting offers in a wide range of technologies, from Power Platform to Dynamics 365, or reach out to Sales@MAQSoftware.com.

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