Asset-intensive industries such as manufacturing and the energy sector are adopting new technologies, including digital twins, the internet of things (IoT), additive manufacturing (3D printing), or augmented reality (AR). They hope to transform their workforce and their business in the process. But how do these technologies expand beyond the innovation team and out into the rest of the organization? Too often, the answer to that question is either “badly” or “not at all.” There are plenty of reasons for technology projects to stall, but it may not be the technology itself that’s to blame: IoT sensors and platforms, AR headsets, and 3D printers are all getting pretty good. Too often, the problems are human, organizational, and fixable.

Technology leaders at one European energy company bought an expensive AR headset solution without talking to the people who they wanted to use it. They expected thanks from their workforce and transformation of their business but got neither. What they actually got was another failed project and a damaged relationship with their frontline workforce.

I spend a lot of time speaking with companies in industries such as manufacturing about their priorities or advising the vendors that sell to them. A technology-first approach like the one taken by that European utility company is depressingly common, and the results are depressingly predictable, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. Paying more attention to the employee and their task, and less to the cool technology, is a good start!

Want to learn more about this topic? I’ll be speaking at Forrester’s Technology & Innovation events in North America and Europe this November. I’ll be using examples from firms’ adoption of emerging technologies such as AR and 3D printing to highlight lessons that will be broadly applicable to leaders in other industries. Join me to hear what I’ve learned, to ask questions, and to share your own experiences.