Planned change is driven by decision makers. Of course, these decision makers may not necessarily reside in the corporate executive hierarchy; nearly all employees in a company have some decision-making authority. However, people at different levels of a hierarchy have different concerns; as a result, they look to new technologies to answer different questions, as suggested in Figure 7.1. Technology researchers who wish their innovations to be adopted must craft their research in a way that the benefits of the research are highlighted to match the concerns of the decision makers who will decide on their technologies as well as those who will use them. Focusing on the technology alone is rarely sufficient to persuade a decision maker to adopt a particular solution. Unless the use of information technology demonstrably provides substantial payoffs for the end user, the end user will not take the trouble to learn and adapt to the technology, and that will guarantee that the new technology will not be used.
A good example of technology fitting the needs of particular users is evident in the rapid diffusion of personal computers into the workplace. When personal computers became available for a few thousand dollars apiece, they could be deployed to address the problems of decision makers who controlled budgets on that scale without the need for action at higher levels of authority. However, the purpose of introducing personal computers was not to proliferate them or the technology they represent; their use is justified because they can solve real factory problems with a demonstrated dollar benefit.
No matter how good are the ideas and advances developed by academic research groups, they are useless in a manufacturing context unless transferred to industry. Effective transfer requires a stronger relationship between academia (or other sources of new technology) and industry.1 Although most of the important recent developments in design and manufacturing have come from industry, manufacturing firms and their information technology system vendors need the knowledge and expertise of the academic research community, whose role is to pursue longer-term research that may not have obvious immediate payoffs. This
1 For example, new design methods developed in academia are especially hard to transfer to industry because industry normally gets such methods from computer-aided design (CAD) vendors. So the transfer takes two steps (from developers to CAD vendors and then from CAD vendors to their customers). However, CAD companies are typically small and very limited in their resources, and so they do not take risks on new research ideas. Instead, they take their cues from their major customers. Consequently, a technology transfer strategy for design methods must enlist the support of potential users as well as equip the CAD vendors.