Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Tiffany St James: How to evaluate emerging technologies

Tiffany St James is one of the UK’s most experienced digital transformation specialists, the founder of Transmute and former Head of Public Participation for the UK Government. She is also NDA’s monthly columnist.

It seems as though every day new tools are released on the market. Keeping up with what tools to use for your business is becoming busier and busier to navigate.

Evaluating new tools on the market is not a new skill. We’ve had to navigate which browsers to use, which social media platforms to join, which social media production tools to use as well as look after our ever-increasing tech stack.

Evaluating and choosing the right technology can help your operational efficiency and help keep your organisation competitive.

Having had to procure emerging technology for global organisations and governments for the first time there are some key lessons in evaluating any new technology, particularly with the plethora of AI and Gen AI tools that flood the market daily, that may provide useful.

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

The first step is trying to understand what is the problem you are trying to solve. It’s easy to get swept up in the features and benefits of new tools, but first you must consider what are you trying to solve for your business or your client’s business. Perhaps you are looking to improve productivity, enhance customer experience or streamline a process. Clearly defining your objective will help you to narrow down the technology options that align with your goals.

Keep up to date

Being aware of new technologies is critical too for understanding your choice. How do you get updated on new and emerging technology? What are you reading, which blogs, newsletters, events and partnerships can help surface to you the range of choice? Understanding the broader context will help you identify the technologies that are getting traction and likely to offer longer-term benefits. Keep an eye out for success stories and case studies.

Technology feasibility and compatibility

Pulling together an evaluation scorecard can give you evidence-based criteria on which to make decisions more robust evidence in your decision-making process. It is good practice to do for your own organisation as well as for clients and can help justify one technology over another.

Key considerations are to check out how the new technology can integrate with your tech stack, will there be any disruptions in implementation, do you need additional investments, will you need additional licences?

Cost-benefit analysis

Determining the benefits to the business and the financial outlay is also key. Upfront costs are usually clear but don’t forget to factor in longer-term expenses. On the technology side it may be that there is maintenance, potential upgrades and licensing changes across territories.

Evaluating if you will need new people, if you will need to retrain your existing team, or how many hours are needed to learn the new implementation should all be factored in. In terms of the benefits such as increased efficiency – how many hours/days is it likely to save you and what are the associated costs? Can you predict revenue growth? A clear understanding of the financial impact with help you. The same questions apply if you are looking at this for your clients.

Security and compliance

Some clients need to know which country data is held and in which country data is processed for their security and compliance. It’s critical to understand the security features and to ensure that any new technology meets the industry standard of where you will be using the tool, no matter where the tool is made. Ensure it complies with relevant regulations such as GDPR in UK and Europe.

User experience and accessibility

Is the tool easy to use or has the necessary accessibility that you or your clients need? Can you trial it and test it, can you have end-users trial and test it. Ease of use can be key to adoption and satisfaction.

Scalability and future proofing

Understanding the product roadmap may help you evaluate whether the technology can grow with you for your future needs. Is the technology scalable in tandem with how your business is predicted to grow?

Vendor reputation and support

With emerging technology, it is sometimes difficult to understand vendor reputation, particularly if they have not had a long history of operating. Make strides to understand what support is available and where you can seek testimonials and the vendor track record. Check out what customer service, training programmes or technical support is available.

Testing and feedback

Are you able to pilot test the technology before full implementation? Is there a trial phase you can use it and gather feedback from your team or users. This will help identify some of the key issues as well as user satisfaction and the technologies impact on your operations. You can use this to evaluate or make informed adjustments and decisions.

Developing tools in partnership

In some scenarios you can partner with newer technology providers. Your use cases can help develop their roadmap. The more flexible technology providers will build it out knowing there is a market for it.


We will always need to evaluate new technology and the landscape is changing so quickly. Developing your own business processes for how you evaluate technology from understanding needs, conducting your own research, feasibility, cost, benefits, UX, scalability, security, vendor reputation and relationships will enable you to make the best-informed decisions that can drive innovation and success in your business.