While there is an insatiable appetite for new technologies that fuel growth, most emerging technology investments languish -- and ultimately fail. \n\nBut, the ones that succeed cause rapid and dramatic disruptions that would have exceeded our imaginations a decade ago.Past disruption followed a classic pattern: Innovators created a new product or service at a dramatically lower price point than currently \n\nexists. Eventually, buyers abandon the old products for cheaper upstarts. But in today's world, digital disruption happens in the blink of an eye. \n\nConsider Amazon.com's disruption of the print media industry and Apple's disruption of the music industry via iTunes. Compared to other \n\ndisruptions, these happened almost overnight.Digital disruption has executives rethinking competitive strategy, and has sent product strategists scrambling for ideas on how to use digital \n\nand software capabilities to leverage new products and complement existing ones. While firms are counting on these technologies to have a big \n\nimpact, they tend to fail, wasting resources and damaging relationships. In fact, in 2011, only 9% of enterprise architects said their businesses \n\nwere completely satisfied with the level of new technology introduction, and 26% were totally dissatisfied.In Forrester's Emerging Technology Playbook, my colleagues and I maintain that in order to compete with digital disruptors, firms must take a \n\nnew investment approach to emerging technology. Step 1: Categorize and Prioritize OpportunitiesTo justify investment, firms must realize that emerging technology impacts their business in different ways and requires different \n\napproaches. For example:\u2022 Business critical investments require project discipline. Technology investments that have a high operational impact \n\nand low potential for growth typically touch critical systems and processes. These require project management discipline to ensure that \n\ninappropriately managed risk and scope creep do not jeopardize service or create delays.\u2022 Back-office investments require tangible returns. Investments in back-office and support areas (such as human \n\nresources and infrastructure) almost always have two objectives: be more efficient and reduce service cost. The bottom-line nature of these \n\ninvestments requires tangible benefits and a relatively short payback.\u2022 Strategic technology investments are part of larger business transformation. Strategic emerging technology \n\nopportunities have both high business growth potential and operational impact. They often require bet the business moves where failure is \n\nnot an option. For this reason, it's critical that these decisions be part of a larger business transformation program that deeply considers all \n\nelements of change needed for success. \u2022 Future potential investments require experimentation. Technology investments with low operational impact but \n\nhigh growth potential offer the most opportunity to experiment because failure is not catastrophic and potential benefits are high. Ideas that \n\nbegin as experiments in future potential can mature into other impact areas before commercialization. Success means the potential for more \n\nprofit, and if significant enough, an initial investment in future potential could lead to substantial business transformation.Step 2: Evaluate Current Architecture AlignmentHot opportunities create considerable pressure to deliver commercial capabilities; however, failures are commonly caused by a lack of \n\nunderstanding. Forrester suggests first developing an opportunity road map that matches emerging technology capabilities to tactical and \n\nstrategic business needs.To leverage emerging technology in terms of benefits, timing, cost, and risk rather than focus on the technology, identify: 1) the business \n\nevolutions that will be unlocked by the emerging technology, 2) the strategic and tactical business requirements that are necessary for \n\nsuccessful implementation, and 3) whether or not your firm has the appropriate skills, process, capacity to carry out that implementation. Step 3: Select the Best Funding ApproachOnce you determine opportunities that can be aligned with existing architecture, you are ready for initial investment. Forrester suggests \n\nutilizing the below technology investment framework to determine the appropriate business case approach. The framework identifies our \n\nrecommendations, alternatives, and approaches not recommended for each category of investment. For example, we do not recommend using \n\na transformation program to invest in back-office support opportunities, as programs that are typically show and thorough in their analysis and \n\nprevent capturing the rapid return on investment that this class of technology investment demands. For each recommendation, remember that:\n\n1. Investments in critical opportunities are best justified as part of a comprehensive business case.\n2. Investments in back-office opportunities require tangible benefits in a definite and short time frame. \n3. Business transformation programs must be willing to absorb the opportunity and justify the cost of strategic investments.\n4. Emerging technology opportunities in future business potential require incubation and experimentation. Business evolutions unlocked by emerging technology can be chaotic, but through a deep understanding of high-priority opportunities and \n\nsmart, venture-style investments, you can keep your company relevant in the era of digital disruption. Brian Hopkins is a Principal Analyst at Forrester \n\nResearch serving Enterprise Architecture professionals.