Most companies think of bringing in technology at exactly the wrong time. Whether you are starting a company from scratch, adding a product or offering to your business, or just automating an existing business process, at some point or another, technology will come into play.
You'll look to add capabilities to make it easier or faster or cheaper. Chances are you've got the vision, and all you need to do is execute it with the right people and solutions, right?
The problem is that translating a vision into a real business comes with its own challenges. It sounds like a simple recipe at a high level. Step 1: Define your goals and objectives. Step 2: Hire the right people to make it all happen. Step 3: Align those people around simple, yet effective processes to get the job done. Now for the secret sauce: Add in a dash of the right technology at the right point to accelerate the pace.
Voila! Instant success! Yeah, right.
Here is the fatal flaw. I talked about adding in technology last -- after you have built your strategy, teams, and processes. That’s what most companies do today. They graft on technology to manual processes in the hope that technology will help them accelerate a specific process, like distributing leads from marketing to salespeople or sending out invoices to customers. But putting roller skates on your dog in order to speed up the nightly walks won’t necessarily work out the way you might have hoped.
A few months back, Capgemini and MIT released a report called "The Digital Advantage: How digital leaders outperform their peers in every industry" that describes how successful companies today are putting digital technology, from software to smartphones, at the beginning of their business planning, rather than at the end. These companies recognize the power of digital technology in solving old, complex problems in new, simple ways.
By building strategies and processes from the ground up around digital technology, companies will outperform those that don’t.
This is where IT typically fails for a company. What happens too often is that a company that wasn’t built around a digital mindset gets stuck on the change management problem. People are creatures of habit. They are adverse to change. How often have you heard, “But that’s not the way we’ve done it before!”?
Deploying technology to accelerate a process not designed for today’s modern, digital business is not necessarily the right idea. Designing a process that simplifies your employees’ lives and ignores today’s modern, digital customer is even worse.
For instance, should you deploy an invoicing solution that automatically puts invoices in the post? After all, stuffing envelopes is a pain for your finance department. Or should you instead set up a billing solution that allows your customers to set up automatic payment by credit card. Which is better?
Another example. Should you get your sales people to move their customer spreadsheets out of MS Excel up to Google Drive for easier sharing? Or should you deploy a CRM solution that allows your sales department, service department, and customers to collaborate on answering the customer’s questions together?
And this is when the IT department becomes so often the enemy in the business instead of the strategic accelerator that the CEO envisioned. Putting lipstick on a pig and automating old processes one step at a time can easily frustrate everybody, from your employees to your customers.
It’s time to rethink how you approach technology in your business. Your employees want it, your customers are demanding it.