Monday, February 28, 2011

Too Much Technology?

With new mobile computing devices, and new applications that allow sending, receiving and sharing information, technology is playing an increasingly important role in business.

Many of our clients have become early adopters, if there is such a thing anymore. One of the problems often described is the lack of integration and the complexity of a computer based technology’s use. This is especially true for small businesses where there are few solutions providers that can help ease the adoption of technology; or, who take the time to understand its implications on their business once implemented.    

Just as in the 90’s, computers and networks promised to release workers from mundane tasks and make business more efficient. The promise of this leap forward was not fulfilled initially. Why?  Because we did not rationalize the integration of new technology. We simply added a layer of technology by putting a computer on everyone’s desk. We didn’t do the hard work of rationalizing the business, by recognizing new efficiencies and seeking to better understand enhanced productivity’s effect on the business. The promise of new business efficiencies is often realized through savings in time, the reduction of demands on resources, or by providing some competitive advantage.   

History is a great teacher and there is a lesson to be learned from our first clumsy attempts to improve business back in the 90’s. This new, more precise evolution of hand held computing devices, network systems and software must be integrated more effectively if we are to reap the rewards. It is absolutely essential to take a practical and planned approach to technology integration. The implementation of new technology will demand redefining our work flow and business processes.

I recommend reverse engineering the process to help you understand how and why you need this new technology so you can measure its effectiveness and plan for how your business process might change as a result. Ultimately all solutions are measured by their effectiveness in positively impacting your business. Unfortunately most business owners and senior managers haven’t got the time or the inclination to conduct a practical evaluation. A new ad or a trend often sets a business entrepreneur on a path of acquiring a shiny new technology that will end up costing more time and resources than might be realized from any new technology.

Of course, you may just want to look cool and don’t mind spending the money to make a statement.  For those that enjoy shiny new technology at any cost – I would offer the following; over the past two decades technology has strived to do one thing, copy the shared experience of the human condition. Replacing that shared experience with technology rather than complementing that shared experience can have a disastrous effect on your business. 

Take the time to think about the five “W’s” on how this new technology will be adopted and ask yourself a few questions. Is your staff technically skilled enough to use it effectively? Is some training required?  How will the new technology enhance the customer experience? Have you explained to clients and staff carefully how this will benefit them?  Are there incentives for adopting the new technology quickly and effectively? Have I factored in my time to research plan and implement it and would that time have been better spent on other parts of the business?

And finally after you have asked yourself these and other questions…. the final one question you should be asking yourself is will the new technology help my business perform better and be more profitable?

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