For years, companies have looked to better enable their organizations and serve their customers by considering, if not embracing digital technologies. The COVID-19 pandemic, which emptied offices as employees shifted to work-from-home, changed the customer buying experience, and had a severe impact on production lines and supply chains, has compelled many companies to accelerate their search for technology or automation solutions. A company’s ability to drive adoption of technology and embrace an innovative culture is critical. Choosing the right technology among so many choices is hard.
Deciding which technology to adopt and how to best use it are challenges for business leaders, especially in a time of rapid change like that brought about by the pandemic. Companies that used outdated manual processes for day-to-day work discovered how inefficient those processes could be when people started working from home. Businesses that were not digitally advanced or mature in March 2020 may have struggled with developing a digital space quickly enough to serve their customers or support their employees, resulting in lost revenue and productivity.
Swayed by buzzwords and trends
Business leaders are often overwhelmed at technology options available to them because they don’t understand the basic concepts and how different technologies can be used. They become intrigued by buzzwords and trends they’re seeing within their industry but they don’t have specific use cases for their business. This new technology paradigm features a dizzying collection of options – intelligent automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), connected devices, data analytics, the cloud, among others.
There isn’t a handbook on how to interpret technology relative to a company’s strategic plan, even as the fast pace of technological change makes wise decision-making a more crucial characteristic for leaders. Both business leaders and IT leaders may acquire specific technologies without a clear roadmap of how the technologies fit into their overall plans and how they can maximize the value they get out of the technologies. Sometimes leaders are so focused on one particular type of technology they miss the bigger picture of what they holistically need. If an organization doesn’t have clear ownership or a plan for how it will use the product, or if key stakeholders do not buy into the technology, oftentimes these solutions are underutilized. Over time, the acquisition and implementation of these “one-off” technologies create a mass of “technological debt” for a company.
Perhaps the biggest misconception business leaders have about a technology or automation solution is thinking it will magically solve a problem. They may not understand an effective technology solution is part of a change management process that will require an organization to act differently than before.
The path forward
Business leaders looking for a clear path through the technology thicket should consider these six steps:
- Define your business objective. Companies have to clearly define problems that need to be solved before investigating possible technology solutions.
- Determine your data maturity. Data maturity and organizational transformation go hand in hand; an organization that gets better at harnessing data will see a transformation in its people, processes, and overall business results.
- Assess your technology maturity. Technological maturity starts with diagnosing the need, followed by designing, purchasing, implementing, and maintaining the solution
- Focus on your customers. Technology used to be considered overhead; many companies are now using technology strategically as a tool to better connect with and serve their customers.
- Consider the impact on employees and company culture. Bringing new technology into a company is a change management project, requiring proper communications with key stakeholders to understand their concerns, and the right training and governance procedures to ensure people know how to use the technology properly.
- Decide whether to host the technology or outsource. A company may consider moving certain functions to a cloud platform or enter into a managed services agreement for some business functions, so it can focus its core talent on what adds value for its customers.
Companies need clearly defined priorities, supported by leadership, to intelligently select the right technology platforms and digitally transform the company. Leadership needs to bring together multi-dimensional teams with both business and technical capabilities, with a specific passion for improving the user experience – whether that user is a customer or an employee. Leaders must enable an innovative, digital culture focused on delivering exceptional experiences. Employees must be encouraged to share innovative ideas, and understand the benefits of these changes to their roles.
For organizations that are willing to embrace change, digital transformation can provide the opportunity to rethink how they use technology. Starting with the strategy of “Where do we want to be?” and working backward can help businesses improve their product or service offerings while also building a more meaningful relationship with existing and new customers.
This article is adapted from the e-book Technology overload: A guide to making smarter decisions, available from Baker Tilly.