As an IT business, it might seem strange for us to say this, but “technology can’t fix every business problem you encounter because technology isn’t always the solution.” It is essential to focus on what your business is trying to achieve. The technology you choose to implement should complement your overall business strategy. It should not define it.
Look at technology as a tool, an enabler to achieve your overall business objectives. It is essential to look forward and outline your goals. Identify any blockers you have, such as employees, processes, culture and existing technology and plan how to execute.
If you choose based upon a slick sales pitch promising you the world, you are instantly putting your business at risk. Later down the line, it is more than likely that you will discover the system you selected in haste isn’t fit for purpose once it’s implemented. The promises the supplier made you have not met expectations, and you are no further forward than when you started the journey. But on the plus side, you can say you have the best so-called product for your industry if that is worth anything.
Stop papering over the cracks
There’s no need to be defensive here. Everyone has done it. Sometimes it seems easier to find a workaround for an issue rather than to fix it. You end up with numerous fixes and workflow changes to overcome your problems, but your productivity suffers. Data moves between silos to compensate for technology shortcomings, and employees are often left to get on with things and make the best of it.
It highlights the importance of taking a step back and understanding the broader issue. Taking a more holistic approach might help you identify what you are trying to achieve and the fundamental pain points in play. While time-consuming, it will reduce the chances of making bad decisions with your technology.
You don’t need a hammer to crack a nut, and you certainly don’t want to make hasty decisions to change everything. Taking the time to look at the issues you have and what needs addressing will pay off in the long-term. Technology isn’t the solution, it is just a tool.
Your employees are important
When approaching any changes in your business, have you ever considered your employees? How will those changes impact them? What about your existing processes? Often your employees aren’t consulted when changes to processes and technology are undertaken.
It’s essential to engage them when you consider new processes and systems. Bring them on-board with potential changes and layout your longer-term goals. You need to ask your employees probing questions so you can understand how they perform their day-to-day roles, processes and systems. It will uncover working ways you never even had considered before and allow you to see the overall impact of potential technology, process, or documentation changes.
Make sure you take the time to ask your employees for honest feedback. Is change an issue for them? If it is, why? Understanding their mindset and view towards culture is critical if you are going to implement change. If employees are steadfast against changing their approach, process and systems, you will face an uphill battle. Showing openness to engage them in any business decision will demonstrate you value them and their opinion, and longer-term, this will help you succeed.
For example, a business leadership team have decided to implement a new cloud-based accounting system due to cost. However, once in place, the accounts team have battled with the system. They are still using spreadsheets, the stock system doesn’t work, and there are issues around management information, to name a few. If they had taken the time to work out what they wanted to achieve and consulting the employees, the problems would have been avoided. The chosen system or even the implementation of this system would have been different as a well-thought-out decision would have been made considering technology, employees, processes and documentation.
As business owners and leaders, we often look at new tools to help us do things better. But how do they improve things? A sales pitch arrives just as you have a minimal issue, and the following week, you have a new tool for it. Great, you can roll this out, and everything will be just fine. In reality, it seldom works as it’s a snap decision that doesn’t solve the whole problem.
So, you now have five different systems in place, all costing a small fortune, and productivity is no better. Employees are confused as to which tool to use, and the system breaks down. Is it Teams for video calls or Zoom? Are we using Teams for instant messaging or just calls? Sound familiar?
How do you approach it? A review of your technology estate is vital. You may have a tool available that might help. Next, you need to create defined processes, precise documentation and finally, educate your employees.
What happens if your systems aren’t available?
Although it happens infrequently, have you considered what happens if you lose access to your systems? For example, if Microsoft 365 suffers a major outage, and as a business, you can’t access your SharePoint libraries, how will your employees work? Is there anything they can do?
If the answer is nothing, you might be too reliant on your chosen technology solution. Whilst it is unlikely to happen, how will this impact your business and customers?
As part of your planning, consider the services and systems you take for each business function and identify how critical it is to your business’s day-to-day activity. Departments such as marketing can function for a day or two without access to their systems as content can always be created. Production and manufacturing departments face more significant issues if their ERP solution is down.
It is crucial to consider how to mitigate your risk. Maybe you should consider not putting all your eggs in one basket by utilising one provider heavily. Why risk everything with a single provider? If that provider has an outage, you could lose access to all your services.
Innovation isn’t just technology
Innovation is everywhere, but what do you think it is? You might think it is the latest and greatest technology offering, but you might want to reconsider this view. Innovation is a human trait. It is the act of being creative when approaching problem-solving. However, it is easy to blur the boundaries when looking at innovation and technology. So, you must recognise the difference and how to implement them in your organisation.
Everyone has great employees who can be innovative. The goal is to empower employees, so they creatively approach issues and work through problems themselves. Don’t make snap decisions to buy a new piece of software or implement a new system. You might find they can overcome the obstacles you have, using your existing systems by thinking outside the box. It doesn’t need to be disruptive; it can be an incremental improvement to get something done.
No matter which industry your business is in, it is essential to take a step back when looking at technology. As tempting as it is to deploy the next great thing, you should first assess organisational requirements and understand that technology is a tool to help you execute your business strategy.
If you are continually using workarounds, you might lack employee engagement. Making hasty purchase decisions could get you in trouble. Being over-reliant on technology could be problematic if your providers fail to deliver, so plan for this scenario. Be innovative, encourage staff to get involved with problems. It is surprising what you can achieve with what you already have. Remember, technology isn’t the solution, just a tool that may help you create a solution.
Can we help?
As a business, we are passionate about technology and helping clients make the best decisions when developing their systems. We are committed to providing excellent, honest advice with a clear focus on your organisation rather than specific technologies. If you would like to see how things can be better, please talk to us. You can book a meeting online with one of our directors or give us a call on 0345 504 8989.