In many ways it seems that we are in the early stages of an era of innovation that could realistically equal, or even surpass, the Industrial Revolution that transformed business and life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Working in the technology consulting business, it’s easy to see that we have entered into a Golden Age of Technology that will likely produce a level of innovation we can’t even imagine yet.
In the last 20 years we have seen the rapid evolution of personal devices that perform a remarkable array of functions; social media’s viral spread across every corner of the world; a growing network of interconnected devices now known as the Internet of Things (IoT); new analytics solutions capable of making sense out of huge quantities of data; and significant advances in green energy production—to name just a few.
With all of these developments it can be extremely tempting for organizations to spend money adopting the latest technology with the hope of improving productivity, communications, collaboration or any other critical aspect of the business—only to find the solution does not produce the desired result.
For instance, a recent report from Flexera Software and the IDC found that an incredible 96 percent of organizations that have purchased software have shelved at least some or all of it at some point after purchasing. In other words, too often organizations are adopting technology simply for technology’s sake.
While this problem is prevalent across industries, organizations can avoid unnecessarily adopting a technology solution—or choosing one that is wrong for their specific business—by first answering a few questions when considering a new solution:
What specific business goal are we trying to accomplish?
As a technology consultant, I am lucky enough to work with a variety of organizations that implement different technologies. One of the first questions I ask any prospective client is to define the business goal and strategy for the technology at their particular organization.
Before you can seriously consider spending thousands of dollars on technology, you must have a crystal clear idea of what you want to get out of the product.
Is the objective to better enable employees to communicate with each other? Is the goal to make it easier for customers to interact with the brand from their personal mobile devices?
Skipping over this part of the implementation process, or rushing through it, is the most common way organizations wind up with technology and software they don’t use. So, before you set foot on this path, you must clearly see the destination first.
How will the technology impact our customers or clients?
As a technology consultant, this is what I use as the true “gut check” question.
Whether the technology being considered touches the end-user or the company’s employees, it is almost never a good idea to move forward with adoption if there is not a clear benefit to the organization’s customers.
The benefit is not always direct; for instance, a piece of technology that helps employees communicate more effectively may save those workers time and ultimately allow the company to innovate and create better products for its customers. Regardless, the organization should always be able to identify how that technology will improve the user’s experience.
Do we have a clear implementation plan?
This question isn’t as much about determining whether or not to adopt a technology as much as it is about determining if the business is ready for the deployment of that new technology.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of adopting a new solution and putting the proverbial “cart before the horse” by beginning a project without a documented strategy. Even if the company decides it needs a new solution, starting a technology deployment without a step-by-step action plan is how projects end up going over budget and over time.
As with any project, you will need to be flexible during the implementation process, as surprises and unexpected challenges will occur. However, there is a difference between being flexible and just “winging it.”
Can we measure the solution’s impact?
Establishing clear goals is the first step to making an informed decision about whether or not to adopt a specific technology, but that initial step is not valuable if the business can’t evaluate if those objectives are being met.
For instance, if the goal of the project is to effectively engage customers by launching a new mobile application, the organization must have a clear plan for how they will conduct user research in order to understand how customers feel about the mobile app’s features and functionality.
Even after a new solution is implemented or launched, the company may need to make tweaks to ensure the business is reaping maximum value—the only way to know what changes should be made is to accurately measure the new solution or product’s effect.
I covered a lot in this article and my hope is that I have given you direction when it comes to thinking about technology and your business.
I understand that it’s easy to get caught up in the “shiny new thing” of the moment and even that answering the questions I have posed can be a far from simple task. However, without a clearly defined strategy and goal in mind from the get go, your new solution can quickly become complex, messy and at worse, a waste of time and money.
Technology for the sake of technology is not the way to go.
Related blog posts:
- If you decide that introducing a new technology solution or update is right for your business, consider using a knowledgeable project manager throughout the process. A PM well versed in technology solutions can be a major player in any project’s success.
- Launching a new product or updating your mobile app is great, but do you know what features and functionality are resonating with your target audience (if any)? User research can help you accurately measure your new solution or product’s effect and guide you where to go next.
- Mobile commerce is booming and businesses must adapt or be prepared to lose customers. If your goal is to make it easier for your customers to interact with your brand from their mobile device, check out our article Mobile Commerce is Exploding: Will You Be in on the Boom? for information on the state of m-commerce and what you can do to get your product up to speed.