People, Processes and Technology: the Perfect Partnership

People, Processes and Technology: the Perfect Partnership

When processes break down, especially in a business environment, technology is often the first element blamed.

From machines that have our coffee ready before the alarm goes off, to driverless cars and watches that do so much more than tell the time, technology is now ingrained in everything we do, including how we conduct business.

Technology is meant to help make our working lives faster and easier with information galore at our fingertips and mundane process automated freeing us up to perform more productive tasks. When these processes break down, especially in a business environment, technology is often the first element blamed. However, does doing this push us into a world of unrealistic expectation where we assume the solution is simply a case of needing a newer version of something?

The case study below from our National Sales Manager is, sadly, an all too familiar situation many of us have no doubt found ourselves in over the years.

Case study

Many years ago, a national not-for-profit went out to tender for a new fundraising solution. They had experienced declining fundraising revenue year-on-year for over five years. They were using a fairly standard fundraising platform that many organisations in the sector use but decided a new solution would solve their problems.

I responded to that tender, but rather than simply quote for replacing their existing beat up toy with a shiny new one, I included a range of services aimed at helping them redefine their internal processes and external customer experience. I suggested that fixing the technology alone would not solve the problem, they had to look elsewhere for the root cause.

They decided they couldn’t afford to do that so cut back the engagement with us to just focus on technology. That was a mistake. It quickly became very clear that internal issues were far more instrumental in their declining revenue than the old technology solution.

Our group plan was compromised. We disagreed on what the core issues were, and therefore could not move forward with the most appropriate solution.

A lack of flexible thinking was also an issue. Not only did they decide they couldn’t afford to spend time reviewing their processes, they insisted we replicate them in their new solution even if it meant significant rework and massive technical debt.

We essentially ended up being tasked with replicating their existing technology and all the processes that went along with it, just on a shiny new platform.

There was one situation in particular where they had built their business process around the incumbent technology solution. It was a business process that didn’t deliver a particularly great customer experience, and it was a process that should have become redundant with the move to a new platform. Rather than embrace this change, they doggedly insisted that we build technical debt into the new platform to re-engineer an out-of-the-box feature to meet their existing process and poor customer experience.

No matter how hard we pushed back, even at the highest level, people refused to change how they went about things.

We never went live.

If you can’t bang in a nail with the tools at hand, simply buying a new hammer isn’t going to help you. Likewise, if you’re not getting the results you want from your current technology system, is simply changing to a new platform without looking at the entire process the best solution?

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes technology really is the issue and needs to be updated or replaced. There’s always new products, different versions, and software updates designed to make our use of technology in daily life easier. Often though, we find our expectation of what the technology will do for the business doesn’t match the reality once implemented in the business.

So when it comes to the latest technology solution why do so many of us simply believe the sales pitch only to feel let down and frustrated when the results don’t appear? While we’re often quick to blame the technology, the answer may actually lie a bit closer to home.

Just as most of us find it hard to admit our own personal faults, examining business processes that may be failing is often also difficult, especially if you’ve set them up yourself or they’ve been in place for a long time. People are often afraid of the unknown, preferring to stay in their comfort level of knowledge.

The complacency we show around existing processes and our reluctance to change them often makes the best features of new programs and apps redundant. We get caught up in the promises without fully knowing the problem we are trying to solve and taking the time to explain that to others. In doing this we fail to consider the resources we need to ensure success both in terms of people and the time it will take to implement.

New technology is an investment in your business and should be treated as such rather than being seen as a quick fix to a particular problem. Think about it, would you invest in something after only seeing the highlights of it? Or would you take the time to look at it from all angles and reassess over time to ensure you’re getting value from your investment?

We all know that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Likewise technology can only reach its full potential when us humans allow it to do so.

If outdated processes and personal comfort levels are dictating how you want the technology to respond, chances are you’ll get the same result you’ve always had. If however, you invest time in examining internal challenges and are willing to make modifications to these that best suit the technology you’re investing in, you may find the technology does live up to its potential.

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