Business and technology are often intertwined, with many – if not all – business functions dependent on mechanical or computing assistance. In this “tech age 4.0” of buzz words, marketing hype, and new start-ups, many businesses I work with are eager to jump in on the next big thing. Such rapid implementations often come from a fear of missing out, or worse, a reactive response to an incident or security event. Oftentimes, the new tech is only tangentially related to their objectives and is bolted onto the business, rather than properly integrated. Further, I frequently find that decision makers and leaders are not aligning these technologies strategically with their business, now or into the future. As the old saying goes, “Don’t put the cart before the horse.”
When faced with this decision, as a director or decision maker, the challenge is to pull back from the lure of advertising for the next solve-all tech, and instead review your own business targets and strategies. Once you have those clearly documented and know your current position in the business’ life cycle you can then begin to evaluate the complementary technologies which support your goals; which may well be different from the latest advert or review you saw for the latest “must have.” There is a great outline of this by MIT Sloan Management Review (in collaboration with Deloitte).
The MIT Review shows that less digitally mature organisations tend to focus on the individual technology to resolve specific business needs, instead of taking a holistic approach and having a clear and concise digital strategy. Further, it highlights that employees across all age groups disdain dealing with technological silos and are always looking for businesses committed to digital progress. This draws an important truth – to remember the business as a cohesive whole – in which technology is just a component, and often a supporting component, to your most important resource: your people. Just because everything a business does is digital, doesn’t make it a digitally mature organisation.
Without a clear path, these less mature organisations struggle to achieve their goals with the technology they choose. It is often too late before they realise the harsh reality that their investment in different technologies and staff will not drive the business forward; oftentimes, it leads to greater costs in time and money spent back-peddling because the technologies are disparate and do not function well together. In most cases though, those businesses continue with what they have, frustrating their staff with inefficiencies. So how do we navigate this gauntlet of employee dissatisfaction, marketing hype and technological shortcomings?
A great place to start has nothing to do with technology at all: reviewing the business. “What problem are you trying to solve?” and “What is your end state or future vision?” Analysing and reviewing your capabilities, both now and in the future, is a frivolous task without knowing where you want to go. Once you know your targets, you can start to plan your organisation’s next steps, by working backwards from your vision. This will then enable you to set milestones for the business – waypoints on your journey toward that goal – including areas such as resource planning, knowledge management and internal processes.
Once these foundations are in place, you have a baseline to build your digital strategy. First, you’ll want to review your existing processes and evaluate the current technologies your business is operating: do these serve the business’ long-term goals? If not, can they be re-purposed to do so? As you well know, any technology can be expensive and, while we shouldn’t let this be a constraint on changes to the long-term benefit, it’s worth asking whether said program has any hidden depths that you didn’t first identify. If there is available support or training, start there to see what you can really get from your existing packages.
If your existing systems cannot support your long-term strategy, or are causing business inefficiencies, then you’ll need to meet with key stakeholders, discuss the process and requirements of users and the artefacts required. Next, take stock of existing business areas, alongside new and/or growth departments, to establish a list of technological capabilities required. By taking this birds eye view of your business, you may identify synergies between departments both generally and technologically, and the process will help employees engage with the business, improving their buy-in as you prepare to implement changes.
Once all the aforementioned information has been collected, it is time to partner with a technology provider. Just investing in software directly may lead you to encounter limitations regarding required outputs or even employee usability; getting a specialist onboard can help overcome many of the teething problems such changes can generate, and ensure the strategy is delivered on time and on budget. Take the time to find a provider who understands your goals and requirements, not just technology; this will ensure they take the global approach you want, helping streamline your business’ technology.
Ideally, the provider will vet the information you have gathered and get a feel for your systems, so they can make suggestions and/or improvements to the plan. Building a comprehensive system is a collaborative effort, so maintain the relationship throughout, and get hands on with the different programs as soon as possible, so you can stay in the driver’s seat through the process. Once the digital framework for your company is in place, and your staff are appropriately trained, you have the platform in place to build toward your strategic goals and will be well on your way to becoming a mature digital organisation.
To become a more digital mature organisation, it is imperative that you analyse your current business posture and define strategic direction before embarking on a digital lifecycle. Spending the time right at the beginning and laying down a complete digital strategy helps minimize risk, saves money in the long run and allows employees to focus on their work. You must remember though; digital strategy is still a life cycle and like everything should be reviewed and adjusted regularly. An accepted timeframe for strategy is five years and to be reviewed every year to confirm you’re still on target and the current plan is relevant for your business.
If you have any questions about helping drive mature digital change in your business, reach out and leave a comment!