Sometimes it can be hard to remember that technology is supposed to make our lives easier and more productive. As technology has become a pervasive part of our personal lives, we often find it causing frustration or even slowing us down. When we can't figure out how to get our printer to print on both sides of a sheet of paper or we can't get our phone to connect to our car's audio system via Bluetooth, it is annoying. When it comes to business technology, inefficiencies can have a far more serious impact. Legacy systems don't talk to one another, new software versions come years apart (and years too late), and upgrades cause major disruption to our work. In these cases, technology is actually slowing us down and making it harder to change, adapt to customer demands, and transform our businesses.
The simple truth is that if a technology solution is not helping you to deliver on your customers' expectations, it should be replaced. Your technology solutions should give you additional capabilities to adapt to a changing environment. If a solution is not adding that type of value, you should seek its replacement.
Let's dive a little deeper into four organizational capabilities you should be pursuing in your digital transformation journey:
- Gather Information
The digital revolution allows almost any organization to gather data and information at a scale unimaginable fifty years ago. However, it's still not uncommon to encounter technology solutions that don't provide customers with basic usage data. Either the system isn't designed to gather the data or the system doesn't make it available to customers. Another common problem is that many web-based platforms don't integrate data collection with mainstream analytics platforms such as Google Analytics. In an ideal world, your technology solutions should help you gather the data you need for making informed decisions.
- Develop Intelligence
Of course, gathering data is only part of the equation. The best technology solutions accelerate your ability to make sense of your information. A raw log file of data or an API isn't helpful to most people. Rather, most people want solutions that transform their data into intelligence. Integrations with mainstream BI tools such as Power BI can help. The most advanced technology systems in today's market recognize patterns in your data and can provide predictive intelligence that can inform your decision-making.
- Adapt to Change
As anyone who has read The Lean Startup knows, a pivot is a course correction designed to test a new hypothesis for your business's success. In our current environment, this type of adaptation isn't a nice-to-have. Rather, it's an essential business capability for survival. When a technology solution you have in place makes it hard for your organization to change direction, it's damaging your business. Too often, I'll hear someone say that they can't make a change because it's too costly to make the changes to an existing system, or that they are waiting for a needed feature in a future release that should be coming in the distant future. That type of inflexibility is simply unacceptable in today's business environment. The world will pass you by while you are standing still. The best technology solutions today are being improved all the time. The providers are anticipating your problems and building features to help your business meet future customer needs.
- Execute Efficiently
Years ago, an average association would mail a catalog of its learning products to its members once a year and then follow that up with direct mail pieces throughout the year. Members could mail order forms back and then wait to receive the physical course materials. Fast forward to today. Ecommerce and learning management systems now enable associations to develop courses quickly and then sell and fulfill new customer orders instantaneously. Modern content management systems allow organizations to spin up campaign landing pages in minutes. Despite these advancements, some systems still slow things down. Whether it's a highly technical search platform that requires a developer to make minor relevancy adjustments, or it’s a network setup that requires ordering a new piece of hardware to gain additional capacity, the problem is that technology is standing in the way of progress, rather than the other way around.
The next time you find some technology slowing you down in the course of your work, make sure to pause and use the problem as an opportunity. Ask yourself: Is this a temporary problem or is it a symptom of how your current technology isn’t adding capabilities for your business? If it’s slowing you down, start your digital transformation journey by finding new technology solutions that give you more of the capabilities your business needs to compete in today's climate.
Tom was a guest on DelCor's Reboot IT podcast, Episode 6: Defining Digital Transformation.