Business leaders today face two fundamental and inseparable challenges – the pace of the latest technological advancements and the ability of their organizations and people to adapt to it. We have entered a new paradigm where technology is transforming quicker than the business and people can respond to it.
This presents both challenges and risks. On the one hand, evolution in technology provides organizations with opportunities to embrace agility, efficiency, and cost optimization by moving to new technology-enabled solutions e.g. SaaS, Quantum Computing and Cloud. On the other hand, organizations need to be set up to successfully avoid the classic failure to achieve the targeted ROI and poor end-user adoption, often experienced as a consequence of rapid technology deployment.
A dichotomy naturally emerges – sometimes healthy, often not – between prioritizing people vs. technology. But which one should we prioritize?
How to avoid ‘technology-shock’ by starting at the end
Technology companies tend to focus only on the efficiencies that their products can provide. Taken in absolute terms, aspects such as “out of the box standard processes” and “automation” can indeed provide efficiencies and increase productivity. However, technology alone is never a standalone solution for an organization. It will always need to sit alongside people (customers and employees), processes, and products and services. Therefore, as with any other initiative within an organization, for technology change to deliver its promised ROI, it is imperative that programs gain the necessary commitment and support of actual people at all levels.
The fundamental consideration must be: ‘How will this technology transformation enable my organization to deliver towards its strategic goals?’ In my experience, organizations often assume an answer to this question (i.e., it will deliver, because of the efficiencies it will bring’) without thinking enough about the ‘how’ aspect.
As often happens as a practice at a micro-level, people who know, own, and use the processes are often the last to be consulted and involved in any new technology project or initiative – leading to what I call the “technology-shock”: the situation where people find that they have to use new technology without being adequately involved or prepared for it. This, however, is both the curse and the cure for technology projects, as the answer to the problem lies within the problem itself – quite simply, involving the process owners, customers, and the business in the project is the very route to success.
As ever, where we start is the key, and initiating with the strategic objective brings into the view much more than just technology. This holistic approach brings people, processes, and products/services together, with technology to look at how they best achieve the required outcome when combined. This will naturally flow to include internal and external considerations. (See our blog ‘S/4HANA – A dilemma or a great opportunity?’ to know about the specific issues around SAP’s S/4HANA solution).
For the end goal to be achieved, there is a clear requirement for timely and efficient adoption of the latest technology. Focusing the objectives for a change at an organizational level (as opposed to departmental) and outlining everyone’s role to contribute to these objectives with clear measures and rewards will lead to improved adoption rates. Clarity of the end state leads to structured preparation, addressing anything from mindset change to technical training. When executed well, these plans address role modeling and adoption to embed and sustain the new ways of working.
Remember that technology is only one (important) component within an organization
The consequence is that technology becomes one of the enabling tools to deliver the organization’s strategy. The conversation moves to the effort required across all strands of an organization to achieve its objectives. This weaves together the different elements of people, processes, and technology, which when combined enable an optimized approach to achieve the end goal. Concerns around using standard out-of-the-box processes, which may dominate thinking when started from the technology angle, are instead channeled into how to best utilize the standard processes within the context of achieving the organization’s targets. There may even be some benefits of standard system processes, particularly for companies that rely on the contractual or transient workers moving between companies regularly. Making workers use a given system may be a prerequisite to accelerate onboarding processes.
Success lies in marrying technology change with people
In our experience, galvanizing the thinking and commitment of people, processes, technology, and products and services leads to the most impactful transformation. An organization is brought to life by its people; to effectively fulfill their roles, they need tools such as process and technology that support them and enable the delivery of products and services. The differentiator for any organization is their people and their ability to apply the tools to engage and support customers most effectively.