It seems such a simple question, doesn’t it? As the guy who brings you ‘technical business consulting,’ Removing Technical Impediments to Business Success, I also suggest this question is what’s on the ‘back side’ of the coin.
Think about it. A technical impediment is not just ‘technology’, at least from my perspective. A ‘technical’ issue is often any particular business problem you may be facing that is discrete, specific, and (today) almost always tied to the application of technology. Most of the ‘technical impediments’ I have removed over the past 20 years have been the direct result of how one or more pieces of technology were being applied toward a business process.
Heads or Tales? If you are having problems with how technology has been applied in your organization, then perhaps you are already asking yourself, “Is my technology really working for me?” ‘Is your technology working for you,” then becomes the flip-side of the coin.
This is a Yes/No type question. At the end of the day, as a P&L head, business leader, President, Director, whatever your title may be, you’re focused on just two things today: Productivity & Revenue. Period. Yes, we have sub-classifications such as staffing/HR, operations, marketing, sales, and so on. But every single thing your organization does needs to be focused on Productivity & Revenue…and so does your application of technology.
Here are some real-world examples from my past:
Product Support Processes
Tech Support, Customer Service, Customer Relations, you know who they are, are always the tale of the dog. In every organization I’ve worked with, the Support organization literally is the organization’s dog, waiting for crumbs from the master’s (Product) table to fall. The crumbs take the form of installation details, troubleshooting tips, known issues (aka As Designed<g>), new feature specs, and training. Your company ships product and then, maybe, brings Product Support into the fold. Sound familiar?
Customers view your Product Support staff as the face of your company. Product Support is often the most important part of your company when a customer needs help. And when they need it, they need it yesterday. So, how is future revenue impacted when Product Support is untrained, unknowledgeable, and without effective tools for issue tracking and follow up? How does the customer’s perception impact future revenue? How might it impact past revenue (e.g. returned product)? How many more customers could each PS rep handle if they were fully equipped: better productivity?
When was the last time you assessed Product Support’s ability to do their mission effectively, and their own impact on overall Productivity and Revenue?
A customer had been using a high-end design software solution promising big benefits. They had drunk the Kool-Aid, lock, stock, and barrel. Over time though, they increasingly encountered productivity issues as their expectations began to out-strip their systems’ ability to deliver.What followed was a four-month process of qualifying and quantifying the customer issues and then forming a response.
There was more than one issue. First, involved the vendor making strategic decisions on how to overcome scalability problems once and for all (well, for the foreseeable future at least<g>). Second, was to help the customer understand they were not free of culpability, either. No easy task.The customer had purchased software to do very leading edge, very demanding engineering. Yet they stuck to a three-year hardware rotation, using out of date (for the task) hardware that had been under-equipped even when new. Processes that were taking staff 90+ minutes to complete, I could do in 8 minutes. Using carefully developed empirical testing I demonstrated how different equipment levels could have a very direct impact on their productivity. At the meeting’s end, the customer not only decided to stay with the design tool-they elected to accelerate its enterprise-wide deployment by 18 months.
It was a very direct example of technology not working for the customer…and it took someone who could view a bigger picture, putting various disparate pieces together, to help them see it for themselves. In the end, by making some relatively minor investments, the customer was able to improve not only their productivity, but also the vendor’s revenue.
So, Ask Yourself…
Is our technology working for us? Think it through. Look beyond what’s obvious. Assess the overall solution delivery. Email is a simple example: If the admin’s email is slow, is it an old computer on the admin’s desk; an out of date or poorly administered email server; a network whose bandwidth is saturated; an overloaded and/or undertrained IT staff; or a poor performing external service provider? Or, a combination of all of them?
Sometimes the answers are non-obvious. Sometimes you can ‘feel’ there’s a problem but not know how to start.
Remember, customers’ perceptions are the final measure of how well your technology works for you ‘as a whole.’ Do your customers view you as an island offering sanctuary from heavy seas? Or do they view you as a pair of dogs, side by side, taking a nap?
Consider asking for help.