26 March, 2014
7 Keys To Successful Technology Change
I’ve spent most of my career talking to clients about technologies that represented, in one way or another, qualitative changes from their existing way of doing business.
In many different waves over the last few decades, business have identified, integrated into their operations, and exploited a series of significant new technologies that made it easier to identify opportunities and flush out unnecessary costs. The current hot list – at least among my clients and contacts — usually includes big data, new generation analytic tools, and some degree of shift to Cloud based services, but certain key principles for managing technology change successful hold up over time. Everyone may have a slightly different view of what the key list is, but this is mine:
- Understand the requirements, as deeply as you can. The investments you make here ensure that your project stays focused on results and tethered to reality. Clear and simple objectives are a good starting place, but don’t stop there. Ask good, probing questions. Develop a detailed, granular view. Find out from users and business groups what they really need. Find out what’s working, and what’s not. Establish, rank, and document the priorities. It takes time and legwork, but without this understanding, you risk spending millions of dollars on systems that won’t really do what your users want, and won’t really address the underlying business needs. You won’t be able to anticipate everything and some of the most important discoveries may happen along the way, so build adaptability into your model, and don’t expect perfection. But do the best you can, making the smartest use of the time and resources that you have. Every minute, and every dollar that you spend developing a clear understanding of your requirements will be repaid several times over.
- Consider the human dimension. If your requirements document only addresses business, functional, and technical requirements then go back and take another look. What kind of experience are your users having today? What frustrates them? What excites them? How receptive are they to change? Do they have the right skills and training to take advantage of new capabilities? Do you have a plan to provide the training they may need? What sort of transitions may occur in the course of implementing new systems? Who will these transitions affect, and how? What are the organizational implications of the project you’re contemplating? Who else needs to be brought on board? How do these considerations affect the communications strategy that may be critical to the success of your project? Your technology change is most likely, at least to some degree, also a cultural change, so plan to manage it accordingly.
- Never lose sight of the key constraints. Budget and timing are the most obvious ones, but there is a long list of others, including data security and retention, interoperability, data governance and regulation., trade-offs between depth of functionality and ease of operation, and trade-offs between immediacy and access to underlying detail. All of these constraints need to be weighed and balanced carefully and kept constantly in view. Your wish list may exceed your budget or the available time, but your top priorities may be entirely within reach. Focus on those, and you can be sure of delivering value.
- Set realistic expectations. Every project involves trade-offs and some risk. There will be tough choices. There will be competing priorities. And yes, you will probably experience the occasional setback. Be prepared for these challenges. Get them all out on the table. Teething pains are part of the process.
- Be willing to experiment. “Fast Prototyping” has a wonderful way of clarifying priorities and flushing out answers to questions that no one remembered to ask. You’ll focus and stimulate vital conversations, learn where you need to adapt and adjust, and learn more than you could possibly learn any other away about usability, about what works and what doesn’t — and about the people and systems and tools and vendors that you’re working with. Take advantage of prototyping – it can save you a fortune down the road.
- Get the right people. Subject matter expertise is essential, but you’ll need more than that. An appetite for learning, a solid sense of the business needs, insight into the human dimensions, the ability to communicate, and the tenacity to make a vision possible are the skills that turn a mere “technology project” into something truly powerful, delivering real competitive advantage that can transform your business.
- Get started. Every day you wait is costing you money and your competitors are getting ahead of you. Yes, it’s true, your goals may be a moving target – but you’ll never get any closer if you don’t get started.
Follow these key principles, and you’ll be well ahead of the game. In the end, technology is a force and not a thing. This may sound silly, but the value of your project lies not in boxes with blinking lights, nor in lines of code, or in teams of experts. It’s the power that’s unleashed when all of these elements come together in just the right way that really creates something valuable.
Harnessed effectively, technology can accelerate your business, drive growth and profits, spawn new opportunities, and widen competitive advantage. So follow these key principles – and get started.