Technology – Friend or Foe
There is a story in Green Bay Packers lore that goes something like this . . . the Head Coach is addressing the team at the first practice of the season. The coach wants to emphasize the importance of executing fundamentals of the game correctly and holds up a football and says, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Immediately, a player from the back of the meeting room yells, “Hey Coach, can you slow down a little?”
There was a roar of laughter after the deadpan comment at such a serious moment. And while it is always good to add some levity into the workplace, when it comes to technology tools discussions, they can move quickly and be hard to understand. In fact, all too frequently we question how to align the right technology tool with executing the fundamental elements of our business plans and accomplishing our mission statements. In some cases, the easiest decision is to stay with the status quo. Such is the conundrum of technology.
Technology – you can love it or hate it; it can be friend or foe.
Technology is not new, it has been around since the caveman crafted a stone into an axe-like head to aid in harvesting animals and plants in order to eat and sustain his life. Technology can be looked upon the exact same way today in business – it is imperative that you utilize tools, or craft tools, or develop processes or machinery that help sustain the life of your business.
The most important element of technology in your organization, however, is not simply the acquisition of the technology, or even the execution and support of the technology, but that you develop a culture that embraces technology.
Let’s agree on one thing first – the definition of technology. Quick poll: What is your definition of technology? Is it anything that has to do with computers? Any gadget that wasn’t available before you were born?
I like the following definition of technology because it reaches beyond electronics and includes process improvement thinking: Technology is the development, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, processes, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a process, or take advantage of an opportunity to achieve a goal or perform a specific task.
Thinking of technology in these terms illustrates the wide reaching impact it has on any size business, department or organization because it addresses tools, processes, and methods of organization – not just bits and bytes.
As a leader in your organization you want to create and encourage a culture that embraces technology and supports the never-ending desire to improve. For you see, if you are honest about your business plan to grow and be more profitable, or be more efficient, or serve the Voice Of the Customer, you will always be improving. Never standing still. That may sound dizzying to some, or down right tiring, but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you have an environment, and group of people, that is not afraid to take advantage of technology when it makes sense (and some times when it doesn’t)!
And, if technology really is going to be your friend, like any meaningful relationship, you need to invest some of your time and money. Think about technology not as a cost, but as an investment. Ask yourself, “What will the positive impact be today and five years from now?”
The good news is there are many technology tools that are available, right now, that can be learned, acquired, implemented and supported with a pleasant return on investment. I have found that technology tools with the most bang for their buck today can be placed in four categories:
- Browser based software, a.k.a Cloud Computing
- Mobile computing
- Outsourcing technical expertise
We will talk in more detail about each of these categories of tools in future blog posts, but for now, let me leave you with a simple example of applying the benefits of embracing technology and stepping out of a comfort zone. A client told me about a survey they had conducted of their customers. The response was great. Not just in terms of positive feedback, but over 100 customers provided information. The data was valuable and could now be used for a variety of purposes.
In addition to analyzing the results for what they did well and where improvements could be made, my client shared with me that they posted the results of the survey on a wall in their office so visitors could see what other people thought of the business and the services provided. The results were framed and looked great. A culture rooted in taking advantage of technology, however, says, “What else can we do with this information to maximize the value?” Well, here is one, inexpensive answer: get it on your website. Don’t just tell the people who visit your office; tell the world!
Include in your brand and organizational culture a mindset that seeks to utilize technology as a tool to conduct business efficiently, effectively, and profitably.