One of the most important planning considerations is how to integrate technology decisions into the aims of a business, especially when so many in management have little to no technology background. It can be done. Read on and learn how.
These days there is no separating technology from business and business from technology. The main aim of business is to create value and drive growth, whilst the main aim of technology is to assist in this endeavour. Technology is a collection of important assets within the organisation. Thinking about how and when to spend capital funds on these assets remains one of the most important planning decisions to make. There’s no doubt that the arrival of the digital age adds even more credence to these business planning decisions.
Given this context, business leaders who remain ignorant of technology unknowingly put their organisation at significant growth risk. And simply choosing to rely on someone else is also a bad idea. So how much should business leaders know about technology? This question remains a hot topic for board members and executives.
Fear not. This read provides a short crash course on technology value guaranteed to pay dividends without learning how to ‘speak geek’.
When I meet a business leader for the first time, I pitch my value like this: ‘I work as a technology planner within this organisation and kindly ask for your permission to not invest in technology unless you know its business value before I do.’ I found this statement usually grabbed their attention. It was not something they expected to hear coming from a technology guy. As a general rule, outsourcing key management decisions of one’s business is never a good thing.
So please don’t throw away your hard-earned capital unless the technology intent is clearly understood. Here are three simple questions to help tease out technology intent:
- Is technology delivering ‘value-add’ to my current operational model?
- Is technology expected to help me transform my existing operational model?
- Is technology being asked to do both?
If the answer is unknown then planning should be immediately put on hold until everyone agrees to the purpose, or intent, of the technology under consideration. Why is this so important? The business delivery risks for each of these questions are notably different. Not knowing the answer will run a high risk that expected business returns are never realised.
The questions are designed to do more than inquire about the technology value proposition. They implicitly ask about how the business is run. If the answer is unknown, there is probably a deeper business unknown at work here. It could be lack of clarity to a business’s operation model, or perhaps a set of business requirements that are too technical in nature. In either case planning should not proceed until there is a sharp and clear business imperative so that the technology value can be properly linked to these imperatives.
If technology is positioned as a value-add, then business efficiencies and automation are key outcomes. Prepare your workforce well for they will see technology as something negative to their employment.
If technology will be transformative, then the organisation is expecting technology to deliver new opportunities for growth. Conversely your workforce will generally see the role of technology as positive, a way to experiment and open up new role possibilities to eventually move into.
If technology will deliver both value-add and be transformative, then be extra careful. This is by far the hardest option to achieve. It will require stronger planning governance and active, not passive, leadership support. Why? You run the risk of creating a mini-culture clash to the nature of what the technology value proposition actually is. Be prepared to spend more capital than anticipated to making these opposing business outcomes a reality.
Whatever the answer, be prepared to know and seek broad agreement. Subsequently embed your technology intent within your business case and core planning activities. These simple steps will save you a ton of cash, not to mention numerous planning and implementation headaches. Don’t risk your career aspirations by repeating the same mistake from countless leaders who did not know the answer to these three questions.