Technology is awesome. Done right, it can boost employee satisfaction and productivity, reorder your stock of Keurig cups, automate your marketing, screen job candidates, and keep tabs on your maintenance needs. And it can do these things automatically and more efficiently than humans in many cases.
Today’s businesses are reaping the benefits from advances in technology that can:
* Interpret the emotions behind answers your employees give on company surveys (AI);
* Connect physical objects with the internet (IoT)
* Adapt to new information over time without the need for additional programming (Machine Learning)
* Provide employee and customer support (Chat bots)
* And a whole lot more.
In fact, some analysts predict that soon, humans will be working to complement the needs of technology, rather than the other way around.
You’ve probably encountered many ways technology can improve your business processes and boost performance in webinars or from a colleague. Maybe you’ve even attended a conference or seen a demo that showcased some impressive results.
But can that hot new tech really do all it claims to? It’s a question lurking behind every webinar and every software demo. And the answer is unequivocally…
There really are some impressive innovations taking place in AI, machine learning, IoT, and other areas of technology.
So we probably need to be asking a better question. A question like:
Is that hot new tech really good for business?
To be more specific: Is it good for your business?
There are two steps to answering that question.
Step One: Avoid Falling Victim to Shiny Object Syndrome
Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) is an affliction that plagues businesses in the guise of staying up to date or gaining an edge over the competition. You know you have SOS when you’re constantly chasing after the latest and greatest technology in the hopes that it will solve a problem, make you more money, or keep you competitive.
Of course, technology can help you do all of those things. The problem is when you pursue new technology at the expense of solid business practices.
At its worst, SOS can:
* Burn through cash
* Confuse your employees
* Complicate your processes
* Keep you from finishing projects
* Create unconnected systems
* Undermine business growth
SOS is treacherous because it presents technology itself as the solution to your business problems, when in fact technology is only a tool. When you apply shiny new tech over a faulty business foundation, it can actually create more problems than it solves.
How do you know if you have Shiny Object Syndrome? If you love new technology and your first reaction to a problem is to buy a tech solution—before you do any kind of analysis—you may be a good candidate.
Technology can solve problems and keep your business on the front of the innovation wave. But only if you know how to determine which solutions will help your business.
Which brings us to…
Step Two: Adopt Technology That Will Have Positive Business Impact
This seems like a given, but it’s actually not as easy as you think. For example, a chat bot that can interact with your employees and answer questions about your HR processes might sound really cutting edge and great for employee engagement. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will have a positive business impact. You have to ask other questions like:
* Does that process contribute to your primary business objectives?
* Is your current employee engagement methodology keeping you from reaching your goals or tying up resources that could be used to generate profit elsewhere?
* Will that technology deliver enough return to make the investment worth it?
* Will it actually make employees’ lives easier, or will trying to make it work be more annoying than helpful?
If you don’t have good answers to these questions, you might have fallen into the shiny object trap.
Instead, your business needs to develop a strategy for evaluating and purchasing technology based on the needs of your organization. Here’s how to do it.
1. Analyze Your Business Needs
Start with an in-depth needs analysis. All technology decisions should flow out of your organizational goals and values, and that means you should be able to support any new purchase by showing how it supports those goals. Ask questions like these:
* What do we want to accomplish?
* How does our current technology meet (or fail to meet) this need?
* Are there gaps or deficiencies in our current processes that could be corrected with new technology?
* What problems do our team members need the new technology to solve?
* Is outdated technology the source of frustration or inefficiency?
Talk to the people who actually use the technology so you can get a clear idea of the needs and problems that should be addressed.
2. Conduct an Emerging Technology Evaluation
When you encounter a new technology, think through the ways it might be able to meet your business needs. Yes, it’s cool that chat bots can carry on conversations with your employees, but do you really need that functionality?
Ask these questions to determine whether the new technology will be an asset to your business:
* How does this technology address a specific need in the organization?
* Does this technology help us accomplish something our competitors can’t do?
* How can we take advantage of all the capabilities of this new technology?
* Will this new tech require us to revamp our current operations?
* Will the technology save or generate more money than we will spend to purchase, implement, and maintain it?
* Will it help us increase revenue, grow profit, or mitigate risk?
3. Determine How to Get the Most Bang For Your Technology Buck
If you decide that a) you have a genuine need and b) new technology can meet that need, then it’s time to talk about how and when to implement a technology solution for the greatest benefit. This article discusses five ways technology leaders use new tech to best advantage:
* Build connections with customers and network partners
* Scale the business or make it more flexible
* Improve efficiency
* Experiment and innovate to gain a competitive advantage
* Invest in solutions that offer long-term value
If the technology doesn’t meet one of these business goals, then it’s not time to move forward—no matter how exciting or innovative it is.
But what if you’re still on track? Should you move ahead with the purchase? Again, the answer is maybe. As with any other technology purchase, follow best practices like these:
* Evaluate vendor options
* Conduct a cost/benefit analysis
* Talk to the vendor about implementation, maintenance, and future support
* Get input from stakeholders and users
* Talk to others who have used the product
* Create a change management strategy
* Test it thoroughly before full implementation
There are lots of new technology options out there, and dozens of vendors with their own take on each one. Finding the best one for your business involves a lot of homework, but it can be well worth it when you find the right match.
Every business decision—technology or otherwise—should be based on the data you currently have about your business needs and functions. The bottom line is this:
Don’t rely on intuition to make the call.
Going with your gut is a great recipe for buyer’s remorse, which is nearly always the end result of Shiny Object Syndrome.
But when you make a plan and follow it, you can count yourself among the early adopters who lead their industries with innovative technology solutions. And you can have a lot of fun experimenting with possibilities that could transform the way you do business.
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