CEO at EPSoft, which provides a unique combination of business process expertise, intelligent automation technology, and data services.
All too often, we look at technology as a means to an end: a functional solution to a real-world problem. This way of thinking even finds its way into the lexicon, where we refer to technology platforms as solutions. But business technology is not only about direct and specific problem-solving. It’s about growth and progress and producing outcomes for things you previously could not. Throughout history, technology has taken us to new heights, new depths and even new atmospheres. Why should business technology be any different?
In order to survive in this new business climate, I genuinely believe that technology must be leveraged in ways that traditionally have not been considered. Based on my experience, here are three ways you can change your thinking about technology and what it can do, starting right now.
1. Investment starts with your own people.
I hate that I sound like a motivational poster, but it’s because my point is simple, and when distilled, undeniably true. I’ve been working in and around consulting for the last few decades, and the idea of investing in your people is not an industry-specific concept — it’s much more agnostic than that. When businesses look to invest internally first, they win. The majority of successful leaders already know the driving force behind this favorability: Your biggest asset isn’t technology — it’s your people.
Investing within not only helps you understand how your business is running from the ground level to the C-suite, but it also adds community and domain value to any initiative you kick off. You’re not just improving the company — you’re improving it for and with the very people whose sweat equity makes it work. In my experience, the best leaders know to look for technologies that support their people in the ways most impactful to their work. Happy workers build healthy and profitable organizations.
What better way to ensure cooperation, accountability and equitable contribution across the organization than to make them the focus of it all?
2. Focus on transformation, not task management.
Technology, when used appropriately, has the power to improve many aspects of daily business operations. Still, leaders should not think of it solely for this purpose, nor should they assume it will be limited to those potential outcomes. While it’s tempting to immediately jump to the technology solutions that can satisfy a given task, as modern business leaders, we have to take a step back and think more broadly than the task at hand if we are trying to make a wise investment. Does this tech bring you closer to your incentives and fiscal goals for the organization? Where will the most significant impacts be felt? What are the risks, and how should you mitigate them?
A reactionary approach to technology creates siloed task management, where problems are solved individually, often with multiple technologies, irrespective of company goals. When you fail to consider the end-to-end impacts, you can also create an unstable tech stack, which leads to increased technical debt and total cost of ownership. Failing to consider the end-to-end also inevitably creates significant bottlenecks in the workflow – downstream issues that negatively impact your ROI and increase spending.
When you use technology for business triage, you end up in a reactive cycle instead of operating through a proactive approach that addresses your end-to-end needs.
Rather than solving granular tasks and problems with general technologies, look for ways to implement enterprise-wide process change. Consider how technology should be used, not just as a tool to complete or improve a task, but as a catalyst for interdepartmental communication and collaboration, change strategy and ultimately as an engine to achieve organizational objectives.
3. Know where to make investments and how to measure them.
Whether it’s an HR manager struggling to fill positions or a shop floor manager looking to improve line efficiency, we rarely have conversations about technology and platforms when we talk with our customers. We have conversations about their problems — real problems that business leaders don’t even know how to begin solving, but know they need a positive outcome. We are talking about how they keep losing employees in positions that are critical for business operations. We are talking about how they struggle to manage communications and internal initiatives across departments.
Please do not misunderstand; we often land on technology at some point in the conversation, but it’s not because we are looking for another solution to another problem. It is because, together, we can see that the approach to technology is part of the problem in the first place.
Suppose you think back to your most recent technology investment. Ask yourself: Where did it deliver the most value to my organization? You could probably point to a handful of specific instances where productivity improved and/or efficiencies had been achieved. But did it help? Were there indirect impacts? What does the data say? Did you achieve your ROI, or did you or leadership stop paying attention? These questions are a lot tougher to consider, and most people can’t answer them when they only look to solve each individual problem at a time.
But suppose you look at technology through the lens of business strategy. In that case, not a means to an end, but instead a multitude of resources for enterprise-wide transformation — suddenly, technology becomes something entirely different. It’s no longer a tool for a task but rather a way to scale teams and initiatives. When properly employed, technology can help you improve entire business processes, reaping returns across the whole company. The beauty of this approach is that the returns can compound. Use your ROI as a means to reinvest in the company, hire and retain top talent, implement strategic sales and marketing efforts, invest in upgraded equipment, materials and infrastructure and more.
In so many ways, technology is the vehicle for transformation, not the driver. As a leader, you are the driver. Remember that it is not the features that matter most, but where they can take you.