16th June 2016
Business today moves at the speed of technology. The more efficient and effective the IT infrastructure is, the better the business processes. So why are so many business leaders still reluctant to adopt new IT?
A business’s ability to adopt new technologies is critical to its long-term success. It’s no secret that effective adoption of significant IT drives businesses forward. In today’s world of superfast technological evolution, to stand still is to fall behind.
But when is the right time to update IT? Which technologies are right for you? And, critically, which way is the right way to do it?
In order to answer these questions, you first have to understand where your business currently stands and where you want it to get to. Then, you have to be able to communicate your reasons to the other stakeholders, which is often easier said than done.
IT has become so ubiquitous that only when something stops it working do we truly realise how reliant upon it we’ve become. The idea of disrupting daily business processes for any length of time is one of the major obstacles to updating the infrastructure, along with a number of others.
To overcome these, we have to start by looking at why this reluctance to let go of an inadequate status quo exists.
IT ‘experts’ and the inertia trap
We possess more digital dexterity than at any other time in human history. Technology threads through every part of our lives today, from smart phones to SatNavs.
The digital world is ingrained in our homes and our workplaces making us all technology experts, up to a point: and that point doesn’t need to extend any further than ‘expert user’ for us to get the most from it.
We don’t need to understand the circuitry of an iPhone in order to listen to music, manage a diary, send an email or take a photo with it. Our digital expertise lies in how we use technology. We don’t need to understand how to build it or programme it, necessarily, in order to make it work well for us
The same is true of the corporate network and yet still many business leaders seem determined to store, manage and upgrade their IT in-house, regardless of it being outside their own particular area of expertise. Unfortunately, the world of technology moves at an incredible speed and what you learn so diligently today might be obsolete tomorrow.
The fear of obsolescence is something that can drive a business to overspend on every new piece of tech that comes out. Perversely, it can also stop a business from spending at all, preferring to hang on to old IT until it’s both defunct and a barrier to adopting the new tech that will drive growth.
Disruptive digital: a case of changing minds
Avoiding this inertia trap, where you find your business stuck in a rut of incumbent technology, begins with a shift in mind set. Technology has changed the world and if we’re going to keep up, we have to adjust our thinking to match.
Thanks to social media, for instance, the walls separating the inner sanctum of business and the outside world of the customer have crumbled away.
If your business still expects to engage with customers via hard copy letter, the chances are those customers are now shopping somewhere else.
The amount of disruptive technology we’ve seen over the past ten years has driven a profound change in how CIOs approach top to bottom strategy and operations, as illustrated in the graphic below.
Yet, while the wide use of all sorts of IT is leading significant business change, that doesn’t necessarily mean businesses need to completely change their IT to fit.
Innovation might be a critical element of modern strategy, but it is also subjective according to the specific parameters of your business: the most innovative ideas can mean using what you already have to solve a new issue.
It worked on ill-fated spacecraft Apollo 13, after all, when the crew were forced to employ some very creative thought indeed.
Right attitude, wrong expertise
A willingness to follow where technology leads is the right attitude to have. It has never been more important for business leaders to be open-minded. Innovation is all about creative thought.
Your part in updating any system is to understand two things: exactly what your business is lacking and how you want it to look after improvements have been made.
To come back to Apollo 13, the crew knew what had happened to their craft: an oxygen tank had exploded two days into their spaceflight. And they knew where they wanted to get to: Earth. But they couldn't fix the problem on their own.
The astronauts were expert users of the space craft’s technology, but they needed NASA’s expertise as well. Together, they got the crew safely home. If either team had been working alone, this wouldn’t have been the case.
Collaboration is a critical part of modern business strategy and culture. In today’s world of technological speed, wise collaboration is by far the best way to ensure projects are managed well and finished within expected timeframes to give the desired results.
Employing a full-time team of IT specialists is not only currently prohibitively expensive, it’s also highly unlikely. There is a shortage of skilled IT talent in the UK at the moment that is driving businesses to look overseas. The increase in demand has, as you’d expect, pushed up salaries for those who do possess the required skills.
If something isn’t working as it should in your business, new or updated IT may indeed be the answer. But even if you’re convinced, you still have to convince the other stakeholders.
Overcoming the main obstacles to IT adoption
1. ‘We don’t need it’
Before you approach any other stakeholders make sure you have done your homework. There will always be reasons to reject a half-baked plan. Building a sound business case has to be your first step.
- You are currently standing at ‘A’. Understand exactly the issues the business is experiencing through staff interviews, audits and other data gathering
- Look ahead to ‘Z’. How will the business look and operate when the project is finished?
- Identify key benefits / cost savings / profit increases forecast as a result
- Look again: do you really need it? Throwing the business into unnecessary projects is not going to make you any friends.
2. ‘We don’t have the budget’
Cost is always a primary consideration of any project with good reason. Nobody wants to waste money on a new system that may not work. Having said that, wise investment pays dividends.
Use the business case to show detailed financial benefits the business will experience as a result of the proposed new IT implementation.
3. ‘It’s going to cause too much disruption’
Timing is very important. Changing IT will always cause a degree of disruption but if it’s planned and timed properly this can be reduced. Leaving a change for too long will inevitably mean major disruption further down the line.
It’s best to schedule IT updates as far as possible. Collaborate with a specialist company to spread costs and ensure disruption is minimised.
4. ‘You’ll have to make do with what we’ve got.’
Remember Apollo 13. Innovation is not necessarily dependent on investment in entire new platforms or systems. Sometimes, all a project needs to be successful is the right pair of hands.
Collaborating with the right partner brings their specialist knowledge into your team. They work on systems like yours every day: they may have a solution ‘ready made’ to fit your issue that you hadn’t even considered. Or they can advise you on a cheaper alternative to your expensive overhaul that offers a great short-term solution.
5. ‘These things always go over time and over budget’
Setting expectations is absolutely vital. It’s tempting, if you can clearly see how the business will benefit from a project, to gild the cost and time implications to make it more attractive to stakeholders. This is a mistake.
If anything, add contingency cost and extra time. It’s much better to under promise and over deliver on expectations than the other way around.