Four steps to business-savvy technology

Technology falls into one of three categories for most businesses.

  • We buy the latest and greatest and stay right on top of new releases because having the latest tech is important.
  • We buy new things when we have to but don't believe in wasting money just to have the latest stuff. Technology is expensive.
  • If technology makes sense to our business we take a hard look at it. We buy what helps us move our business forward.
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    Technology is not a strategy - it is a means to achieve a business strategy - like improving customer service, mobilizing your sales force or increasing online marketing. If your business - great or small - falls into the third category, congratulations. You are savvy and in a relative minority.

    Here are three steps that are key to developing a business strategy that incorporates a good use of technology.

    Look Forward

    If you are moving, you can never know exactly where you are because by the time you have identified your location, you are past it. This is how we need to think of technology. Purchasing today's technology is a strategy that leaves you on a constant replacement schedule. Think ahead to where you want to be and what technology will be there to help you.

    Few people know exactly what will happen but staying on top of trends is key to laying solid groundwork. But you cannot choose business technology path without involving the business people who will be using it.

    Involve some users (not executives) in a technology committee. They are best positioned to know how things are really used (as opposed to how they are supposed to be used!), what their challenges are and what would really help. User input has to be balanced by some technical acumen since people often can't see beyond what they know. Involve people who are open to new ways and then mash them up with your technical staff. Both will benefit from the experience.

    Pilot Program

    You would never put a product on the market without some form of focus group or test market. Yet companies will spend tens of thousands of dollars on entire systems with only the most cursory investigation. We love the commericals, we believe the sales rep, we maybe even talk to another business like ours that has the same technology. That is all very important. But equally as important are small, targeted pilot programs.

    The purpose of a pilot program is to find out what changes need to be made in the full launch to make it a success. Learn from your pilot program and implement changes. If its lack of training, you need to add that in; if it's not fast enough, you need to power up; if its deadspots in my key territories, you may need to invest in alternate broadband tools.

    Take your pilot program seriously and implement or - at least - address suggestions that come from it.

    Training

    Time spent training and developing ongoing support and training methods are the best way to ensure high adaption rates for your project. And that's where the ROI payoff really comes.

    Adults learn differently. They need repetitiion and reinforcement, to see the same message in some different ways before it sinks in. A hybrid training program should include a mix of sit-down, classroom-style training, some printed materials I can refer to at my desk, online accessible videos or screencasts (where possible) that show me how to do things properly if I forget, and a user community that I can turn to for help without recrimination.

    Experience tells me that companies often talk about a deep follow-on training program in the early planning stages of an project, but once things get back to normal, that is often forgotten. This is a dangerous time. Walk around your company and just see how people use their technology to see what happens when your employees are not fully trained, engaged and onboard.

    Initial implementations always take more time and employees and their managers need to understand and plan for that. But staying the course and committing to it, will result in longer-term improvements.

    Reinforce

    Make sure everyone knows that you see the work they are doing and that you make them aware of the benefits the technology is bringing. Bring it to levels they understand, such as sales increases, fewer customer service complaints, increased revenue, reduced errors. People want to have pride in their work. Let them take some credit for things working out.

    Technology for technology's sake is often a waste of money. But driving your business with good technology moves make you more nimble, more proactive and more responsive. Your entire team must be a part of making that happen. Not only your IT department.


    Portfolio has a decade of experience developing technology-based training programs. We can help you develop repurposeable training tools for your staff. Contact us for an initial consultation.