In my previous column, we established that the need for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) to be technologically-driven is not under debate. It is merely a question of when, what, and how.
Businesses could be losing out on sales and customers by not investing in new technologies that help them manage daily routines and streamline their core processes. SMBs can see a visible and immediate impact in their bottom line by adopting just a few tech innovations – if they know which innovations to pay attention to, plan their tech projects and take advantage of some crucial internal and external resources. Read on to discover the important factors that need to be considered before embarking on a tech journey.
Don't do IT wrong
SMBs can't afford to take it easy when it comes to implementing technology. According to the Gartner Forecast of 2018, there are certain crucial reasons why 98% of technology implementations fail:
- Failure to align technology with long-term business needs
- Lack of skilled internal resources coupled with the complexity of projects.
- Management and/or sales teams that accelerate adoption to meet business targets but end up choosing the less than ideal software or initiating changes that are often inappropriate or premature.
Whatever the reason, it can be easily avoided.
Do IT right
In their book Revolutionizing IT: The Art of Using Information Technology Effectively
, David H. Andrews and Kenneth R. Johnson offer six key elements needed to "Do IT Right."
1. Strong leadership
What the company leaders do, the company follows. It's that simple. A growth-oriented and visibly engaged top management affects the IT adoption process positively. It builds an atmosphere of collaboration and trust. Team members are more inclined to toe the line when leaders not only talk the talk but walk the walk.
2. Time control
Allocating resources appropriately and staying on top of deliverables, dealing with roadblocks, and stepping in to come up with solutions as quickly as possible will significantly improve the likelihood of a successful implementation and smooth adoption within a reasonable timeframe.
Set a time limit and let this deadline control the scope of work.
3. Resource limitations
Consider internal skills and capabilities. Do you involve the right people? Do they have the authority to make decisions? Consider hiring an external consultant for anything that is not a core capability.
The assistance of external experts and software vendors could be an essential aspect of the IT adoption process in SMBs. The mix of individuals is another key to success.
4. Scope control
Properly scoping the project will keep everyone focused and on-point. Planning and preparing for technology is equal to developing architectural, electrical, and mechanical plans for a structure. Adding things along the way is like requesting changes for a construction project.
5. Staged evolution
Take small steps. Break a complex project into smaller stages. This helps manage resources, manage risk, and supports knowledge transfer. Improve parts of the system quickly rather than overhaul the entire system at once. Change is evolutionary and trying to make a great leap forward at once is bound to fail.
6. Concept recycling
Technology projects should follow best practices. But that doesn't mean every project follows the same steps. Begin with a pilot, develop processes and practices to deliver value, and reuse what works best so teams become familiar with what is expected and how they can contribute.
Been there, done IT
iCinfo can offer these insights based on our own experience:
- Fit: One size does not fit all. One software…certainly not. Make sure the service or product you buy fulfills customer needs, by performing a needs analysis. Find the right size and purpose solution for your business, and consider its fit with other technology in the overall architecture.
- Budget: Price is not an indicator of what you're getting. Lower priced options may not meet your core requirements. Allow budget for training and end-user support.
- Expectations: Become informed about organizing and managing tech projects so that you can make confident decisions about resources and outcomes. Get your IT service provider(s) and key stakeholders working together to prevent misunderstandings. Don't seek an elusive perfection when a concrete good enough will do.
- Priority: Understand what you need the software to accomplish for your company and make it a priority, or the project will lose momentum. Ask yourself, "If I had to pick one important win, what would it be?" Most teams can agree on one or two priority wins.
- External resources: External assistance – from IT experts, consultants, and vendors – is one of the most important aspects of the IT adoption process in SMBs. Partner with consultants and vendors who use best practices and standards and who are willing to transfer knowledge to provide transparency. Look for an objective advisor.
- Packaged software: Most packages are built to industry best practices and can be configured to meet most requirements. By staying with standard software rather than highly customized solutions, you'll make it easier to upgrade and add security patches. If customizing makes strategic sense, it can be surprisingly affordable.
A balanced approach
Make trade-offs that strike a balance in these critical factors. Tip the balance in your favour.
- Scope: Definition of what the project will accomplish.
- Benefits: Description of the net value the project creates.
- Time: Period between approval and delivery of benefits.
- Disruption: Measure of the negative impact of the change on the organization.
- Investment: The profit and cost impact.
- Risk: The likelihood of things not working out as expected.
- Resources: The talent and skills needed.
- Quality: The reliability, availability, performance, and user satisfaction of the solution.
The true measure of success
The approach outlined by Andrews and Johnson in Revolutionizing IT
takes a very different view of what constitutes success. It starts with the belief that success can only be determined after the fact because plans made at the outset are never perfect. For example, teams inevitably learn about new possibilities during projects. A project is successful if progress is made toward the vision, not if perfection is achieved. The most important measure of success is the extent to which the benefits realized are worth the resources spent.
Technology alone delivers no value. A holistic program that includes a precise needs analysis, technology, high-quality data, ongoing governance, appropriate culture, and lean processes add up to create benefits, such as: Gained skills and knowledge; enhanced user adoption; customer satisfaction; better business decisions; predictable and measurable outcomes; transparency; and, reduced costs.
Explore different tech options. Perhaps you need the power of well-established software that performs core business functions. Perhaps you need emerging new tech that will add insights, power, and convenience to your core operations. Perhaps you need both.
Discover new possibilities. Consider different combinations. Simplify processes. Enhance scope. The tech roadmap is exciting and rewarding for those who care to go the distance.
Claudia Mamros, Founder & CEO, iCinfo