Business executives understand technology is critical for daily operations like communication and processing orders, which is why IT spending keeps growing. But many of those same executives don’t realize a meaningful return on their technology investment.
“They’re dissatisfied with the results of their implementation,” says Glenn Plunkett, director of application development at Clark Schaefer Hackett. “With bottlenecks and processing headaches, what they end up with only meets their desires halfway.”
Plus, recurring costs for support staff, license renewals, etc., make tech investments feel more like a cost than added value.
“The technology isn’t optimized,” adds Mat Jackson, director of sales at Clark Schaefer Hackett. “It isn’t a competitive advantage that produces meaningful data or adds efficiency.”
Smart Business spoke with Plunkett and Jackson about the potential barriers to reaping rewards from your technology tools.
Why is outdated technology a challenge?
Technology has a limited lifetime, so think of your systems as a constantly evolving asset. Over time, performance can degrade, business processes can change and newer/better tech may be available. Plus, most vendors sunset support for aging systems.
If your business still uses legacy technology systems, more modern hardware and software will likely provide many benefits. Remember, the ROI on tech investments decreases over time, so you should continuously evaluate and modernize your technology stack.
How can untrained users derail technology implementation and use?
Don’t assume your staff automatically knows how to use your systems. That’s why training resources is a worthwhile investment.
When new software or workflows are first deployed, end user training and communication are usually part of the process. However, users often only absorb the minimum amount of knowledge necessary to accomplish their job. New staff also may not receive the same level of training as when the system was first delivered. Training and retraining remind users of your policies and procedures and help leverage your investment in the system. Therefore, be deliberate about allocating resources.
What happens when technology doesn’t adapt to work processes?
As business needs change and teams grow, workflows change. Technology tools need to support new ways of doing business, and systems need to change accordingly. In addition, off-the-shelf software may require you to alter your way of doing things to accommodate the way these tools work.
Custom software can help mitigate this, bridging gaps between systems or implementing custom workflows from the ground up. Often, the cost can be recouped quickly with productivity savings.
What if work-arounds already meet your needs?
If you are using multiple tools to accomplish one task or using people to perform tasks that the computer should be doing, technology isn’t serving your business. Work-arounds are often the result of out-of-date tech, untrained users and tools that aren’t adapted to current work processes.
It’s common for business users to turn to spreadsheets to get their work done because the business systems at their disposal cannot do what they need. Reporting, data manipulation and workflow automation are all good examples of areas where businesses use a tech tool with a manual component. However, these are also examples of things that can be automated.
For example, month-end closing might take weeks if your organization has a complex structure. It requires manual efforts to assemble the data, check the accounts and ensure proper allocation, in order to produce the reports that are reconciled against the ledger and ultimately used to generate the P&L statement. Fully leveraged technology can cut that time dramatically; what took weeks with manual work can turn into a handful of days.
While throwing more people at a problem is sometimes the best solution, first ask yourself whether technology can be employed in a better way. Rather than accepting manual work for repetitive tasks, put technology to work and free up people to be productive and creative.
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