How does your organization keep up with and adopt new technologies? Perhaps you strive to be innovative and constantly try the next new “thing.” Or wait and wait until the new thing becomes the “tried and true” thing. Or maybe you just leave it up to your IT group (or others leave it up to you, if you are the IT group) to decide when it is time to “upgrade.” Technology has come to be a part of everything we do. Navigating when to adopt a technology, identifying which technology will actually improve how you deliver on your mission, and how to ensure it will be the right solution for the relevant part(s) of your organization, customers, or stakeholders are all critical challenges.
Technology companies may have an advantage navigating all of this. But perhaps your organization has a mission that is enabled by technology, but isn’t fundamentally about technology. How do you maximize your investments – of time, personnel resources, and budget – in technology to further your organizational goals when technology is not a central focus for a majority of your staff, customer-base, or stakeholders?
Working with all types of mission-focused organizations – government, non-profit, education, and private sector, I’ve found a few strategies worth considering before you go all-in on any particular technology, especially for enterprise-wide adoptions.
- Know your people. How willing, and capable, are they to embrace a new technology? Using just rudimentary segmentation, are your early-adopters the majority or minority? Does a potential technology require mandatory changes to fundamental human processes – actual behavior changes, or is it a support/back office enabler that won’t require significant behavior change for the majority? Are people asking for a better solution, or are they already delivering/getting results with the tools that they have? New technologies may offer plenty of value, but the business case and implementation will look very different depending on the people who will be affected, one way or another. Technology is just one part of the larger cultural equation that must be evaluated and considered.
- Learn how to better use existing tools. Often, there are unused or underused aspects to the technologies that are already available and would support, facilitate, or improve job performance. Explore whether a bit more training or communication, customized for the actual performance objectives of employees, or needs of stakeholders, would improve how people leverage existing tools and systems. And evaluate this by speaking not only to your tech-savvy employees, but by evaluating the knowledge and know-how of your technically average or most representative stakeholders. In my experience, the bigger the organization, the slower the rate of learning and adoption of technologies in the absence of strong training programs.
- Be open to adopting the most accessible technology, not the most sophisticated. Before investing in the coolest technology that delivers the most capabilities, take the time to honestly assess the technology sophistication and needs of your entire workforce. How many conference rooms have you been in that are full of amazing technologies, but only one or two people ever know how to operate them or use them to their full potential? Or how many of your technology decision makers understand the needs of those who are “in the field”, whatever that means for your organization? While customized training might help with this situation, it is also possible that your organization simply does not need all of the bells and whistles. Try finding the solution that will represent a manageable learning curve for the majority, moving them towards current trends in the broader workforce, without wasting funds, time, and support resources for complex technologies that most employees may never use.
New and emerging technologies are amazing and exciting, for all of the ease, convenience, and potential improvements that they bring. But they must enable the people, processes, and strategies of your organization. The best technologies and technology implementations are well informed by, and are designed around an honest assessment and understanding of your people. By all means, pursue new technologies, but be sure to begin with a consideration of what strategy will best align your technology initiatives with the capabilities, needs, and objectives of your organization.