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Think Technology Last in Process Design

This is part of my reflections from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

At the conference there were a few software companies that presented keynote speeches (IBM, CCI, and AspenTech) and breakout sessions (AT&T, Vecco International, and Llamasoft).  During these sessions I heard a lot of the right things.  They would explain that technology is not a silver bullet that will solve a companies problems.  Technology enables a process.  It isn’t the process.  Organizations should put in technology only after it has established a process.  In fact, Shekar Natarajan, from Pepsi Bottling Group, was asked what Pepsi did differently to win a national award for technology implementation.  His reply was, “We considered technology last.”

It was said that a technology company should not sell a more advanced solution than what the client needs.  Sometimes the client may not truly understand their options and want more than they are ready for, but the technology company should’t sell them that advanced solution because it will cause more problems.

Right on, right?

While I agree with what is said, that is not what I am seeing in practice.  Why is this?  I can think of two root causes for this: metrics and ignorance.

I am assuming the sales team has metrics that drive them to sell such as revenue generated or number of new clients.  In my experience, sales teams are happy to sell the client whatever solution they want whether they need it or not.  I assume they are afraid of losing a sale if they tell a client they need something less or the smaller sale will make the numbers harder to reach their metrics.

What about a metric for the sales team that has to do with the ease of implementation?  Or customer satisfaction with the technology installed?

Second is ignorance.  Ignorance by the company buying the technology.  The company may think they know what they need based on their paradigms.  In reality they are just covering up a symptom and not digging to the root cause of their issues.

It could be ignorance of the technology company, also.  The people speaking at the conference are Vice Presidents and Directors.  Maybe they don’t know what is actually happening in the field.  Maybe they haven’t directly observed the behaviors and interactions at the client.

Whatever the case, what is said and what I have observed is not matching.  Technology can be a great enabler if we put it in the proper context.