Technology has the potential to transform our work and lives. Businesses can benefit from technology by enabling them to be more productive, develop faster and produce more quickly, make better decisions, and provide superior customer service. These benefits can be difficult to realize when new technology is integrated. Technology can be disruptive at first before it becomes empowering.
While the ideas in this article might be applicable to all business situations, they are intended to address the integration of new information and communication technologies into business processes. Information technologies include computers and peripheral equipment, as well as data flow over local area networks. Communications include all voice and video activity, including the telephone system and any related equipment, as well as the communication pathways that create the large area networks.
Technology Impacts Business Processes
Each action taken within a company is part of a process. Sometimes, the processes can be easily defined and easily observable. For example, the purchase order path. Sometimes the process isn’t so obvious, but it still exists, even if it’s by default.
The introduction of new technologies into the business world:
Accelerate existing processes
Expand the capabilities of existing processes
Change the process
The new technologies can often open up new avenues for business by changing processes.
New technologies will not only speed up existing processes but also be disruptive. This is due to the need to alter patterns of behavior or relationships with others. When disruptions occur, productivity can suffer initially, but then the new processes will become just as familiar. At this point, it is possible to achieve the goal of achieving a higher level productivity than before the introduction or modification of technology.
This is a common cycle associated with the introduction new technologies:
Productivity is lower and, finally,
Higher productivity plateau than the starting point
These are the obvious goals of introducing new technologies:
Reduce the time required to increase productivity
Maximize productivity gains
To achieve these goals, it is important to understand:
The context in which the processes are operated, that is, who will suffer from changes in the affected processes
Technology’s potential is being democratized
Different types of people will react differently to new technology
The business processes and introduction of new technologies are not isolated . Both exist in a context that could be both a part and an affect:
Your social relationships with other companies and within your organization
Political power structures within an organisation
What people think of themselves and what they can do
Technology can make technology more accessible. Technology can be used to create and disseminate useful information that supports the mission and goals for the business. This can make it a powerful equalizer between management and staff. “Disseminate” is the key word. Access to information should be decentralized and communication of that information allowed to “front line” workers. This will allow them to improve the quality and quantity of their decisions without the need to involve management.
People Types from a Technology Perspective
If you are looking to introduce new technology into your business, it may be helpful to know the following types of people.
Innovators/embracers They will independently investigate new technologies. Sometimes they will be able to introduce new technologies to the company that were not otherwise known. Sometimes they will be a “thorn” when pushing for new technologies that they believe will be useful or “neat”. However, this will not be in line with the company’s goals and agenda. They will accept new technologies introduced by others and will often be the first to use them fully.
Enthusiasts will embrace new technology enthusiastically. Although they won’t often seek out new technology, they will embrace it and incorporate it into their daily lives when necessary. Because they are open to learning new technology, they may be able to help others with the learning process.
Acceptors will take new technology if it is needed. They won’t seek it. They will try to avoid it initially until they are forced into accepting it. Once they realize that the technology is here to stay they will be able to learn to use it or at least live with it.
Naysayers are known to be vocal opponents of new technologies. They are often adamant about the lack of change and will not change their ways if forced to.
Each of these types will have a different productivity vs. timing curve. These are the four types of people you should be thinking about. Consider how this impacts your ability to reap the full benefits you have carefully planned. Consider how this impacts your ability discover additional benefits after the technology is implemented. Understanding the differences will help you avoid any pitfalls during or after implementation.
Reduce Disruption and Increase Empowerment
For a faster payoff and smoother introduction of new technologies, it is important to understand the context in which they are implemented, its democratizing potential, and the types people who will benefit from them.
Also, make new technologies as easy to use as possible. The return on investment for employees and the extra time spent training them in new technologies can be much greater than the hours they spend planning. This will allow you to increase productivity faster, reduce customer impact, and less burden on support staff.