Shannon Hart | LOGMOZO
TO BUILD AN efficient organization that delivers great value to your customers, you just need to mix a few elements together: blockchain, big data, and AI.
OK, that’s actually a ridiculous statement. But if you look at the ways we’re encouraged by sales pitches and industry articles to spend our technology budgets, you will assume these words somehow magically proffer a solution to all our problems. Unfortunately for us, they don’t.
It doesn’t mean that these aren’t important technologies that can help to improve the work that we do; it just means that the first step in evaluating technology should be to understand how it can impact your business, not how many buzzwords are included.
We work with a lot of customers who are trying to evaluate the best technology or application for them to implement, and they typically express their needs in a similar way—it boils down to a feeling that there is probably a better way to do what they’re doing today. Sometimes it’s because they feel that they have too many systems that aren’t communicating together well; sometimes it’s because they feel that they don’t have enough power in the systems they have; sometimes it’s because they can’t report on data in those systems the way that they want to—and let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just fear of missing out.
The first question we have for those organizations is, “What is the most important job that you need to do as an organization that you want to do better?” If the answer is “to take advantage of AI” or “to spend less time looking up information in spreadsheets,” we know there is more digging to do.
If instead, we have a company that says the most important job they need to improve upon is to efficiently find capacity to cover loads, then that’s something we can start to evaluate. We can gain an understanding of how they currently find capacity and understand the nuances of their business, their “special sauce,” and help them to utilize technology, so they can make that job as efficient as possible. It might involve bringing many different services, packaged solutions, and custom development together to create a customized process that works for the organization.
This kind of endeavor can seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to, because you don’t have to solve for the entire process at one time—if it’s a large effort, in many cases you can break it down into component parts and make incremental improvements.
When you’re trying to evaluate which technologies to bring into the organization, there are some basic steps you’ll want to execute:
Step 1. The first step in evaluating technology has nothing to do with evaluating technology at all; it’s determining what impactful changes you’d like to make for your organization. If you find yourself making statements that aren’t directly related to how you can deliver value, make sure that you do the work of understanding the real issues you want to tackle before you begin.
- Don’t forget about the people that are responsible for delivering the value during your investigation; they will make or break the success of any changes that you propose. Get them excited about the possibilities—ask them how much time they could save and what they could be doing to move the business forward if they didn’t have to deal with the inefficiencies.
- Before you determine that you need new technology, make sure that you don’t have a problem with communication or training—sometimes you have an inefficient process just because users aren’t aware that there is a better way to do it.
Step 3. Consider how you might be able to tie existing systems together to create a more efficient or more valuable process. For instance, don’t buy a new system just because you want to send a text message from the application to your user and your current system can’t do it—with tools available to us today, this is something that you (or a partner) can probably add on through an API.
- On the flip side, don’t keep a system in place if it really has served its purpose and it’s time to move forward. Inefficiencies can cost you a lot more than wasted manpower; it can cost you in terms of the value you’re able to deliver and your ability to compete.
Step 4. If you still need to look at new technologies or tools, start searching for existing solutions that aim to improve your target process. Maybe one or more of these is a great fit for the process you need to improve.
- Once you start looking, you’ll find a myriad of tools that more or less do what you’re looking for. Don’t get paralyzed by this process—don’t spend months writing up a perfect RFP, or in doing a demo of every system that you find. Instead, focus on the absolute “must-haves” and winnow the list down based on those items.
- Don’t focus solely on the “look” of the application. When you see a new system that has a user interface, you’re going to have an initial reaction as to how pleasing you feel it is. You should definitely let that inform your decision, but don’t let it eclipse other considerations.
- Don’t focus on built-in integrations, focus on APIs. It doesn’t mean you can’t rank a solution higher if it already has what you need, but if you can integrate it with another system through the vendor’s APIs, that’s the more important criteria to look for on your must-have list. Often the built-in integration doesn’t work the way you’d like it to anyway.
- Don’t just consider the sunny-day scenarios. Think about how you’ll manage exceptions and problems.
- If you’re not evaluating a tool, but rather a new technology, be sure that you consider all the alternatives, not just the ones that are in vogue. Maybe instead of trying to implement machine learning, your process would be better served by putting a rules engine in place.
- Think about technology that’s appropriate for your business today. Process improvement isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies; it directly impacts how any organization delivers value and how well you can scale into the future. But it doesn’t mean you need the most expansive or expensive toolset—it just means that you need to understand what you’re buying now with a view to what’s next. In fact, having limited resources is a great argument for building efficient processes, so you can do more with less people.
INEFFICIENCIES CAN COST YOU A LOT MORE THAN WASTED MANPOWER; IT CAN COST YOU IN TERMS OF THE VALUE YOU’RE ABLE TO DELIVER AND YOUR ABILITY TO COMPETE.
Step 5. Make sure that you have solid metrics in place that you’ll use to evaluate your before and after processes.
- Don’t neglect to think about how you will actually create these metrics. It sounds obvious, but if you want to measure how many times a user executed a “click” in the target system, you’ll need to make sure the target system can give you the information to make the metric feasible.
The most important tip of all? These days, it’s relatively easy to get different systems to talk to one another. Focus on your process and your value and combine the tools and technologies that will best support your vision for what your company can achieve.
Shanon Hart is the CEO and Founder of Logmozo, a technology solutions provider.
Image credits: Simplify.jpg; ID:1200976782; ISTOCK.COM/BUSRACAVUS, ISTOCK.COM/BUSRACAVUS