Enterprises can no longer function without new technologies. Leaders who hesitate to implement new solutions can get lost in our networked world and scramble frantically, surrounded by forces too powerful to navigate. But, it’s natural to hesitate when someone insists on making a staggering investment in a new technology initiative. Why? Customer dissatisfaction with technology initiatives remains high because changes can undermine productivity and profit. End users often complain that solutions are under-utilized, perform below capability, and disrupt work. This negatively impacts the organization and its people. However, when organizations sit on the sidelines hesitant to employ bold solutions, the global economy still surges forward. New threats emerge as adversaries devise ingenious new tactics, ride the wave of technology, and sail ahead of those who don’t move fast enough.
Three ways effective leaders navigate the hectic pace of advancing technology and its threats include:
1. ENSURE EVERYBODY KNOWS THE GOALS AND CHALLENGES
Ask people to articulate the goals and challenges of the enterprise and where they see themselves fitting in the system. Check to see if the people involved in enterprise technology initiatives are arriving at the starting line ready to run. If they can do this, they’re ready to make great decisions. Networked organizations have colleagues on teams that are sometimes far-flung, reaching internationally. Technology has changed the nature of business. Now, anybody can influence anybody else with a single email, which flattens out the organizational chart. That’s a lot of activity either moving everyone forward—or distracting everyone from a baseline of productivity. It all comes down to meeting goals and objectives successfully. Effective leaders articulate and bring the organization together on agreed-upon goals and then trust the people to meet them. They also support people growing into more autonomous roles. Because we don’t all work side by side anymore, it’s important to make sure everybody is watching their results and making course corrections as warranted. That changes how people look at their own work, just as they have had to learn new ways to communicate beyond bricks-and-mortar offices.
2. USE AN OUTCOME-DRIVEN APPROACH
Confront challenges head-on by using an outcome-driven approach to launching technology transitions. Mix elements of organizational assessment and strategic planning with developmental training to ensure all features of the new technology have meaning in daily work life. This protects the enterprise from costly disruption. Performance measures must be established. Every single person must know what is expected of him or her in using the new technology, what it can provide, and how it links to his or her functional responsibilities. Make sure everybody knows the strategic thrust of the investment and the financial goals. Each person becomes able to protect the organization from disruption thanks to a keen understanding of the bigger picture and how all the systems can work for individuals and those around them. Technology is central to innovation. It relies on innovation, and innovation relies on technology. The two are inextricably interwoven. Whether between two partners or within a large team with many moving parts, technology and innovation must continue to fuel a creative exchange in order for organizations to outpace daily threats and fierce competitors.
3. HELP PEOPLE SEE WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM
When tackling partnerships between IT initiatives and strategic enterprise planning, people have to understand the value of the new technology. Many people think this involves pain, but not if leaders help people see how software functionality actually links to tasks in their daily job. The harder the task, the easier it is to get people energized about how technology can make it a lot easier to do. Some people resist the new solution because it forces them to take stock of their own business habits and make changes. So, start with some performance work before training on the software. Once people have a good idea about the big picture, almost everyone is more motivated to participate in any change, including technology changes. Next, training should start before rollout so that people feel confident and able to be effective. Finally, clear-cut goals and performance measures empower both professionals and supervisors to start a dialogue about how well the software is working as well as how the people who are involved can grow and improve.
Enterprise technology initiatives are not simply technology projects. The change that ensues from the rollout quickly can outpace the organization’s capacity to cope. Technology transitions require change management and rely as much on creative performance benchmarks and measurements as on sound programming logic. These changes benefit from making your human capital and business processes as bug-free for implementation as you expect your technology experts to make your IT solutions. By engaging all stakeholders—from the bottom up—IT solutions can be useful from the start. Better, the technology gets more useful and sails more smoothly with each new day and each new challenge!