The book, Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, tells the story of the 1936 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team claiming victory in spite of significant obstacles. They did this by leveraging the talent of their rowers, coxswain, and their technologically advanced boat to find a SWING, where all of these pieces worked together to propel them to victory.
In business, we can reach a similar state wherein our People, Processes, and Technology work together to optimize the FLOW.
But, when we start talking about the last piece, Technology, reactions can be mixed. No one would argue that technology has revolutionized many aspects of how we do business. However, many are wary of IT’s influence on implementation.
IT has earned the reputation of being a bottleneck. They’re seen as slowing down the FLOW with solutions that don’t meaningfully impact the business.
Yet, this is less of a problem with IT, and more of a problem with how IT fits into the larger organization. When business teams give IT direction, Technology-based solutions are more targeted and effective.
How We Use IT
Let’s say you are tasked with buying the kitchen equipment for a new restaurant, but you were not given any indication of what kind of food it serves.
You go out and buy a top-of-the-line oven, a state-of-the-art deep fryer, and a set of high-quality knives. But to your dismay, you discover that it’s an ice cream parlor, you have no scoops, and your freezer is the size of a broom closet.
And yet, that is the approach many businesses take with Technology. IT is far too often expected to find problems to solve without any direction to solve them.
This haphazard approach is what leads to the bad reputation that we discussed earlier. People see IT as a bottleneck whose solutions don’t actually help the business’ FLOW.
How We Should Use IT
This could leave us tempted to write of Technology as an unreliable means of optimizing our FLOW. However, we don’t have to be content with let’s return to our restaurant example.
There was nothing wrong with the oven, fryer, or knives from earlier. If the restaurant was going to be cooking, frying, and chopping food all day, they would have been perfect for the job.
The issue was that you weren’t told how the restaurant was going to prepare its food and what problems needed solving.
What if, before you started shopping, you had the opportunity to sit down with the owner and talk to them about the kind of food they were planning to serve. You’d have a better idea of how they needed to store that food and what the process of preparing that food was going to be. With that knowledge, you’d be able to equip that kitchen with an appropriate amount of freezer space and scoops to meet their specific needs.
In a similar way, we don’t have to expect IT to both understand and solve the problems that face the business. They can rely on business teams to identify problems, freeing up IT to focus on delivering solutions tailored to those problems.
What this Looks Like in Action
Let’s take a step back and consider an example that’s more relevant to our discussion. Chatbots have become increasingly prominent in the customer service industry.
These bots have many advantages, namely that they free up people who would otherwise be answering calls. But, they have the downside of being time-consuming. Clearing up a problem that might take 3 minutes on the phone with a human, could take 30 minutes with a bot.
It’s common for chatbots to be the first point of contact with potential customers. However, due to chatbots being inherently time-consuming, this can often be frustrating and tedious for customers.
This poor implementation of chatbots is a classic example of a haphazard use of Technology. Because IT has no direction from the business, their solutions cannot target a specific problem.
Chatbots are still useful tools for a business’ customer service experience. Yet, they must be implemented to solve a specific problem identified by the business.
For example, the customer service team may notice that their call-center is regularly overwhelmed. This creates a situation where customers are often placed on hold for several hours.
If they approached IT with this specific problem, it would be the perfect time for IT to deploy a specific, targeted solution.
Technology has the potential to provide solutions that improve the FLOW of a business. However, those solutions must solve a specific operational problem.
This requires an intentional partnership between IT and business. If business teams identify a specific problem, IT can develop a tailored solution for it.
Determining whether a business problem requires a technology-based solution can be difficult. In part 2 of this blog, we’ll dive deeper into that question.
EIT has an impressive track record of helping our clients leverage technology to optimize their FLOW. To learn more about what EIT can do for your organization, click here.