In our earlier post, we discussed how in the pursuit of FLOW, where people, process, and technology work together to continuously deliver value, technology is often seen as a barrier to flow.
This is because the purpose of IT is often misunderstood outside of IT departments. They often expect the department to implement technology solutions that help the business, often without any meaningful direction. In our opinion, efficient communication between business and IT positions the organization to optimize FLOW.
Opening this line of communication is only the first step in activating the potential in your business’ technology. While making IT aware of a technology problem is important, there is often little they can do if that process is ill defined, if there isn’t an existing process to work with, or if there isn’t the necessary appetite for change to get a solution off the ground.
Defining the Business Problem
Before you can even begin to develop a technology solution, the business problem must be clearly defined.
IT is not a wizard and technology is not a magic wand that can be waved at a problem until it disappears. Rather, think of IT as a mechanic and technology as their toolbox. When applied properly, each of those tools can improve a vehicle’s performance.
To use a real-life example, let’s say that a retailer’s onboarding process consistently takes weeks to complete, and you want to reduce that time. Many in this case would be tempted to go to IT and tell them to, “Make our onboarding process faster.” While this is better than giving IT no direction, the request gives only a vague sense of a target that IT can aim for when developing a solution.
How significant of a change are you hoping to make? How quickly do we need a solution to be implemented? What specifically do we hope to accomplish by speeding up this process? The answers to all these questions will shape what the solution looks like.
The easiest way to define a problem like this is to develop a SMART goal. A SMART goal is any goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound.
A goal is specific when it is clear what you intend to do and what processes it will impact.
A goal is measurable when there are clear criteria for when it has been achieved.
A goal is achievable if you have the means to do it.
A goal is relevant when you can define the specific benefit achieving it will give your business.
A goal is Time-bound if there is a set deadline for when you hope to finish it.
Let’s apply this to our example of asking IT to speed up onboarding. We can instead phrase the request as, “Within 6 months, we want to reduce our total onboarding time by 60%, so that we can more effectively meet the high volume of customers we expect to get during the holiday season.”
This meets each of the criteria for a SMART goal and gives IT a clearer picture of what a successful technology solution is going to look like.
Targeting a Specific Process
The second criteria necessary for an effective technology solution is a pre-existing process to work with.
Pointing IT to a problem without a process to work with is like asking our mechanic to make a car without an engine go faster.
Let’s return to our retailer example. Instead of improving the onboarding process, imagine that IT was asked to deploy a new online-ordering system.
This sounds like it would be right up IT’s alley. However, if it is a new system altogether, there may not be a process in place for fulfilling online orders. This means that basic details, like where to send information on a customer’s order, are unknown to IT.
But, what can you do if you haven’t yet defined a process, but feel that your problem will require technology to solve? If that’s the case, prioritize outlining and fleshing out what that process will look like, so that IT will have something to work with.
Consult with SMEs who understand what processes you need to achieve your business’ goals. After defining the process, then consult IT.
FLOW requires that people, process, and technology work together. Without an established process, your technology solutions will be unable to get off the ground.
Having an Appetite for Change
Finally, a technology solution requires an appetite for change to be present in the organization. If you’re the only one who believes that adopting a new onboarding system is necessary, then doing so will only create frustration and misunderstanding.
Adopting new technology often represents a considerable investment for a business. Because of this, you cannot take a buy-in to your project for granted. You must seek out and cultivate an appetite for change within your organization.
Fortunately, technology solutions rarely need 100% support from everyone in the company. One key stakeholder who understands the need for your solution is all it takes to get the ball rolling. Others will get on board once they see how effective the solution is.
Of course, even this can be easier said than done. What should you do if no one else sees a need for your solution. In this scenario, find the leaders who are closest to the problem and advocate for your solution. As we said, it often only takes one or two people who recognize the value of a technology solution to make it happen.
Getting people to see the need for the change you are proposing is necessary for that change to happen. Yet, it often only needs a single person to greenlight your solution before you can get started.
Communication between business and IT is essential to creating technology solutions that optimize FLOW. However, optimizing FLOW through technology also requires making sure IT is given a problem that they have the means to solve.
This means defining the problem so that IT can understand what a successful solution looks like.
It also means ensuring that a specific, robust process exists for IT as a foundation to build solutions upon.
Finally, it means finding individuals with an appetite for change to help move your solution forward.
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.