Tech as an Enabler — Not the End Goal

by | Leaders Lunch, Technology

On February 5, 2020, ProFocus hosted a discussion of Portland-based technology leaders. This was a roundtable discussion on the topic of implementing new technology in your organization, and why tech should be an enabler, rather than the end goal.

John Boone, the President of ProFocus Technology, moderated the discussion. The leaders in attendance offered various advice, best practices, and lessons learned. The following are notes from our one hour discussion.

Considering New Tech? Keep These Tips in Mind

  • Make sure the user audience will want to use the new technology. You need to take a “whole person” view so that you know what will work for them. Behavioral change is hard. Often, new technology can end up making it harder for some people to do their jobs. For example, it may be better and easier for young people but more difficult for older members of the team.
  • You can’t just throw the tech out there. For example, if you want to put in an employee rewards application, you can’t just throw it out there. You have to take into account change management cultural factors.
  • Make sure it is useful for the business – that it will deliver real value.
  • Before starting to implement any new technology, take time to carefully frame the problem – and how you will know when you solve it.
  • If you do implement new tech and it is not going well, sometimes we need to pull the plug. Sometimes new technology should fail quickly. We can’t have a culture of hanging onto things that aren’t working.
  • One attendee worked at a mid-sized company that had 900 different applications, yet they kept adding new tech…

What to Do When the Business Leader Requests Certain Tech

  • When a business leader brings you a technology that they would like implemented, your first question should be: “What value do you want us to bring?” Define what they want to get out of the implementation.
  • See yourself as an internal consultant. Sometimes business units don’t know what they want. Ask what the value is of the new technology. Will it make you faster? Give you more options? Save money?
  • Frame it like this – “I understand you want that technology… That’s the solution, what problem are you trying to solve?”
  • Sometimes a business leader will go to the IT leader and ask them to implement a new technology. These are often things like moving to the cloud, AI/ML, or Robotic Process Automation. Ask the business leader to provide an executive sponsor and provide budget for moving this forward.
  • It often helps to make it an economic discussion. What are the costs and benefits quantified in dollars and cents?
  • Discuss the larger ramifications. Have you thought of everything involved in making a change?
  • Help the company prioritize. Set up a system to evaluate the shiny objects coming in.

When the New Tech Idea Is Innovative

Often times new technology is actually really great innovation at work in your company. How do you capture these innovative ideas without chasing every new tech idea? There are a lot of obstacles to new ideas. How can we avoid stifling innovation? The answer: Don’t block it, guide it. 

For example, if a developer walks up and says, “I built this new service.” You realize that it may not fit into the infrastructure… Instead of shooting it down, look at the idea as a prototype and put it into an innovation pipeline.

Create an internal innovation portfolio. The portfolio process includes taking into account all the many considerations involved, including security operations, UX, and customer workflows. Build a reverse funnel where ideas go into a path that gets considered. A great product company will have a lot of ideas coming from a lot of different people.

Resources Recommended by Attendees

Book – The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail
Book – The Innovator’s Method: Bringing the Lean Start-up into Your Organization
Book – Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale 
Book – The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google 
Article – Harvard Business Review: Digital Transforamation is not about Technology

If you are a Software Development leader and would like to be involved in future roundtable discussions like the one above, please send an email to [email protected] with a request to be invited to upcoming Leaders Lunches.

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ProFocus is an IT staffing and consulting company. We strive to connect a select few of the right technology professionals to the right jobs.

We get to know our clients and candidates in detail and only carefully introduce a small number of candidates that fit the role well.