The technology modernisation needed today is more than an upgrade; you’re playing a new game with new rules, in which you modernise not just the tools and functions, but the way you implement technology.
The life cycle for technology is becoming shorter every year. New competitors are disrupting industries by leveraging the latest digital practices and processes. Customer expectations are constantly evolving in an accelerating race for seamless experiences.
IT departments are under increasing pressure to support leading-edge capabilities such as data analytics, cybersecurity, automated processing, and technology integration with third-party systems.
With this context, your company’s selection of technology, which seemed to meet requirements a few years ago, is rapidly becoming obsolete.
Yet some of the most important factors have not changed at all. Companies must remain focused on their competitive edge. Modernisation efforts must create value for the business.
Understanding what to get right, which technologies you require to reach your goals, is essential. Knowing how to plan, invest and engage the business around your technological modernisation is just as important. Below are 7 principles any company introducing a new technology must adopt to ensure success.
1. Design for flexibility
Modern businesses have a constant need to adapt within an ever-changing environment, requiring continuous innovation in products, services and processes. Their systems must also have the flexibility to keep up.
The technology systems of the past competed on functionality. They were designed to do one or two things very well, and the business adapted to focus on those one or two activities. When the business needed to change its focus, the structures and processes of the system held it back.
Today’s more modular systems are more flexible. They can rapidly accommodate a range of possibilities for connection and configuration. So seek out modular platforms that can accommodate a wide range of plug-and-play functions for your business — including those that haven’t been designed or even imagined yet.
To assess the fitness of new technology or upgrade, adopt a minimum viable product (MVP) approach. This approach consists of a “bare-bones” installation, covering the few features that are absolutely necessary to demonstrate the system’s value. Release an MVP to a small group of employees or customers, and ask those early adopters for responses. You will learn what features customers care about, what features they don’t, and what features are missing.
2. Put the customer first
Although any number of factors may trigger a decision to introduce new technology in the workplace, one goal is key: to deliver value. Every investment in technology should provide more benefits for end customers, whether through better experiences, higher product quality or operating efficiencies that reduce prices and add value.
Use cross-functional teams to plan and design this modernisation effort. Functional experts from areas such as IT, strategy, R&D, customer interaction, and operations can all work together in an agile environment to design the changes around a set of aligned specifications. In this early stage, and throughout the initiative, you thus link leading-edge knowledge of the changing technology with day-to-day awareness of the desired results. As you bring these teams together, you will establish a shared frame of reference as well as a common language to describe the features you want and the capabilities you are building.
3. Engage with your workforce
Introducing new technology in the workplace is often seen solely as a matter of changing technology. However, changes in technology sustain themselves only if people accept and embrace them. You must, therefore, align your new technology with the company’s culture. This starts with clearly defining the new habits that people will need to adopt.
You will probably have some established elements of your culture that you can build on to accelerate effective change. Additionally, every company has “ informal leaders,” people at every level of the hierarchy who are already demonstrating the behaviours you need for modernisation because they believe in the new direction. Find these individuals and work closely with them. They can tell you about the readiness of your business to change, the places where resistance will occur, and what effort is required to overcome resistance.
4. Make the change stick
Before starting to introduce new technologies, perform an analysis of the resources needed for a successful outcome. Project management and leadership capabilities are as important as technical capabilities. Be highly selective in creating the team that oversees the effort. Choose people with a track record in change, a strong desire and ability to learn, a high tolerance for complex and uncertain situations, and a solid reputation for collaboration and teamwork.
Financial resource allocation is just as important. Align funding to your highest technology priorities. Be very clear about which areas you will not spend money on. Scrutinise your choices about desired features and technologies to ensure that financial resources are generating a return.
5. Adopt a services mindset
The old approach to technology treats systems as assets that a company owns and operates. A modern approach treats technology as a set of services that a company can use and integrate as needed, without necessarily owning the systems at all. Companies can then select and combine services from a range of ‘best in class’ providers, within an overall framework that suits the company’s unique needs.
This approach redefines the IT function within your organisation. Where once you hosted and managed systems internally, now you oversee a more open platform. Services are outsourced and managed; when a service component is not effective, you can adapt or replace it. You no longer care as much about the source of a service; you care about how well it serves your needs and creates value.
6. Plan the journey before starting
Any successful transformation is a staged journey, as is introducing new technologies. Your systems modernisation can help you do something similar. Having set a direction based on customer value you now plot a road map for technology introduction, that is, a sequence of milestones that you can expect along the way. For example, you might introduce cloud-based capabilities early, so they can be used for other initiatives. Or you may need to modernise some legacy systems as a prerequisite for improving time-to-market for product launches.
7. Choose your partners carefully
New technology is the key to your company’s future. Therefore, do not treat modernisation as a transactional event. When selecting long term partners do your due diligence. The goal is to find companies that can deliver mutual benefits and with which you can develop a working relationship that involves mutual commitment and creative collaboration as well as a good price.
If you don’t get this right, not only could the project fail, but the switching costs could be substantial. Therefore, use informal as well as formal ways of gathering information. Seek out companies whose values you share and whose leadership has proven trustworthy. Evaluate the credibility of their work by looking at the technology systems they have built for themselves. Think about how well those systems support their own distinctive capabilities, especially those that would benefit you as their customer.