The Illusion of the Silver Bullet: Fix Your Process First!
This post might seem like common sense, but it's surprising how many organisations make the same mistake. In today's business environment, there's strong pressure to find quick solutions when problems and issues arise. In such situations it is tempting to see technology as a silver bullet that can fix everything. New technologies often come with a nearly magical promise: buy this piece of kit with all its fancy functions, and all your problems will vanish.
Technology companies are primarily interested in selling licenses for their chosen piece of kit. Deriving value from those licenses is left to the purchaser. If you discover your new tech is not doing quite what you expected, the vendor is often unhelpful or simply disappears - and doesn’t surface until it's time to renew. Then the annual 'rinse and repeat cycle' begins, perhaps with a bit of upselling to convince you that the issues you're experiencing can be solved by the [insert new dazzling functionality here] in the latest version.
Technology Won't Fix Underlying Process Issues
Until your process is fully understood, and your desired outcomes properly considered, you are not ready to invest in a solution. Instead, what you'll end up with is a more expensive version of the same flawed process, likely introducing a host of new and costly issues.
The Silver Bullet Illusion
The allure of technology as a silver bullet is the triumph of hope over experience. Companies hope their new tech will streamline their operations, solve problems, and save money without the need for substantial process and organisational changes. This thinking leads to a dangerous misconception: that technology alone can fix a poor process. Companies reach for the silver bullet, thinking that their problems will disappear once they adopt cutting-edge solutions. Hard experience teaches that technology will often exacerbate issues if it is not implemented within a well-structured and well-understood process.
The Technology-Process Dance
The relationship between technology and business processes is an intimate dance, where faults and virtues feed off each other. While technology can undoubtedly improve processes and drive efficiency, it can also magnify weaknesses in an existing workflow. In short, technology succeeds when it is allied with well-structured processes and clearly defined outputs. When considering new technology, a company’s first step should not be forward, but backward. The smart move is to step back and assess your processes as a whole, before diving into the new tech.
The Cost of Ignoring Processes
Implementing new tech without knowing your processes can be expensive. Budget overruns, missed deadlines, and a host of unforeseen human and technical issues can ruin your plans and derail your hopes and dreams. Flaky bottom lines and reputation loss are common outcomes.
The Process-First Approach
Not surprisingly, we recommend a process-first approach that mandates a series of steps to ensure your proposed technology aligns seamlessly with workflow:
1. Conduct a process audit: Identify bottlenecks, redundancies, and areas where improvements are needed. This initial assessment will provide a clear picture of your workflow.
2. Get specific: Determine exactly which parts of your process are causing pain, so you know where to focus your tech spend. Pinpoint the areas where technology can make the most significant impact.
3. Evaluate available solutions: Research and evaluate technology solutions that can address the specific issues you’ve identified. Consider factors such as compatibility, scalability, and user-friendliness.
4. Consider Your Data: Understand where your data will sit, and how accessible/retrievable it is.
5. Continuously monitor and adjust: Implementing technology is not the end of the journey. Regularly monitor its performance and its impact on the processes it’s designed to fix. Be prepared to adjust and adapt as necessary to maintain optimal alignment.
The illusion of technology as a silver bullet for process improvement can lead to costly mistakes. Technology should be seen as a tool that enhances and optimizes well-defined processes. Clunky processes will inevitably produce clunky fixes.
Use the process-first approach - it's a necessity for achieving lasting success. By prioritising process alignment, companies can identify the right technology solutions that work in harmony with their workflows, ensuring efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and sustainable improvements.
And take comfort from knowing that while the silver bullet may not exist, the power of a well-optimised process combined with the right technology can be truly transformative.