Which comes first: technology or strategy?
The cautious vs. the cheerleaders
New technology is fun to try and adopt. It’s easy to get swept up in the latest gadget, software application or operating system. And there will always be someone in the office — whether the IT department, an executive, or some eager guy in marketing — who pushes to add new technology and make it work into the company’s overall business strategy.
At the same time, there will be those technology decision makers who take a more cautious approach. These are the people who believe that new technologies should be introduced only when they fit into the existing business plan.
So which approach is better: should decision makers build technology into the current business plan or should they adopt the new technologies and restructure business strategy around them?
It depends, says Hitesh Dev, president of CMIT Solutions. For example, companies that are built specifically for the technology sphere, like gaming and app developers, will want to make technology the priority, and then structure the whole business plan around it. But other types of industries and more established organizations are better off building technology into the strategy already in place. Technology is expensive, and IT budgets are tight, especially in the SMB setting. Getting caught up in the latest technologies before examining how they best fit into overall goals can be costly — especially if that technology turns out to be a failure.
As HappyFox CEO Shalin Jain pointed out, companies traditionally built technology around their business plans because technology was once primarily seen as a means to business success. That model has changed. In today’s business world, technology and business operations are no longer separate; instead they go hand in hand.
The key is to find the right technology to enhance your company’s business goals.
Grading on the curve
“Technologies go through a feasibility curve on multiple variables (e.g., accessibility, costs, feasibility, market adoption, interoperability with other tech, integration points, development communities, talent availability, etc.),” said Beck Besecker, CEO at Marxent. “And many different technologies may have an opportunity to solve the same problem. So in short, you’re mapping tech variables along each continuum to see which is the right fit.”
First, you want to know what type of system, if any, is already in place. Conducting a proof of concept before committing to any new technology is critical.
“Technology fails usually occur because the wrong technology was chosen or time/budgeting wasn’t allocated for proper researching and training for that new technology,” said Dave Gerstenmaier, CTO at Lighthouse Technology Partners. “You want to ensure the new product or service is completely viable for both your long term and short term goals.”
Next, you want to ensure that the technology service or product is viable with the company. That’s easier said than done, Gerstenmaier added, because most companies don’t have the expertise on hand to truly examine and understand all that the technology has (or doesn’t have) to offer.
“I think it is important to engage a partner that has a proven history of deploying the specific technology you are looking into. An experienced partner that is committed to keeping current and up to date with the technology trends can save you enormous time and expense,” he said.
The marriage of technology and business strategy shouldn’t be left solely to the jurisdiction of one person or department. Besecker, for instance, likes the idea of having some people in the company designated as technology innovators — the folks who do get swept up with every new idea and embrace the idea of introducing it to the business. But at the same time, they should be working closely with those who are heavily involved with strategy, who can provide a more focused point of view on whether or not there is a need or a viable use for newer technologies.
“There should be active conflict between choices in an organization,” he said. That conflict gives business leaders choices on the best direction to go.