Not a day goes by that I don't see an eager technology salesperson or web marketer post a social media snippet like: Change your processes and organization so that your technology works its best!
There's no refuge from this advice. The sheer volume of it just serves to further validate it. There's thousands of carnival barkers shouting it every day. It enjoys concrete social acceptance. Is it good advice?
It sounds like sage advice on its face. After all, what vendor wouldn't want customers to get the most from the products they buy, achieve the highest ROI on their technology investment, and speak well of them at their annual conferences?
If you are a customer, you should just give in. Follow their recommendations. It'll all work out, right
Hold your horses, partner!
If you cross that particular river and act on this counsel, then you're in for a white-water, soaked-to-the-bone ride. A ride that likely ends with hanging a Going Out of Business sign.
Does that seem a bit extreme?
Imagine if you followed this line of thinking in your own life. Allow me to step outside the world of business (and reality) for one moment to help drive the point home.
Let's say that you're an elf.
You've got seven kids that are always out and about (elves are prolific and active). You volunteer at Meals on Wheels on weekends (elves are charitable) and you drive for Uber during the day to make extra money. (Who wouldn't pay an elf to drive them around?)
You spend most days in your LARGE SUV.
Yes, you look ridiculous behind the wheel of that monster, but your SUV asset is key to running the processes of your life. It's foundational to making the family organization effective. (It's bio-diesel, hybrid-electric, solar-assisted, too, ok? It's the best SUV ever.)
Along comes your eager vendor. He swears he can make your life WAY better, if you can spare a couple hours of your time (and include all family decision makers) to meet with him.
He asks lots of pointed questions, appears to listen to your challenges, and then puffs himself up and says something brilliantly canned like:
"We're running a promotion on small garages. In order for your GARAGE to reach it's truest potential, you should keep no larger than a TWO-PERSON CAR. Anything bigger takes up TOO MUCH SPACE in the garage.
My advice is to optimize the GARAGE SPACE above all else. By the way, garage features and specifications may change without notice... it's a Garage-in-the-Cloud."
How would you the parental, charitable, entrepreneurial elf respond to that sage instruction?
I suspect that you'd be rather disagreeable. You know that your vehicle storage solution -- garage, carport, spooky haunted forest -- needs to serve your life, not the other way around.
But not everyone is so worldly and foresighted. Many people rely on vendors to guide them. So what happens if you buy the Garage-in-the-Cloud?
Your kids get fat! You sell your large SUV for a two-seat car. Instead of making ONE trip to pick up your kids from school, you make SEVEN trips. Too tired to make dinner, you regularly order take-out food. Your children become overweight.
Your home value plummets! You used to deliver 50 Meals on Wheels in a single round trip, but now you can’t. Elderly neighbors can no longer live on their own. They move into senior living facilities, sell their homes at a discount, and property values drop.
You can't pay the bills! You used to Uber around packs of drunk frat boys and sorority girls. They tipped generously because you're cute and appropriately flirtatious. With a two-seater, you can't make enough bank to keep the lights on at home.
Those results would be a big surprise to the uninitiated elf family! That’s not what they thought they bought, and certainly not what the vendor intended either.
I hope this fantastical look into your mirror universe, alter-ego makes the salient point:
Businesses make this cart-before-the-horse mistake all the time thanks to well-meaning but destructive guidance from technology vendors that puts technology investments ahead of business results.
Here's the lesson for all you hard-working, business-managing elves out there:
- Remember that YOU are responsible for results. Do not abdicate that privilege. If you don't know what your business is trying to accomplish and how it will get there, then any road will look good... and you'll probably take the wrong one. That's on you. Stick to your strategy, work your metrics.
- Assess your in-place capabilities first. Don't change assets, processes, and organizations to put technology first. That's buying a small car to optimize the space in the garage. If you aren't getting the most productivity from your assets, first figure out why. After that, look for enabling technology.
- Ask vendors for specific insights. Technology vendors DO want you to get the most from your tech, reap high ROI, and enjoy public success. They need direction from you! Assess your challenges, ask vendors where they’ve solved similar problems, and then choose the vendor/solution that best moves you forward.
You’re in charge. Do the hard work of plotting your course, then let vendors help YOU by asking THEM the right questions. Be vigilant for opportunity, steer clear of distractions, and choose your own adventure!