No amount of technology is going to help your business if the fundamentals of your business are broken and this is where you have to place a real emphasis on the concept of business technology management.
Don’t let technology and all the hype that goes with it get the better of you in business and it’s easy to get sucked into obsessing with the latest high-tech software, artificial intelligence, and all of the other buzzwords that pop out from the mouths of gurus, consultants and the other experts hell-bent on proving their value to maintain their fee income.
You don’t have to chase technology.
Having been in the technology sector all of my business life and I can tell you that it’s easy to become obsessive and lose sight of the most important aspect of any business…the customer.
Many times during my career, I invested in technology without looking at the true value it would bring to my customers and I am not ashamed to say that on occasion, I was more concerned with what it would do for my image and the image of my company as opposed to being directly aligned to my customers.
And if you are a tech start-up, or even if you have got your business up and running, you should try to make sure that your technology is not overshadowing your key message to your customers and that should be based on the outcome of that technology or the benefit your customers would derive from it.
Be careful not to over-engineer your product.
Take a look at this article from Parker Software, to see what I mean.
Don’t lose customer focus
Business technology management is all about creating a fine balance between understanding your customer implicitly, having the right sales and marketing strategy, and with the right operational processes to add an overlay of functional technology.
It’s all about making an already efficient company more efficient.
Many companies would also benefit from flattening out their organizational structure and plunging their business functions right into the heart of their customers and letting them understand first-hand, the day-to-day needs, problems, and challenges of those customers, rather than embarking on over-ambitious plans involving, for example, digital transformation.
They would be all the better for it.
And in this era of technology start-ups, that are obsessed with innovation and disruption, many of those are nowhere near sales-focuses enough and are overly obsessed with the features, benefits, and amount of technology they developed, rather than simply taking raw functionality to the market and getting their products in the hands of customers.
If you are a tech company, then you need to focus on sales and that means avoiding the implementation of fancy marketing strategies and getting down to the basics of hiring good and consistent salespeople.
Take a look at this article to see my views on hiring salespeople:
Technology in business
The pure and simple role of technology in business is to improve efficiency and drive growth.
And you also need to remember that in today’s economy, you need both talent and technology to drive that growth.
What you do not want to do and as I have done in the past, is to have your leadership team tied up in endless technology discussions and evaluations which only serves to take away the precious customer engagement time that will open the door to your competitors, who are more than eager to eat your breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
But at the same time, you would be extremely foolish to ignore technology and all of the tangible benefits that go along with it.
You have to strike and maintain the balance.
I am fortunate because I have started and built businesses on both sides of the “technology revolution,” at least that is the term I will use to describe my experiences of using manual processes and procedures before becoming computerized, even though the early experiences were far from rewarding.
You can be too unique
Fast-forward to today and with three children aged between ten and sixteen, I am immersed in their experiences of technology and as a business coach and mentor, I come across a huge number of tech startups, all passionate about their beliefs to impact their prospective markets and customers, with their latest revolutionary ideas…and technology.
Some are truly innovative, while others don’t seem to have thought through exactly what it is they are offering their customers and nearly all of them, do not have a clear route to market in terms of a simple sales strategy.
I’ve been in the same position myself when back in the day, I co-founded a software and services company in the telecommunications industry.
We were well ahead of our time, and in fact, too ahead of our time because we really did have a unique product and were the first to market with it.
The problem came because there was no competition — we had no competitors to measure our company against and also, I really did not understand the true impact of the technology, in simple and straightforward commercial terms.
In fact, none of us did!
We were all great in explaining the uniqueness of our product and service, but pitiful into translating the commercial benefits to our customers.
Establishing a sales strategy and generating sales was a huge uphill struggle and even for me, as someone who has been in sales all of my working life…in fact, it was a complete nightmare.
Blockchain, quantum computing, The Internet of Things, and I have already mentioned artificial intelligence are more than just buzzwords that fly around corporate boardrooms, they are real advances in technology that we should take note of because they represent a real and true technology change.
But these technologies are largely, still in their infancy when it comes down to mainstream adoption and although they offer exciting opportunities, my fear is that organizations are, deep down, frightened of change and will resist that change from the perspective of people preservation.
At the other end of the scale, we have, as I have mentioned, many organizations that are too keen to start with technology adoption, in the hope of disrupting markets, but they lack the true understanding of customer needs, challenges, and dynamics simply hope that high-tech solutions will prevail and win.
Of course, there are companies that get it right and have the balance between the two…and these are the companies that will thrive.
What is absolutely certain though, is that as a world, we are generating masses and masses of raw data, irrespective of the industry or market, and analyzing this data creates a ton of commercial opportunities and this is where applications within the framework of artificial intelligence will come into their own.
I cringe when I hear this term and especially from business consultants, coaches, strategists, and advisors who insist on ramming the message that businesses need to be ready for digital transformation and they have to embrace newer technologies or face being left out in the cold.
There are some well-meaning people out there who genuinely want to help people and businesses grow, but many are simply after fees by creating elaborate technology change programs that are not necessarily needed.
In my opinion, there are two real issues with digital transformation in this context:
Firstly, digitization and being digital is far from new and it began with computers way back in the 1950s, so what are we really transforming?
Secondly, most business operating models are broken strategically, and simply adding layers of new technology will not solve the problems.
Digitization has incrementally worked its way throughout our business and personal lives over the last decades, to the point where we are now enjoying the luxury of being able to effortlessly shop online, as just one example and from having fixed telephony in our homes to mobile devices which are in essence, powerful mobile computers offering multi-media applications on the move.
But as a business coach and mentor and being in business for nearly forty years, I don’t see radical changes in how businesses devise their core strategy or how they operate.
As another example, I am still seeing sales strategies that didn’t work in the 1980s, being brandished about today, with sales managers, directors and CEOs, still relying on outdated and outmoded sales training and development models, while scratching their heads wondering why their sales targets are not being achieved.
What’s even worse is they overlay high-tech customer relationship management (CRM) tools on top of those models in the name of digital transformation and in the pure hope that they will experience revenue growth.
How many times do you have deep and meaningful conversations with your customers?
Do you engage with them at the highest level if you are dealing with corporations, or are you content with simply talking to anyone who will take your call?
As an entrepreneur, businessman, or senior executive, It’s easy to get excited by the latest all singing and dancing marketing software that promises to change the entire dynamics of your business from say, outbound marketing to inbound, by creating endless content, elaborate landing pages, and complicated sales funnels, not to mention the advertising spend and all in the name of efficiency and automation.
But what happens if the rules of the game change?
What happens when advertising rates suddenly surge through the roof or the particular social media platform is no longer around?
Talk to people who have been around Internet marketing since the beginning and they will tell you that the rules of the game can and will definitely change.
Use technology by all means, but make sure you have a real understanding of your customer first and from the perspective of the “human touch.”
Flatten out your organization
Over the years I have seen many corporate cultures and watched companies struggle to understand how to navigate through them and some, even trying to emulate them in their own businesses, just to “align” themselves with their customers.
Corporations are notoriously heavy and cumbersome and take the staffing and recruiting industry as an example.
Over my nearly forty years of working in the sector, I have seen companies drive talent away from them and right into the arms of their competitors because of their internal recruiting procedures and processes.
Business functions such as human resources, procurement, and other ancillary functions that operate with an internal focus and are not customer-facing are the ones trusted to hire people that are supposed to make a difference to those same customers.
I resisted talking to these functions for as long as I possibly could, preferring to deal with the people who were in the front line of customer problem solving — I could then gain a much deeper understanding of the people they required, the timeframes involved, and more importantly, the implications and consequences of not having the right people.
It’s not the fault of the people involved in those functions, because they are just doing what they are told…it’s a strategic fault.
Additionally, many of these functions are armed today with the latest recruitment and purchasing software in an attempt to make the process that is already broken, more streamlined, and efficient!
Now imagine the difference if you took an ax to the hierarchical structure and flattened it out…plus made sure that each function had a deep understanding of the customers that provide their income?
And you could go one step further and eliminate technology until there was a deep understanding of the hiring process from an emotional point of view — let them personally interact with potential hires and from the purchasing perspective, understand the “drivers” behind salary requests.
Technology should be overlayed on efficient strategies, procedures, and processes to make them both faster and more efficient.
Technology is a wonderful thing and for me, it’s hard to look back on my life and contemplate returning to the times before I had a fax machine, let alone a mobile phone, and the ability to contact people outside of their homes and offices.
Real technology change is hovering on the horizon — we know it is there, we have heard all the hype, but we have to implement and use it before we can go crazy about the benefits and that will take a total commitment by people and companies to bring it into effect.
Right now, many companies both existing and start-ups are too focused on technology rather than on their own internal systems and strategies that should drive their efforts…and that is to gain a deep understanding of the dynamics, challenges, and needs of their customers.
This is emotional and not a technology fix — companies need to get closer to their customers.
Try to flatten out your organization no matter what the size — it can be done and with larger organizations, it needs to be driven from the top.
Hierarchial organizations, in my opinion, are prone to drive people away from the dynamics of the customers.
Chasing technology for whatever reason will not fix an underlying issue and it is vital to understand the overall dynamics of your industry, to be able to get a handle on what’s going to happen in the future and the likely impact that it will have on your customers and ultimately, your own business than it is to plunge yourself consistently into the latest technology.
If you have any questions on this article or on implementing technology, streamlining processes, and making sure you are sales and customer-focused, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Last modified: March 17, 2021