Upcycle your technology: People and Process, the often overlooked opportunity
Nick Francis Managing Director, Consulting

Preface

I recently met with a new prospective partner, an advisory startup that was founded in 2017 and have had some great early successes.

Organisations still doing tech first

We followed the globally accepted first-meeting mantra of giving introductions, sharing backgrounds and how each brand goes to market in terms of product offerings and outcomes. It was during one of these initial parts of the meeting that a recurring issue was highlighted: while many organisations focus on buying new tech, they often have very little predefined strategy or current state assessment around product outcomes and internal process fit, before making the leap to buy it. Despite this, they are often all too confident that their new tech investments will solve all their problems.

 

Technology is awesome, but so is a nice new car – should you buy it?

Being a technologist, I do appreciate the appeal of new must-have shiny tech – an event that presents itself more and more regularly in the wake of a software-driven revolution and the advent of the gig economy. I have learned, however, that to go straight down the buy route with very little external validation is madness. Kudos, all the same, to some of the super impressive sales teams that do a great job at making a product pitch sing!

 

Careful consideration

So, before you decide to pick up the latest enterprise-ready tech straight out the gate or after learning of a great product through a pitch, there should be a few things you consider doing at a minimum before buying. This doesn’t have to take a huge amount of time: we conduct these kinds of assessments over a few days, so don’t, by any means, think this takes months of work.

 

Actions to consider

One course of action might be to investigate whether you can optimise what you have already got. Take a step back and look at your current technology landscape objectively.  Ask yourself if you are getting the maximum value out of the products that you have already purchased, deployed and/or subscribe to. If the answer is no, you’ve to then ask yourself why. This can be for a number of reasons: either you’re not using all the functionality that you’re paying for or perhaps you are, but you are only making use of it in small pockets and therefore have a coverage issue — or perhaps it’s a combination of the two.

What if you’ve reviewed the existing tools and solutions your organisation has already invested in and see that there’s little opportunity to maximise? Have you also assessed the processes currently in use with your choice of process improvement approaches (e.g., Lean, Six Sigma, ITIL CSM or DevOps style)? What outcomes do your processes drive towards?  Are they completed in the most efficient way possible? If there is any part of the process that doesn’t contribute to the outcome in some shape or form, stop doing it. If the tools that you previously reviewed aren’t in sync with the process and desired outcomes, then one of them will need to change.

Talk to your people.  Hold a few informal sessions about the current tooling, the process and what impressed you about the new technology. Obtain some clear feedback requirements, thoughts and opinions from the people that work the process, benefit from the process and are accountable for the process in question.

 

Everybody loves positive outcomes

At a much higher level and from a utopian point of view, the technology should be related to the process and strengthen it. The process should also relate back to the services and/or functions provided. The function should relate closely to the skill set and role of the person(s) operating it. The more tightly coupled, harmonious and optimised you can get all the above, the better the individuals, teams, departments and ultimately the company will perform.

 

Checklist:

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In summary, here are four things you can do;

  1. Review the current applications landscape and architecture to identify the functional gaps.
  2. Optimise the process. Is it best-practice aligned? Compare this to the existing and future-state solution. Can you use the new solution to replace an old one or will it be an additional product?
  3. Assess how the people are arranged around the tool.
  4. Use this process to increase your understanding and capture requirements.

I am confident that, were you to do any of these things just through an increased understanding and through feedback, you would find a number of opportunities where you can improve the current situation and performance even if you decide not to go ahead with that nice new shiny software.

*Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value. Upcycling is the opposite of downcycling, which is the other face of the recycling process.

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What’s next?

Data, Insight, Action or the lack of.

It is important to have new ideas and solutions across the business, but this is hard if you are too busy managing the current process to make the improvements that you will ultimately benefit from.

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