Ongoing technological advancement is perhaps the single biggest force shaping the modern business landscape. Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, cryptography, robotics, virtual reality, and countless other fields seem to happen every day, creating new business opportunities and altering consumer behavior in the process.
Given the ever-increasing pace of change, you must constantly scan the horizon for the next big tech trend as a business leader. However, many individuals place undue emphasis on the future without fully understanding how existing digital tools impact their organizations. If you haven’t thought about how your company currently uses tech, you might need to reconsider the adoption process.
How to successfully adopt new technology
In 2011, Marc Andreessen predicted that the leading companies of the future would be those that capitalized on innovative digital tools. This proved to be true—just look at today’s most valuable companies for proof. But the ones that are falling behind aren’t necessarily technology-averse. Rather, they might be investing heavily in digital transformation.
The problem is technology investments that aren’t guided by a thoughtful strategy can create more issues than solutions. With that in mind, here are three tips you can use to ensure new technology investments truly benefit your business:
1. Audit existing workflows and consider what resources your teams need to do their jobs.
Data from a recent McKinsey & Co. survey of global executives suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly accelerated enterprise technology adoption. Since the beginning of the crisis, the share of digital or digitally enabled products in company portfolios has advanced by about seven years. In theory, this means companies are operating faster and more efficiently than before. But in reality, the new technology could be hampering your employees’ productivity.
According to research from Qatalog, a London-based startup, 43% of employees report spending too much time moving between digital tools. Ryan O’Hara, vice president of growth and marketing at LeadIQ, cautions leaders against burdening their teams with more software.
“When companies start to look at each new tool against the backdrop of all the other technologies employees must learn and use, they begin to realize that they’re breaking a cardinal rule of technology design: Don’t add too many steps for the end user,” says O’Hara. “It’s a lesson numerous startup founders have learned the hard way.”
As you evaluate existing workflows, map out every single step and look for bottlenecks. You might find that these can be addressed through a process of subtraction—either by ditching unused tools or consolidating fragmented workflows onto one platform.
2. Talk to and get feedback from employees.
Tim Scott, head of product strategy and design at Frogslayer, says that getting feedback from employees who are essential to operations is the key to successful digital transformation efforts. Not only will your employees know exactly which tools are creating unnecessary friction, but they might also have ideas about how to replace problematic technologies.
“They might have already built or obtained tools that allow them to be more productive at work (such as spreadsheets, third-party applications, etc.),” says Scott. “These tools can tell leaders what stakeholders really need and help them generate ideas for building technologies that unlock even greater productivity.”
Too often, leaders invest in new technologies without first consulting the employees who will use them. Then, they spend the next several months trying to force the tool into existing workflows while lamenting the lack of proactive adoption. To avoid this scenario, you should communicate openly with employees before and after technology investments. Your goal should be to figure out and articulate why new tools are improvements over existing processes.
3. Be wary of data privacy regulations.
Regulations in Europe and California have created new frameworks for prosecuting companies that misuse consumer data, but there’s still no universal privacy legislation. This means you must monitor several organizations and municipalities to ensure you’re compliant with new mandates.
The easiest way to avoid issues is by making data privacy a core company value and business objective. By implementing policies that promote privacy by design, you can begin cultivating a culture of compliance. You can also choose to avoid collecting data altogether. Asokan Ashok, founder and CEO of UnfoldLabs Inc., advises leaders to carefully consider why they need to acquire data.
“There are so many companies capturing all kinds of data without knowing if they really need it or will use it,” says Ashok. “I would recommend not going after big data. Rather, go after smart data—data that is really needed for the organization.” By limiting the amount of information your company collects from its customers, you can limit your exposure to regulatory risk as well.
Too much technology can be a bad thing. If your digital transformation efforts don’t have a purpose, you might end up complicating processes and hampering employees’ productivity. But by following these three steps, you can ensure you’re investing in and implementing the technology that will net you success.