Is Technology The Answer?

Have you ever had a manager say, “Research the best program that will fix X,Y & Z.” and you want to say, “We just need to fix you/us first!”? 

When processes are broken, we want to immediately automate. When people are not doing what’s expected, we think technology is the magic solution. When we can’t get organized, we run to the app store on our tablets or the vendor with the flashiest presentation. At the end of the day, we must understand that you cannot automate inefficiency (you can tweet that if you’d like).

Now I love automation, but I’m aware enough of my own inefficiencies to know that an app or a new form won’t automatically make me productive. Software does not excuse or cover up my weaknesses. Using technology to mask or cover up laziness, poor management and cowardice to champion change will not work. If there is a process that is fundamentally flawed and we input that jacked up info or process into a new shiny system, we will simply go from a mess to an automated mess. 

Automation can assist in getting us on track or to make things quicker, but a solid foundation has to be laid first:

  • Departments must be on the same page about what they are trying to accomplish
  • Groups must clearly define what they want “success” to look like
  • Expectations and standards must be clearly established and communicated to employees

Let me offer an example of how my organization got it right. As a government entity, every personnel action requires multiple levels of approval from various offices. The old process entailed physically signing off on documents, mailing it around to the different offices until it got to HR for final approval and processing. This process generally worked, but it was slow, papers would get lost under piles on desks and it was difficult to hold people accountable for doing their part. 

First knowing exactly what needed to be done, we found a company that could automate this process, allowing actions to be approved electronically, move through a database to the next decision maker, complete with email notification of what needed to be done and when. With this system, we were able to see exactly where each action was at all times and who to call if their was a bottleneck in the process. Ultimately, actions that use to take months to complete could be done in a matter of hours or a few days.

When companies first identify exactly what they are trying to accomplish and learn how to effectively manage it, thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to force broken processes into new shiny computer programs can be saved. 

circuitboardTechnology should be used to enhance processes and systems that already have a workable foundation, or at the very least a team of people that are dedicated to getting it right…not just trying to make it paperless. Technology should not be a bandage for a broken leg. We have to put a splint on that leg, develop processes to keep it from breaking again and then enhance it with technology that makes sense for what we specifically do or need done. 

So before we run out and spends thousands of dollars on new toys and the latest and greatest from a conference (be careful my #SHRM14 peeps), lets invest in the basics first; clear communication, creativity when tackling issues and holding the right people accountable…because if we can’t do that before the tech, we’re probably not going to successfully do it after the tech.

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