The widespread availability of tech platforms for every conceivable problem has caused businesses to believe that technology is the answer to their woes. In fact, it might be the problem.
No one can deny the SaaS revolution has been astonishing for businesses and the bottom line. Wrangling with outdated systems and tech stacks has saved millions of dollars and made businesses more efficient.
But this has also caused a significant problem: more companies now believe tech is the first place they should go whenever they see a problem. After all, there’s a niche SaaS product for every conceivable need now.
What tends to happen in organisations - particularly those that are burdened by rigorous process or management - is that teams identify a problem. They negotiate with management to try and address that problem, but inevitably run into some roadblocks along the way. Usually, that roadblock is a process that’s been in place “forever”, or is dependent on other processes.
So, they investigate a workaround. Maybe it’s a piece of technology that can help that workflow move faster, or help different departments work together. It gets approved. In . the short-term, the problem appears to be solved, all the stakeholders are happy, and the immediate gains are recognisable.
The problem is that the core issue hasn’t been fixed. Instead, technology just allows people to continue working in the same they’ve always done. The optimal solution is still locked behind that initial roadblock the team couldn’t surpass.
The same problem goes for automation. For so many businesses, artificial intelligence and machine learning is seen as the be-all and end-all. Especially for technology enthusiasts and CTOs, the draw to a technology that can result in serious productivity gains should be a slam-dunk.
Unfortunately, RPA has the same problem with the first scenario I just described. Although the short term productivity gains are easily recognisable and even measurable, they still hide behind the same broken process.
You’re doing things more efficiently, yes. But it’s still a broken process. (Besides, many RPA projects don’t even end up outside of the planning process, anyway.)
A common problem between these two scenarios is that these issues have only been diagnosed at the team level. There is no birds-eye view to dictate what technology solutions work, for whom, how they’re implemented on a broader scale, and if that technology is actually duplicating an existing system somewhere within the business.
Technology is just the easy fix… that can trigger poor outcomes later when technology leads have to manage a hodge-podge of solutions that work for individual team problems - not the business as a whole.
Instead, businesses need to use technology as a last resort. The end solution, only after a business-wide mapping process has taken place. For instance, we know of one major business that suffered severe issues with customer payments due to some incorrect invoicing issues. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong, as all the processes seemed to work correctly.
Many companies would simply find a new invoicing solution. Instead, the business conducted a processing mapping procedure across its transactional systems - and found that robotic processes were putting incorrect discount codes into its system. Solving the problem saved millions.
It’s harder, yes. It takes longer, yes. But actually putting effort into documenting processes will save you time - and most likely, money - over the long term.
Andrew White is A/NZ country manager at business transformation solutions provider, Signavio.
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