10 Signs That Technology Could Be Holding You Back
I’ve had several meetings in the last few weeks with company owners and managers, who are taking a hard look at their technology. In one case, a new owner is looking at their technology and recognizing that very little attention has been paid to updating or improving it. Hardware and software updates are years overdue. The company has found ways to work around the problems created by this old technology, but it is holding them back. In another case, an organization has been forced to look more closely at their business software, because it is frequently breaking down and not performing as it should. They too have created productivity killing workarounds to accommodate the failures of this software. And in truth, the software, even when working correctly, falls short of newer solutions that would automate much that is done manually now.
In thinking about how technology is holding these two organizations and others I meet with back, I find myself asking why we allow this to happen. One reason is simply the pressure of daily business. Most of us are busy just trying to keep up and our focus is on the immediate rather than the big picture of driving efficiency through process change and technology. Another reason is that these things happened slowly. Technology falls short, so we work around it. Then we have another requirement that we need to meet and can’t, so we ignore it or work around it again, and over time technology is more of a roadblock than we recognize.
You might be thinking that you are on the cutting edge of technology, or you might be identifying with the two companies above. There are a few signs you can look for to help you evaluate where you really are.
Here are 10 Warning Signs That Technology Could Be Holding You Back:
1. Your employees see technology as a roadblock. The best measure of how our systems are working is sometimes an innovative member of our team. Many team members are focused on doing their job the way they have always done it for years, but there are usually a few who see the big picture. Sometimes it is the new employee who sees all the rekeying or wants to know why they can’t just email that quote right from the system. We often brush over these things, but if we pay attention, we can get some great insight.
2. Systems don’t talk to each other. Your main line of business (LOB) applications should be able to talk to each other. Not everyone has the same requirements, but your ERP should talk to your ecommerce site or to EDI; your service management system should feed your accounting; your CRM should integrate with your ERP; your ECM and document management should talk to your main LOB application; and, your LOB software should easily integrate and email documents or export information to programs like Excel. Systems talking and sharing information eliminates multiple lookups and often duplication of key entry.
3. You are lacking reporting and analytics. Many outdated systems don’t have the ability to report on important metrics. We have a great example of this at CTaccess. Our older service management system didn’t allow us to track things like time to respond to a service ticket and set thresholds and warnings. When we implemented a new system, we were able to get a very clear view of response times which now allows our team to manage their handling of tickets, so that we meet our response goals consistently and provide much better service. The updated software is what enabled this change.
4. Your workflow is in the dark ages. Systems should no longer be paper driven. Printing documents should no longer be a necessary part of the work process. That paper folder moving to the next work location or desk should not be the only trigger for the next step. If you are still making trips to the file cabinet to look up that last order, you might need to make some changes. Information should be electronic, searchable, and all stages of work should be transparently visible. Reminders and escalations should also be automatic.
5. Meeting the needs of the changing workforce is difficult. The new millennial workforce expects a higher level of automation and the easy click-ability of Amazon. Salespeople on the road want access to the same data as they have in the office. Some workers want to work remote. Meeting these requests is not easy and sometimes not possible with dated technology.
6. Competition is tough and costs are high. If the competition is consistently bidding or winning business at a price that is below where you want to be, sometimes technology is the answer. Manual or slow technology makes everything take longer. Systems that are not transparent, or don’t make communicating status to the client easy could put you at a disadvantage.
7. Sharing information with external parties is a pain. In our connected world, customers and vendors often expect us to share information with them. Older technology often makes this difficult, so we may not be doing it, or we may be manually creating and sending a report. Updating our systems may allow us to keep up or beat the competition by automating this or providing dashboards and reporting.
8. You need that one guy to help with your legacy system. It is always a bad sign when you have to ask for that one guy that still knows your old software and can still help. If you have that old Cobol programmer on speed dial, it might be time to update your technology. And, if nobody under 40 has ever heard of your software, it might just be holding you back.
9. Patching and updating is not possible. This could apply to hardware or software. If your software vendor is no longer updating the version you are on, or there is a major process to go through to get the update loaded, you are likely being held back by your technology. If you are still using tapes; if you are still holding on to Windows XP or Windows 7; if you are unsure if you can recover from a system failure; if you don’t really know who you will call if it breaks, then you are in the danger zone and may just need to update your technology.
10. Flexibility is not in your vocabulary. If that new idea or that new line of business or that new way of kitting things is always a problem, your technology may be holding you back. Sometimes the workarounds, spreadsheets, and manual tracking in place to make an older system work with newer ideas requires a lot of creativity and effort. If these things are happening, it is likely that technology is holding you back.
If any of these signs strike a chord, you probably already know that technology is holding you back. You may need a hardware or software upgrade, or you might need to conduct a search for something entirely new. In some cases, it might just be a change to configuration, or some software to tie it all together. Or, you might need someone to lead the technology charge to get you on stable ground. Whatever the case, it is important to address the old technology that may be hiding to stay viable and growing and keep your business healthy.
At CTaccess we help organizations create efficiency with technology and quiet things to a well-running hum. We would be glad to talk and see how we can help.
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.