Is Technology Enabling or Hindering your Organization’s Success?

Earlier this year, our risk consulting firm and blog celebrated its five-year anniversary…suffice it to say that it’s been a wild but quite fulfilling ride…

When starting out as a solo-consultant and entrepreneur, I didn’t need much in terms of technology tools. Simple spreadsheets, local file storage, a free Zoom account (long before it was a household name), and the like were all I needed at the time.

But as both the business and my team has grown, so too have our needs when it comes to technology. If we continued using the same basic systems and processes I was using in the beginning, we would be unable to deliver the top-quality service our clients receive, nor would we be able to deliver actionable (but at no cost) risk management insights on this blog.

The business would be capped at how far it could grow…

To put it another way, our technology infrastructure would be a hindrance, not an enabler, of our success. My story here could be replicated for any organization, regardless of size, industry, or location.

While both software and hardware technology provide the tools for organizations to pursue business goals and serve more people, it can easily become a hindrance to success. Potential reasons include:

  • Your company has outgrown its current systems, and the systems no longer fit the needs of the business. This can take the form of having to do manual workarounds or employing manual processes.
  • Systems are old and difficult to maintain, update, etc. This issue is especially relevant for homegrown or on-site hosted systems. For example, one client had an audit of its technology, and it was determined it was around 15 years old, which in technology (…and dog) years works out to over 50 people years.
  • The organization has too many systems, leading to redundant information. The abundance of redundant information can hinder effective decision-making because no one will be clear on what they should be referring to as the single source of truth. This can also cause confusion and “churn” among employees, as having too many systems can distract from completing tasks and accomplishing goals.

This list is not exhaustive and doesn’t include any industry-specific reasons.

How to know when technology is becoming a hindrance rather than an enabler of success.

Whatever they consist of, we all expect our technology solutions to provide the tools we need to operate our company day-to-day effectively, while also helping us accomplish long-term goals.

So you know some of the reasons that can cause technology to be an impediment to running the organization and pursuing goals, but how can you know this is becoming an issue in your organization?

In my own consulting firm, we realized we were at this point after spending inordinate amounts of time on seemingly simple tasks, but a few other signs can include:

  • Increased difficulty in obtaining information or insights from ERM software and other technology systems for decision-making.
  • Increased need to establish manual workarounds. Instead of APIs that link disparate systems, data is exported to a generic spreadsheet and manually entered or imported into another system. This can be incredibly risky, especially if the company has grown in any significant way.
  • Systems are unable to detect and block increasingly sophisticated data breaches and other hacks.
  • Technology tools are unable to automate existing processes, forcing workers to divert their attention to tasks that could easily be handled with adequate tech infrastructure.

Extending this to the hardware side of the technology coin for a moment, as your company grows and takes on more challenging clients or projects, so too does its need for file storage space, especially considering increased file sizes for images, databases (can you say Big Data?!), and more. Consider instead using scalable storage offered by a vendor, but only after you have evaluated their security and privacy measures and ensured they are in alignment with your organization’s needs.

Having outdated storage systems and servers, especially on site, can be especially risky to your company’s success. If you must have storage on-site, consider at least replicating data and systems to an off-site location or in a co-location set-up in the event your offices become inaccessible.

Like we mentioned in the previous section, technology systems are like dogs in that they age much quicker than humans. Older computers and systems, especially manual ones, can become strained and difficult to manage as they get older, which also makes it difficult to find technology specialists to maintain the systems and hardware.

How can I position my technology so it can actually help our company accomplish its goals?

It’s hard to say to any degree of specificity since needs will vary depending on your industry, target markets, and more. A manufacturing plant is going to have much different needs than an insurance company.

But as countless authors, entrepreneurs, scientists, and thought leaders eloquently say in one way or another, “you can’t solve a problem until you acknowledge one exists.”

Besides this universal truth, I have learned that it’s best for companies to keep their IT staffs small unless they are a tech-oriented company. Trying to build software systems internally, for example, can be extremely costly both in the development and maintenance phases, which is why buying software from another company is strongly recommended.

Also once risks (potential to occur) or issues (occurring) have been identified, larger companies especially should take a close look at its tech strategy and whether it is focused on supporting the business strategy or maintaining the status quo. We discuss in a previous article how, contrary to popular opinion, technology risk is bigger than just cyberattacks and hacks. As Norman Marks explains in his book Making Business Sense of Technology Risk:

I have learned that it is not enough to have a technical understanding of technology and its risks. Those have to be put in the context of running the business for success.

In my own company, we have developed a tech stack over the last year and a half to better harness collaboration, communication, project management, file management, financial management and more. It has helped our budding team function more effectively and cohesively, which has contributed immensely to our continued success.

By investing in these tools, we are managing one of the biggest sources of risk to our future success.

Does technology at your company play a helpful role or is it more of a hindrance to success?

We’re interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences on this important topic. With increased competition and potential for disruption, companies who neglect technology systems are putting themselves at extreme risk of displacement, so please don’t hesitate to share your perspective by leaving a comment below or joining the conversation on LinkedIn.

Also, if your company is struggling to identify, much less address, potential hinderances to success, I invite you to reach out to me to personally discuss the issues you’re experiencing and how we may go about addressing them.

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Meet Carol Williams, SDS Founder & Lead Strategist

To our readers:

This blog was launched to provide strategy and risk practitioners with a go-to resource to better guide their efforts within their companies. Thank you for bringing me and my team along to be part of your journey towards better risk management, strategic planning and execution, and overall decision-making. Happy reading!

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