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Investing in new technology

The aphorism: “If you’re going to do something, try to have a reason for doing it,” holds for new technologies. The business reasoning for the technology, its fit with goals and vision, and its potential benefits must hold sway, no matter how compelling the tech argument.

However, there is a way that CIOs should approach new tech, no matter what the technology is. They should assess technologies for meaning to their organization. (This is especially true for when executives arrive on the doorstep with the “next new thing that we must have”). For each technology, CIOs should prepare a one-page position paper in which the tech, in respect of its organizational meaning, is outlined. (This helps with the “must have this tech” executives). Every technology is unique for each organization, and this uniqueness is informed by the organization’s vision, mission, and goals. So a position paper would have five to seven bullet-points condensing these factors – for example, customer-centricity, innovation, seamless product/service operations, speed to market, our people, and so on. Then the technology is described in one paragraph. Finally, the CIO would show what the tech does (or does not do) for each of the bullet point factors. If they want, they can score the technology against each factor. So the position paper scoring would look something like this: RPA (Robotic Process Automation) – customer-centricity: 7/10; innovation: 3/10; seamless product/service operations: 9/10; speed to market: 2/10; our people: 6/10. In this way, the CIO can show that he or she has thought about the technology and can discuss it with other executives. Never mind if the scoring is subjective – it gives CIOs the agenda to have the discussion and often educates others in how the CIO views technology.

If the technology has a positive meaning for the company, the CIO should be able to draw the attention of the organization to the tech and the attendant implications. Remember that the attention of executives revolves around business opportunities and not technologies the attention of executives revolves around business opportunities and not technologies. If the CIO believes that the company should use a particular technology, they should list the positive and negative implications to the revenue stream, the organization, customers and existing platforms. This is not a business case; we haven’t got there yet. This is about getting the discussion going, about debating the pros and cons, and about preparing the way for the business case. There is a simple truism for communicating: People must be aware of something before we can inform them. At this stage, we are merely getting the attention of decision-makers by making them aware. If the awareness campaign falls on positive ears, we can move to the business case.

Building a case for the new technology is more than cost, time, ROI, and risk. Such a business case falls into the trap of the: “I don’t know much about IT, but I do know that it costs too much” executives: You’re talking their language and they can beat you at it every time. There are other ways of making a case for a new technology which still brings the cost/ROI discussion to bear, but usually in support of the argument rather than being the argument itself. There are five types of value you can introduce when discussing IT. “Preservation” value which preserves the current business operations – it’s the hardware, software, and networks needed to run the existing business. “Sustainability” value ensures that what you have now will exist in a year – your DR, maintenance, patching, architecture and so on. “Unlock” value is about what you’ve paid for, but aren’t using – functionality, or even whole systems, unused licenses, poorly trained people are all waiting to be unlocked. Value-add involves business improvement – at last ROI comes into play. Finally, there is value creation – building something that no-one else has. Chat to us if you want to know more because this is a vast and rich field for CIOs to mine. Another technique when preparing the business case is to use “paths of action.” What actions will become possible if the new technology is installed? Conversely, what will we not be able to do if we don’t have the tech to do it?

Finally, the CIO should execute on the tech, usually by running a POC (proof of concept), followed by a pilot project, and only if positive, move to full implementation. This incremental approach allows for the tech to be tested, for investment to be gradual, and for learning to flourish, and most importantly, for you to stop if things aren’t working out.

Callouts

If you’re going to do something, try to have a reason for doing it

Every technology is unique for each organization

The attention of executives revolves around business opportunities and not technologies

Cost and ROI should support the argument not be the argument


Author  – Barbi Goldblatt –  Regional Executive

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