Who should change?
Today, most organisations are experiencing fast moving technological development and though we have been adapting to technology for a long time, the rate at which organizations need to adapt to survive is increasing. You probably know it as digitalization, disruption or transformative development.
The technological context and its fast moving development comes with risk. On one hand there are new opportunities. Renewing services by utilizing improved technological functionality may open up new markets or lay the ground for different interaction with customers. New technology also gives way to managing the work place and day to day administration differently. Transitioning from old IT-systems to new ones usually offers a great deal of new functionality. New organization of the work and new functionallity may increase innovation, promting new ideas on how to work and what to offer customers. Great!
On the other hand, new technology offers challenges. Some, such as learning how to use new IT-tools, are on a personal level. Understanding and acknowledging the security needs is another that must be taken very seriously. An other interesting challenge is deciding if the new technology should be used to maintain old work processes and responsibilities or if establishing new work routines based on how the new technology works is better.
Implementation of new technology will always introduce the question of wether the technology should be adapted to the usual way of work, or if the existing routines should be adapted to fit the requirements of the technology. There are risks both ways and the choice is going to be a tough one.
Let's look at a an example with a common application like Microsoft Word. How many companies have used time and money on custom made versions of Microsoft Word, specifically adapted to their business needs? None. How many has adapted their routines to fit into a world where Microsoft «dictates» how one should develop documents? Most. Yet, many companies have developed their own templates and forms in Microsoft Word to make it easier for their employees to develop documents and content in a uniform way. Hence companies make the best out of the functionality in a universal software that they depend on.
But what about when your purchase a new information management system like a CMS (content management system) or a CRM (customer relations management system)? It may offer you a whole line of new functionality and require many new routines. In any system t
here are some attributes you just have to adapt to, unless you invest in a fully customized system. For most systems there are also some functionalities it may be wise for an organization to adapt to.
However, implementing new work processes is alway challenging, it always introduces a degree of uncertainty, and most of the time the change may be painful to at least parts of the organisation. For a risk averse organization it may be tempting to go for the easiest option which is to keep on with business as usual. Avoiding the most immediate risk may however introduce the risk of renouncing the long term benefits of change and adaption.
Each organization must decide for themselves if adapting the new technology to their needs or if adapting their organization to the technological possibilities is best for them. There are no definitive answers. Either way, there’s will be a need for investment of financial or organisational resources. In my organization we use this simple guideline whenever we come across these questions: Technology should be adapted to the organisation and, at the same time, the organisation should adapt to the technological reality. For us, ability to change is an essential part of continuous improvement.