The Tail Wagging The Dog

Welcome to our first blog in a series that will talk about the challenges faced by the advances of technology and how it supports business.

I have recently been discussing the question of whether technology is the driver for new business solutions or if the business needs to demand new technical solutions to fix it’s problems.  Participants in the discussion were made up of both business people and technologists and it was interesting to see the inability of both camps to see the others perspective.

The technologists believe their ideas can help a business to succeed with little or no understanding of the business and what it takes to succeed, whilst the business people know what they need to succeed with little understanding of the technical challenges that must be overcome to implement these solutions.  Without taking the time to understand the other’s perspective, the result can be a technical implementation that does not generate any value for the business or a huge time and cost overrun implementing a technical solution that is not the best fit to solve the business challenges in the long run.

A good example of this is the BBC implementation of its Digital Media Initiative in 2008 where the technical challenges were not understood and the business requirements not clearly stated from the onset.  The result of this was an additional £100M cost to the UK license payer for a solution that did not deliver what the BBC needed and which was ultimately completely abandoned in 2013.

Prevention of this type of overrun is easy; get the business in a room with the technicians, make sure the business requirements are fully articulated and the technical solution then designed to meet these requirements.

So why does this not happen?

One reason can be a lack of maturity in an organisation, where the IT department are not seen as partners but simply the people who keep the lights running, or there is a mentality within the IT organisation of upgrading the existing technology ‘because we know what the business needs,’ without looking at value (if any) this will generate.

An effective change management program can help to raise awareness of the issues facing the various teams and help them understand the need for effective communication which is necessary to align both teams and help them to work together in implementing transformation that drives value.

In my next blog I will look at how to make money from a good idea through a structured innovation programme.