Recently, I attended a collaborate event that brought leading retail industry executives (representing mostly IT with a sprinkling of operations and marketing) together with a myriad of technology and application-system providers. The industry executives were all looking for new and cutting edge technology that could help drive innovation and efficiency in their business. The providers were mostly looking to “make a sale” (although in my opinion, the opportunity to “listen” to the needs of the business should have been their primary focus).
Over the three-day event, I asked a number of companies the following question. “Who decides what tech investments to pursue within your company?” The answer to this question seemed to depend on whom you asked, and it’s also worth noting that it varied significantly from one company to the next. Here are just a few of the responses I received:
“IT makes the call. We ask the business what they want, but they don’t really know so we go and find what’s available and tell them this is what they get.”
“The technology providers do because they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for building the solutions. But nothing ever works out-of-the-box so that’s why we have to customize.”
“Operations always makes the call in the end. IT thinks they do but when they bring us something we don’t like, we just tell them it won’t work and then let it die in their hands.”
“Not sure. We really don’t have a clear process for deciding and it seems to change all the time.”
Surprising to you? Probably not. But what was surprising to me was that not one of these leading retailers, or their partner-providers mentioned anything about consumers. So while I am quick to admit that there are many successful models for deciding what the business technology needs are, here is a simple four-step suggestion for the next time your company is seeking a task management software, or other technology solutions:
- Work together (IT, Operations, Marketing) and start with the customer expectations in mind.
- Define the business need or problem as best you can
- Be less concerned about who holds the steering wheel and more concerned about what’s under the hood. In other words, when it comes to technology, make sure it will get you down the road as opposed to being able to steer it all over the road.
- Be careful about adding additional functionality that doesn’t get used. This adds complexity and cost that will slow down deployment and adoption and ultimately becomes a cost that consumers aren’t willing to bear.