Business technology implementations are no longer an IT matter

Peter Strohkorb says companies should focus on people first, before the latest technology, to see the best return on tech investments.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

peter strohkorb 180This famous line was reportedly first uttered in the 19th century by store merchant and Postmaster General John Vansant Wanamaker (1838 – 1922). He must have been onto something because here we are, more than 150 years later, still quoting him. Except that we are no longer just saying this about advertising. No, the saying has extended to business technology, marketing and social media.

There are those that would argue that modern technology, the internet and cloud computing have made everything more transparent and measurable. But I would argue otherwise, and here is just one reason why: over 85% of organisations in an Accenture and CSO ‘Insights’ 2012 report did not increase revenue on the back of technology deployments, and over 90% did not reduce the time it takes to make a sale.

These statistics are featured in my book The OneTEAM Method because I believe they are very significant.

They clearly highlight why technology alone does not make a significant business difference, despite the ubiquitous hype of the IT vendors to the contrary, and the often huge investments made.

Related: Rob Morrison says we should ask ‘why?’ Before allowing ourselves to be tempted and seduced by new technology »

Hang on a minute, what about all these detailed business cases that we painstakingly prepare to help us decide whether to invest in a certain technology or not? Surely they can’t all be wrong?

Well, yes, they can be, and they often are. If your projected user uptake or participation rates and your data quality assumptions are unrealistic, then your entire business case is most certainly wrong.

It’s not your fault, you’re only human. It’s human nature to prefer something tangible, such as technology. We can touch it, feel it, see it, which makes us feel safe and comfortable with our decision.

If we don’t include our people before making the investment, however, then who is going to guarantee that the utilisation rate that is quoted in your business case will actually eventuate? As I pointed out in my LinkedIn Pulse post ‘Change or Die’, old habits can be hard to break, and resistance to change is human nature.

So, as hard as it may be for humans to do, we also need to invest in less tangible initiatives that help our people to understand why they need to collaborate (if necessary), and then guide them to understand how they best do so. This is the only way to ensure that your CRM and Martech investments will live up to their business case.

I speak to a lot of IT vendors who say the first item in their implementation project quotes that clients reject is change management.

‘Take that out, we’ll do that ourselves’ is the often heard mantra.

Oh really?

You have people sitting idle on the bench, ready to take on a new project?

You have the specialist expertise in-house to pull this off successfully ?

If all your people are already fully utilised, what will you stop doing in order to start your new CRM or Martech implementation?

‘We’ll hand it over to IT, they will manage it for us. It’s a technology project, after all’

Oh really?

So, you will give this critical business improvement initiative to the very people who are not goaled on the realisation of the huge business benefits, as promised in your business case, and who are more often perceived as a cost centre and therefore goaled solely on ‘install the technology on-time and on-budget’?

What do you think will happen? Have another look at the Accenture figures above. That’s what will happen.

The mindset of your people is a critical factor that can mean the difference between glowing success and dismal failure. Business technology implementations are not an IT matter any longer. The cloud has made sure of that. It is now the people who use the technology that matter the most.

So, unless you get your people ready for the new technology and the changes that come with it before you start your CRM or martech implementation, you are most likely to have your project end up among the 85% of organisations whose revenue did not increase after a significant technology investment.

As counterintuitive and intangible as it may seem, you need to start with your people. First, get them to agree that the change is desirable, then let them agree on how they want to work together in the future before you embark on an IT implementation project.

In other words, leave your technology and its deployment to last in the process if you want your technology investment to yield the positive outcomes that your business case promises.


Peter Strohkorb is an international sales and marketing collaboration and alignment consultant, a published author, an international speaker and an executive mentor, as well as an Executive MBA guest lecturer on sales and marketing collaboration and alignment.


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