Changing Technology Can Be Scary

Created by Joe Nemastil on 2016-02-29

Changing technology can be daunting for small business owners.  Take the case of the business owner who’s eyeing all of the ‘improved benefits’ of the latest and greatest information technology – it was cloud computing they were considering.  They had that sense of euphoric excitement thinking about how wonderful life would be for them and their employees when the new systems were in use.

But during the installation, the first signs of trouble appeared.

It began innocently enough, with only a hint of the impact that it actually portended.  Then other problems arose - network bandwidth wasn’t high enough, there weren’t enough access points available, some code had to be rewritten for another piece of software connecting to the new system, and the backup server was too small to manage the new solution.  In the end, the installation had to be delayed in order to perform fixes, not on the new solution, but on technology that was impacted by the change.  To make matters worse, the business process was negatively affected because portions of existing technology tools had been disabled already to make way for the new.

And it got worse.  The vendors who were supposed to be working together started pointing fingers of blame at one another and making accusations of not having the foresight to avoid what was impacting the customer.  Management’s ability to drive the business was negatively affected due to having to provide project oversight.  In the end, the change got accomplished, but it took a lot longer than anyone had anticipated and it was painful for those involved, namely the business owner, their employees, and their customers.

Even though their business could significantly benefit from a technology upgrade, in my experience, business owners who have lived through the scenario I’ve just described are much more likely to avoid making changes.  It’s simple human nature.  If I’ve been burned before, I’ll avoid it again at all costs.  However meanwhile, customers, employees, and business owners suffer with less-than-optimal technology tools.  This ultimately affects employee retention, and the business’s ability to attract and retain revenue and maximize profitability.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Here’s an overview of how to avoid problems if you’re considering a change to your technology infrastructure:

  1. Consider technology changes in the context of the overall business strategy.  For example, if cloud technology is being considered, how will that impact the business’ ability to attract customers if they knew their data would be housed in a public vs. private cloud infrastructure?
  2. Study and understand the anticipated technology change based on the financial and emotional impact it’ll have with stakeholders.  If the people that will be impacted by the change are made part of this process, a clear connection can be established relative to expected benefits.  These same people also establish an emotional investment in the overall success of the project, which helps expedite the pace of the project.  And financial justification, and opportunities to improve workflow become apparent.
  3. To get a complete picture of the project time line, cost, and return on investment, study and understand all related technology in the context of making the change.  There can be some financial outlay here, but it can be mitigated by engaging appropriate technical oversight and by leveraging vendor resources, and it’s a critical step to avoid surprises and even bigger expenses later.
  4. Acquire independent perspective in assembling available technology solutions.  Sales people are usually not the most appropriate resource to describe the ramifications their solutions may have with other technology.  They’re not bad people, but they’re motivated to make the sale, which can conflict with the customer’s longer term goals.

Of course, these steps require an investment in planning and program management.  In my experience, this can be affordably-managed, often with less than one FTE headcount.  This resource can also be engaged and disengaged to coincide with the duration of a project.  As an independent cloud consultant, I perform this role of ‘part time CIO’ for my clients and they say, “The payoff is significant”.

Business owners can stay focused on leading their company.  They benefit from understanding exactly how any anticipated change will affect their employees, their customers, and themselves.  Their ability to plan and control the business benefits from the knowledge of the anticipated financial and emotional impacts of changing technology.  And finally, the business owner, their employees, and their customers benefit from being able to leverage available technology tools to their fullest. 

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