A German publisher named Johannes Gutenberg tinkered and toyed until he successfully mechanized his craft. Because of his innovation, the printed word was made available and affordable to the general public for the first time in history. The Gutenberg Press was not only a magical moment in human history, it was also technological.
But technology, the platform that allows us to move mountains and reach the stars, can also be the very same issue that stifles efficiency and stunts business growth. For example, the stigma regarding Northwest Indiana businesses is that we watch what happens in Chicago for a couple years before we act. Truth be told, over the last 15 years, we have seen area businesses blossom with the help of technological innovations. We have also seen good companies as well as great companies that have succumbed to the fear of technology.
The reality is that businesses can get so overwhelmed by the potential of technology that they forget to consider whether the upgrade is necessary. Some companies will dive headfirst into technology with complete disregard for the return on investment. Others will shun technology as if it were the plague, using only the minimum technology required to sustain basic business functions.
The trick to combat this fear is to make certain that every step has a distinct purpose. Each purpose should fill a need that would have otherwise hindered productivity.
The first step in ensuring that an investment in technology will provide desired returns is to conduct a deep, honest self-examination through research. Especially in such economic times where efficiency is essential, every element should be subject to scrutiny.
Exposing all the company's warts can make one feel like a cross between an IRS auditor and a snitch, but this step cannot be given enough attention. The more information gathered, the easier the data will be to analyze.
Every business practice has a procedure, either formal or informal. Documenting these procedures will help visualize your business' day-to-day-processes.
Start broad. Look for the glaring, obvious issues: Did something take two days when it should have taken two hours? Why was sensitive material so easy to access? How can strategic business units better allocate resources? Why does payroll take so long?
Once the obvious issues have been addressed, attention should switch to less glaring concerns.
Not every person within the company is going to like every aspect of the report; that is to be expected. However, if it means your company is going to be healthier and grow because of it, then it is your duty to report the findings.
Nobody knows your business like you do, but there may be someone who might have a better handle on the technological innovations that can help fulfill your business's potential. Successful design and implementation of technological solutions will be contingent upon the synergy between the executive and information technology leaders – whether those technological leaders are in-house or outsourced. If the two do not have fluid communication or they are not proactive, forthright and transparent with each other, the ability to improve the business through technology will suffer.
Technology is more than the value of the toys and tools created during discovery. Technology is a purposeful solution, an idea put in motion that sets the world on its axis and opens up a flood of possibilities. Eventually, one of those technological possibilities will contribute to the revitalization of our national economy. Another of those possibilities might place Northwest Indiana on the cutting edge of business. However, none of those possibilities will ever flourish without strategic commitments to face the fear of technology.
Steve Dalton is director of business development at Golden Technologies in Valparaiso.