Having attended numerous Leadership Conferences over the last few years there has been a recurring theme in audience survey questions: “What are your biggest spending priorities right now?” Consistently the top scoring answers relate to cracking the technology conundrum, using smarter technology to accelerate business, and the role that AI and Machine Learning will have in business transformation. When pushing the pain point slightly harder, the answer belies a dissatisfaction with technology spend, a lack of a technological panacea, or golden bullet to transform their business. Yet there is no end to the technology choices that organisations have at their disposal today, so why the dissatisfaction?
Having been on both sides of the fence – client side and vendor – here are some observations and indeed areas for organisations to consider when investing in technology:
- What business problem is driving the technology investment?
It seems obvious, but without complete clarity on the reasons for investing in a piece of technology, it’s highly unlikely that the software will deliver the desired return on investment. Articulating clearly ‘what problem must the solution solve?’ alongside specific metrics to determine success and in a language that the business understands and recognises, is essential. A hypothetical example: the business driver for investing in a case management system could be that the firm wants to onboard 30% more cases a month, but is constrained by a tedious and time consuming manual process, which is causing a backlog of at least 70 new matters and impacting the bottom line by 25%.
Merely purchasing a case management system because the technology will make the firm more efficient doesn’t make the organisation efficient. Neither are a vendor’s (generic) metrics of success (efficiency, productivity, etc.) relevant if they aren’t the factors that the organisation measures itself or the project by.
- Is the firm investing in the right product?
It’s important to invest in products that can solve the specific business problem. Referring to the hypothetical example mentioned above – a firm might want a case management system because it wants to be more efficient. Fair enough! But without knowing the current reasons for inefficiency in the business and specifically how much more efficient it wants to be, there’s a risk that the firm might make the wrong investment decision. Typically, a firm will review all the case management systems on the market – and on the basis that potentially ‘all’ such solutions can deliver efficiency – pick a solution that looks the prettiest, is at a price point that appears reasonable and is easy to deploy.
In all probability, the technology won’t hit the mark – not because the product isn’t good, but because it may not deliver efficiency in the areas that the firm initially set out to improve. If the firm’s inefficiency lies in its inability to search for and manage documents based on case type, the measure of success will be efficiency in searchability and retrieval – not say efficient onboarding of new cases.
Hence understanding the business problem and attributing a tangible metric against that issue, will enable organisations to identify the right products and test them for success before making the investment.
- What’s the firm’s commitment – not just in terms of money?
Commitment – not just in terms of money, but also engagement and resources – is essential to ensuring a successful technology project. Far too often, once the decision to purchase a technology is made, the project turns into an ‘IT’ programme rather than remaining a ‘business’ initiative.
To illustrate, if the deployment of a compliance solution requires the implementation team to have access to the Head of Compliance at the design stage to understand processes and requirements initially, but thereafter during the testing phase to confirm suitability – then any less access puts the project at risk.
- What’s the quality of partnership with the technology vendor?
Many factors need to be taken into account when evaluating the quality of partnership with the vendor – the experience of the personnel involved, of course, but also their long-term involvement in the project, level of continued advisory support well after the implementation, strength of personal relationships with the organisation’s stakeholders, team, and so on.
When selecting a technology, the longevity of personnel at the vendor organisation is a good indicator of the kind of relationship the organisation will potentially be able to forge with the supplier. Vendor organisations with stable staff are more likely to be inclined to long-term, trusted partner relationships compared to solution providers with high staff turnover. Such organisations are also better placed to share best practice from other projects, based on their years of implementation experience.
There’s no doubt that organisations are spoilt for choice when it comes to technology. To ensure successful adoption and long-term returns, technology investment must be rooted in business requirements – not short term, vanity-led futuristic purchases that don’t solve the business problem.