Seven Strategies for Driving Technological Advances
December 14 2011 by Paul A. Larkins
More companies these days, whether they develop, manufacture, manage or sell, correctly view technology as the connective tissue that keeps all parts of the business working together in a unified system so it can not only survive, but also thrive.
Some leaders however, still consider the IT department a separate “island” visited only for isolated business functions or speeding up processes. Such consideration, however, is antiquated and puts a company at risk for falling behind the competition. Why? This way of thinking about IT departments and investments does not capture the powerful competitive advantages that come from factoring technology into almost every business decision.
At SquareTwo Financial, the shift toward total IT integration took time, analysis, investment and measurement of outcomes to ensure effectiveness. Today, technology is woven into the very fabric of our corporate culture. It fuels our data analysis capabilities, allows our employees to solve problems and share best practices, and drives our growth in the $100 billion asset recovery and management industry.
In 2011, we made a critical technology decision. Before reaching it, we had identified two options, each with very different future prospects: Seek a less-expensive, in-house solution to improve the core system that runs our business, or, invest meaningful capital in a new technology platform that had yet to be deployed by its vendor in the commercial marketplace. This latter option offered what appeared to be significant value, but it had yet to be battle-tested. We took the bolder road and became the first production customer in the world for Oracle’s Exalogic Elastic Cloud and Exadata Database Machine. And it turns out we made the right, calculated call.
Since our rapid (134-day) implementation, our new platform has generated meaningful performance gains involving user response times, and critical data table builds, all while we dramatically increased (as in doubled) the number of users who accessed the system. Said another way, our aggressive approach is paying off, and we are encouraged that we placed our capital against this opportunity.
Regardless of any company’s focus, a relentless commitment to technology is vital in today’s business climate. Leaders can and should make technological innovation a driver of business decisions within their organizations through these seven strategies.
Be a student of technology best practices in your industry.
CEOs should strive to understand their industry’s best technological practices so they can combine their knowledge with that of their CIO for greater impact and decision-making.
Connect weekly with your CIO.
Some CEOs are reluctant to delve too deeply into the day-to-day details of their CIO’s world. A constant dialogue with your CIO or chief technologist, however, ensures you are always viewing business decisions through the technology lens.
Encourage constant learning in the IT department.
The shelf life of any technology tool is short, and what works today may be obsolete tomorrow. That’s why it’s important to make constant learning a focus of your IT department. This means providing the structure and resources necessary for ongoing training and staff development.
Communicate and share best practices through technology.
No matter how large or small, a company-wide intranet is one of the most powerful communications tools available in this constantly connected world. Think of the power of Facebook in the public arena and strive to harness similar technology in house so your employees and partners can retain institutional knowledge and best practices.
Think benefits, not features.
A technologist loves to talk about features, but a CEO is more interested in benefits. Constantly frame your technology decisions in terms of benefits, and you will make wiser choices.
Prepare to invest.
Technology is a fast-burning fuel. It’s important to be realistic about how much investment is required to drive beneficial technological advancement within your business.
Establish meaningful metrics for your CIO and yourself.
This is one strategy that can get sidestepped because it takes time, effort, and analysis on an ongoing basis. It might be easier to simply implement a new technology platform or software system and wait for signs that it’s working. It’s much more effective, however, to measure the technology in a meaningful way and hold your team accountable to the results.