High Tech, High Touch: Keeping the Heart in Technology

Your technology chief's role is to explore new technology to keep the company competitive, but he or she should never lose sight of the fact that at the heart of all technology solutions is—or should be—the human touch.

Technology leaders have the unique opportunity and responsibility to ensure that our teams—whether regional or globally based—conduct work with the maximum efficiency, using software and hardware solutions to deliver the best products and services to our clients and customers. Our mission as technology experts is to review existing systems, analyze new solutions and remove barriers to performance always with an eye on maximizing budget and minimizing disruption. We are the technology gatekeepers of our businesses, but we also have the responsibility to understand that at the heart of all our technology solutions is the human touch.

We never lose sight of the fact that our most important assets are the people in our ecosystem. Our colleagues, customers and vendor partners are all integral to our success. In an age where speed is paramount to improve performance and we have new solutions to integrate on a regular basis, we must keep at the core of whatever we do the understanding that technology enhances our work, but it can never and should never replace our ability to genuinely connect to one another.

Good technology can foster and help our teams by building human connections.

Bridge Rather Than Barrier

We can always implement technology solutions to power our workforces, remove friction and improve performance, but if a culture is not built on collaboration, then the technology can often serve as a barrier to building bridges within an organization. At the heart of every company, we want to instill a culture where collaboration is seen not only useful, but critical. Whether our colleagues are global, spread across a country or down the hall, we need to share ideas and encourage voices from different perspectives to be heard. Before implementing a new technology solution, CIOs should truly take the time to understand what the team needs and wants. They should consider crowd-sourcing different solutions among teams to garner internal buy-in and ensure that the technology truly fits the need.

Seeing is Understanding

I am excited to work in a company that is dedicated to making people healthier and happier through nutrition and has a global work force reflecting our customer base. I encourage everyone to put down their phones and whenever possible, walk down the hall to speak with a colleague. While conference calls are great – I encourage our teams to make video conferencing integral to all communication. With video technology, we not only hear a person’s voice, we can discern so many non-verbal cues. Do the people I am speaking with understand what I am saying? Did I just experience someone’s discomfort with a presentation? Is someone trying to contribute ideas but keeps getting interrupted? Seeing our colleagues provides so much more insight, a richer conversation and an opportunity to build deeper relationships.

Leading by Example

Having served in a global CIO role for many years, I find it important that executives truly understand what it’s like living in another country and culture, and how culture impacts technology decision and usage. I have taken teams to China, for example, and given them their cell phones to get around a city, purchase groceries and rent a bike, while communicating via WeChat. Through these experiences, these leaders begin to truly understand what it is like for colleagues and customers in their country to complete daily tasks. They learn firsthand the technology sophistication and norms of some countries, and the incredible challenges others face.

Nothing can take the place of having key internal stakeholders experience for themselves what the challenges and opportunities our global teams face without walking in their shoes.

Recharging People

Technology chiefs spend a lot of time thinking about powering our technology tools. From our servers to our laptops to our devices, energy is key to our efficiency. Just like our digital equipment, people need to take a moment to recharge as well. That means stepping away from devices to sit with a colleague and have coffee. Teams recharge in many ways and taking time out to think, walk, relax—not just search and post—provides opportunities to refuel, recharging creative thinking.

As leaders, we have an enormous responsibility to enhance our existing technology tools with innovative solutions. Every day there seems to be an amazing new opportunity to introduce our organizations to technologies that enhance performance and streamline job functions. While the CIO/CTO’s role is focused on continuously evolving their companies, they also need to be careful not to follow every “shiny object” at the risk of losing the human touch of connecting to people. Make sure they’re putting down their phones and tablets, venturing across the hall to chat with a colleague, making calls (or when possible video chats) and taking time to recharge not only their devices, but themselves as well.

High-touch, high tech—with the importance of the human touch—is limitless.