Technology was supposed to make our lives easier, not more stressful and complicated. Surprise. It hasn’t lived up to that promise, but it’s delivered on many others. Still, in business, for many leaders and teams, technology is a source of frustration. More leaders are wondering, is it possible to outsmart technology?
The short answer to that question is no. However, the longer answer is yes. In reality, leaders and teams want technology, and it's not going away. However, they want to eliminate the overwhelm, and team and leadership fails. Also, at a time of remote, hybrid, and in-office teams with mobile devices, project management platforms, communications apps, voice assistants, and countless other tech, it’s easy to feel like we’re drowning in technology rather than using it.
Instead of allowing technology to control you, it’s time to take control of it.
Be in the Know, and Know What’s Worth Knowing
To outsmart technology, you first need to know what you're dealing with and what’s worth knowing. We live in a world of data. Meaning it's not about collecting more data. Everyone's got all the data they need at the tips of their fingers. But for business leaders, the ones who have a competitive advantage are those who understand it's about knowledge. Or, as I like to say, it's about wisdom.
The reality is your team might want many new shiny toys. But just because they exist doesn't mean they're suitable for your business. So, the first step is to do a high-level review of the various technologies you currently use. As a leader, once you know how all the different technologies fit, you're better positioned to make informed decisions about which ones to keep and what to dump.
Shift the Conversation from Lagging Indicators to Leading Indicators
One of the most challenging aspects of managing staff-intensive efforts is recognizing and understanding the indicators of problems before they arise. Without the right tools and technologies, you must rely on lagging indicators such as employee surveys, focus groups, and observation. These techniques can be helpful, but they’re not very reliable. Why? Because the right technology makes tracking leading indicators much easier.
For instance, leaders need to consider operational effectiveness. As the world’s top companies know, it’s about measuring and tracking things in real time. What's the average time it takes for an employee to respond to a customer service ticket? How long does it take for an order to go from creation to delivery? What’s the average time it takes for an engineer to resolve a problem? What’s the average time it takes for a supplier to deliver a product?
Whatever your business, you must shift from lagging to leading indicators. In other words, you need technology platforms that show you what's happening in real time. Moreover, you also need predictive technology. It's one of the reasons I'm such a proponent of revenue operations (RevOps). At the moment, RevOps is the best way to ensure real-time and predictive knowledge using solid technology.
Get Back into the Frontlines, So You Understand the Processes of Everything
I'm going to share a dirty little secret about business. Often, the distance between c-suite executives and the market is significant. In short, if you and your leadership team have worked together for about 10 years, which is the average for many companies, you're no longer in tune with the market. Still, to outsmart technology, as a leader, you need first-hand knowledge and not simply a blind reliance on tech.
Moreover, the information you're getting will likely come in dashboards. While that's fine, the central question is, who's designing those dashboards for you? The reality is that business leaders have to exit the executive offices. They have to become part of real-life scenarios. Further, they should talk with customers again and know what they need. And they also need to sit next to their most junior people and understand how they do they work, but more importantly, why.
'Why' is probably the most important question you could ask as a leader. Why is something done the way it's done? And why are certain things happening the way they are for your company? Technology can help with automating and streamlining specific processes. We know that. But it can never replace the value of leaders understanding the reasons for operational processes.
Don’t Be Afraid to Dump Technology You Don’t Leverage
It may sound like a weird concept, but sometimes we hold on to things that we really don't use. It could be a piece of software, a device, or even a subscription. If it's not adding value to your team or business, it's probably time to let it go. And, yes, the chances are someone on your team may be greatly disappointed. But that’s why you’re the leader.
There are two ways to go about dumping technology. The first is the obvious one: if you’re not using something, stop using it. In fact, there’s probably a reason you or your team stopped using it in the first place. In reality, it's happened—a team wants a CRM, and they realize they invested in the wrong system. It happens. Cut your losses.
The second way is to be more mindful of the tools your team wants to use. So, for example, they should understand the value expected for the team and the business. Further, as a leader, this is a perfect time to outsmart technology. In other words, by being actively involved strategically in selecting a CRM, for example, you understand your processes better. Yes, in short, the why.
Put a Stop to Bloatware and Continuous Free Trials
There is so much bloatware on computers and mobile devices that it’s almost like having a computer without it is impossible. But you know what? That’s not true. Technology, such as computers and mobile devices, works just as well without bloatware. Also, bloatware can eat up a lot of your device’s memory. And that means it's less responsive and takes longer to do what you need.
Perhaps your team's said their devices are slow. Think about it. Has anyone considered bloatware (i.e., digital junk mail)? Moreover, bloatware can also be a security threat, especially if team members installed apps themselves. How about another ‘fun’ reality of the tech age? Free trials. The chances are that members of your team have subscribed to free trials.
It’s not a bad thing to test platforms through free trials. Everyone does it. However, as we know, a lot of what’s happening is meant to feed that part of the brain that wants something new and exciting. As a leader, you need to resist this propensity of your team. Push back a little and see how they explain the need for new platforms. What's the business case for each piece of new tech?
Get Back to Basics with Face-to-Face Communication (Remote and In-Person)
Even though technology has made communication easier, faster, and more efficient, face-to-face communication is still valuable. Even in a world of mass tech, it’s for businesses to nurture face-to-face communications, even if it happens remotely with distributed teams. We all know about the endless meetings. No one wants that either. But there is a happy medium.
In today’s super-connected world, it’s easy to think that in-person interactions are no longer necessary. Social media and online messaging platforms make connecting with people as easy as sending a Slack or posting a photo. But these digital interactions don’t convey the same depth of meaning as speaking to someone in person. Why? Because you can read body language, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues. You simply cannot capture these same nuances when communicating digitally.
While digital communication is essential, there’s no substitute for face-to-face communication. If you want to build strong relationships and truly understand one another, in-person interactions are crucial. So as to ensure your communication stays effective, it's important to schedule regular in-person interactions. As a leader, you want to promote platforms and tools that foster those face-to-face interactions. So, challenge your team when you see less talking, as it creates friction and silos.
Lean into a Single Spine Technology Architecture
As businesses have become more digital and transitioned to cloud-based systems, there’s been a lot of talk about a “single spine architecture.” Put simply, this means that all your technologies are connected and work together seamlessly. We know that teams must lean into technology. But, let's face it—not everyone is handy with tech. Some tech goes above people's heads, such as creatives or even salespeople (not calling you out!).
As a business leader, you need to get back to basics to outsmart technology and the overwhelm of it. That means looking for technology that integrates fully and easily. In other words, you want platforms that don’t require extra coding or tech hours to make everything fit together. Moreover, at a time when people work on different devices and with varying apps, you want to promote collaboration.
A single-spine technology architecture achieves this aim. So, for example, you could look at getting your sales, marketing, and operations on one integrated platform. When you do this, you're immediately breaking down the silos. Everyone's getting empowered to share information. And, as a leader, you're improving operations and lowering costs.
Technology is the Great Equalizer
The fact of the matter is that technology can bring different teams together. Outsmarting technology means understanding how to use it best. But companies and leaders need to be thoughtful about how they use technology. Think of it like a car. You can't get behind the wheel without some training first. You need to understand how to drive to get on the road. Once you do, you'll probably love it. And as a result, you can unlock opportunities that might otherwise have remained closed.
Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions where he helps leaders design, develop, and deploy smarter business growth strategies. Ben is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion. He leads a team that takes a structured learning approach to business challenges, which allows them to assist leaders in bridging the gap between ideas, innovation, and revenue—taking ideas from mind to market.
Velocity Strategy Solutions is an on-demand, next-generation business strategy and management consulting firm which provides clients with a relentless focus on data, execution, and results that positively impact the bottom line. Velocity delivers integrated people and revenue strategies combined with a disciplined approach to growth architecture that elevates the capacity of leaders, teams, and organizations to succeed and win more.