For many executives, technology is an increasingly complex and frustrating part of running a business. Two things are certain, though:
> Customers increasingly desire to interact via electronic channels
> There are significant impacts on your productivity and profitability if technology is properly managed.
Here are some thoughts to help non-technical executives manage technology well.
First, manage your people well. Clear job descriptions and regular performance reviews are the key to setting expectations and monitoring performance. Remember: it is impossible to fairly evaluate someone’s performance if you haven’t clearly set out your expectations. While “tekkies” are a bit different to manage, starting with the fundamentals will build a great foundation. All staff must clearly understand the business you are in, and what is needed from technology in order to achieve your goals. Solid HR fundamentals will help you communicate that.
Second, incorporate technology into your enterprise strategic plan. For many CEOs, strategic planning for technology is an afterthought or a dreaded task. Moving discussions of technology into your enterprise strategic planning will help you to leverage technology, by embracing its value and clearly defining how technology will support your business lines, both customer facing and internal. Transparency about the strategic goals of your organization will help your technology managers to support those goals.
Third, demand a business focus from your staff. Work to help them understand that technology without a clearly defined business purpose is of little value. A simple business case document can be a great teaching tool to help your staff communicate the benefits of technology they propose to invest in. Tying these efforts back to the clearly communicated strategic plan will pay great benefits in terms of having your team focused on the things that are important to you. Keep it simple. Insist that your IT staff communicate in plain language. Challenge them to explain the workings and impacts of their systems in practical terms, rather than relying on buzzwords.
Finally, keep it safe. Insist on a security and business continuity focus. Efforts by criminals to gain access to your company’s data (and that of your customers) are never-ending. Your security efforts must keep pace. Place an emphasis on contingency planning and disaster recovery. Your ability to preserve and/or recover internal operations and customer facing systems is critical to the success of your business. Insist on written and tested plans that address the three main components of such planning: prevention, impact minimization, and expedited recovery. Businesses that suffer technology outages of three days or more are at risk of failure. It is that important.
Instead of shirking from technology, embrace it, and seek to actively manage it for the benefit of your employees, customers, and stakeholders.
Trent Fleming advises executives on management and strategy issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @techadvisor