Technology has no doubt made the world very easy for us. A few years back if you wanted to use any technology you had to have spent some weeks if not many months training on it. Now, however, you can get on YouTube, Other Ed-Tech Platforms and learn anything within a few hours with the help of structured courses which are popular and frequently available.
What Does the Changing Landscape of Technology Mean for Business Functions?
Imagine the impact this has on operational activities and projects for the business functions – Earlier, if they wanted to execute a plan with a technical component to it, they would have to involve the IS or IT Team Members and go through an established process. The IS group had set processes on evaluating that need and then they would help the business implement that technology.
With the changed scenario and availability of multiple easy-to-use tools and technologies which do not require coding, Businesses no longer need to follow earlier processes which naturally took time and had multiple steps to go through. In that sense, the role of IS has evolved and they are more enablers rather than the execution arm of all things Technology. In their current avatar, IS helps with the initial setup and governance of the tool etc., and the businesses are responsible for operational adoption and maintenance of the output of that tool and the success can be measured based on predefined criteria.
This is even more true for easy-to-adopt and globally used Business Tools and technologies like SharePoint, Smartsheet, any of the BI Tools, MS Excel Tools, drag and drop automation or visualization tools. These require almost no coding the learning curve for business users is not as steep and a small tech team can support multiple business users. and where-in a single technical resource is able to support multiple business users for complex queries and outcomes.
How Has It Helped Business Functions?
No doubt it has helped the business functions that often must manage competing and changing priorities. Now, businesses can create quick applications that help increase the operational efficiency. This has increased the ease of maintenance of such applications also increased the flexibility of such applications to align with changing business process.
Taking a specific example of SharePoint, we see companies of all sizes use it. as a collaboration Tool, Content management, Creating Digital forms in it and for so many other use cases. Similarly, business users have started using Smartsheet for all that was being done MS excel earlier. The drag-and-drop feature of Business Intelligence Tools has made creating dashboards and visualizations easy without any need to know any of the coding languages. creating dashboards and visualizations in little time and without any requirement of coding knowledge.
This definitely improves operational efficiency at team level and helps with faster decision making all of which is great for the businesses.
But Is All Well with This Approach?
It sounds great and easy, right, but still, most companies identify solving for operational inefficiencies as their most important Goal and/or Key Responsibility Area. Ask any business leaders about their top outcome areas, and more often than not, one of the strategic goals of most business leaders is to make operational improvements and create efficiencies.
There could be a variety of reasons and some of them are very specific to the landscape of that particular organization but in my experience, lack of governance is probably the most important thing.
That is the reason you will see organizations struggling with maintaining a burgeoning number of business applications such as SharePoint Sites, dashboards and even simple smartsheet based applications. The ease of use and adoption of these tools and technologies have in-effect become detrimental to getting most out of them. With no central team to keep an eye on these redundancies and adoption metrics, the business user is often over-whelmed And spend more time in getting to the information they need. It beats the initial purpose for which these tools were built which is operational efficiency.
What Is the Way Out?
Knowing why you are building what you are building and having a central repository of the business applications across functions can be helpful. So that every time you want to create something new, to solve your operational problem, it will make sense to take a pause and look at what you already have and see if there is a way to leverage that.
The problem is with the functions in organizations working in silos, it is very hard to find that information. The situation has been further exacerbated with the advent of Covid and remote working. Most often the business team member would not even know who to reach out to and to save time decide to build a quick one specific to the need of a set of users. You will find this very often in the world of analytics. Every set of users look for a certain set of metrics specific to their business process. Due to lack of data catalogues or a repository of dashboard information it is not always easy to go back and look at all that is available. The less time taking approach is to build a new one.
The second most important thing is to define the objective of what you are creating and then constantly monitor the output or tool created to see if that objective is being met. If not, then regroup to see what can be done to make it better and have it align to the objective. Take the example of a SharePoint site that is built for users who today are finding it difficult to get information that they need on time. In our experience, we have observed multiple times that business functions build multiple sites but the process to measure adoption and efficacy is put in place and that ultimately creates additional operational burden. People stop using those sites and it dies a slow death.
Building a tool for creating operational efficiency is not a one-time project. If we do not keep that in mind then we will continue to build tools but never achieve the objective of true operational efficiency.
At DefineRight, we not only build new but also help you streamline your existing set of business applications, create a repository of what you have and set up a governance process for when new items need to be built.