Lessons Learned #11: Is Technology Serving (or Hurting) You? – Part 1

My wife (the CEO of our home), upon reading the title of this issue, commented “be careful, technology is here to stay” – she is absolutely right!  She should know too, as she has become quite a master of tech gadgets.  However, after you read my concerns (as my wife did), I think you might agree with me that there are times when, instead of being “served” by technology, you are actually being “hurt” by it.

I’ve been thinking about the way that most businesses don’t hesitate to adopt new technologies and products to solve their problems, become more productive, or decrease their costs.  Often, they invest a lot of capital to get the latest and greatest “tech stuff” without thinking through the changes that will need to be made in their organization in order to produce the results they were after with their new investment.

Don’t think that I’m against technological changes or the application of new technologies in your business; quite the contrary, as an engineer by training, I am a strong advocate for improvement through the proper application of technological innovations in our business and personal lives too.  The evolution of technology is both relentless and exciting.

However, as the CEO or Manager of your construction business, that doesn’t mean that you should just throw money at the latest technology that comes along without first considering its applicability to your business, the feasibility of implementation, and some sort of cost/benefit analysis to determine if it is appropriate for you.  In other words, you should establish criteria for evaluating all of the options, to choose which ones are right for you.

This is the first of three series of “Lessons Learned” on the effective use of technology.  This first part is an introduction with some observations I have made of the problems which are intended to get you thinking in the right direction.  In the second lesson, I will go into the problem construction companies have obtaining information from their field operations and comment on ways that the proper use of technology can yield the desired improvements.

In the last lesson, I will look at problems in application and the use of technology for the general management of your business.  Throughout these lessons, I will be pointing out the factors that should be considered by management before taking the leap with a new process or system.

My managerial or “systems” view of this subject leads me point out the three general problems I have observed, and my suggestions to avoid them:

Problem #1: Technology overkill – the tendency to apply the most sophisticated technology to solve relatively simple problems.

  • Advice: Look first for the simplest way to solve a problem. Many challenges are more appropriately solved by a “low tech” approach.  The temptation to make this mistake increases each day as tech gadgets continue to get cheaper.  Remember, the simplest solution is most elegant, easiest to learn and implement, and usually the most cost effective.

Problem #2: Implementation without training – buying the tech product or service and expecting your organization to adjust without proper training.

  • Advice: You can never train enough. Sophisticated technology is designed with specific features and capabilities with which the users must be familiar in order to get the best results.  Acquiring new technology by itself is only part of the solution.  Lack of proper training and a thoughtful plan to implement the new acquisition will result in a failed investment of valuable resources.

Problem #3: The square peg and the round hole – trying to impose technological changes to automate what is disorganized.

  • Advice: There may be activities and processes in your business that need to be defined, organized, or re-structured before automation can produce meaningful results. Failure to do so can lead to additional chaos and hurt your business.

I should point out that I am not an expert in new technologies.  However, if you accept my invitation through these lessons to think about the questions I ask, look objectively at the points I make, and follow my suggestions, you will come away better prepared to make the changes that could improve how you manage your business and successfully integrate those technology upgrades that are appropriate for you.

When was the last time you had someone take an objective look at the management practices in your construction business?  Are there issues you would like to discuss with someone outside your company before taking action?  Schedule a confidential consultation.  Think of it as renting a “board of directors” for a day.

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction.  The world will have a generation of idiots.” – Albert Einstein

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