The point about technology is that the technology is not the point. What technology helps us achieve is what is important. This was the message that came out of the recent Insider’s Technology and the Modern Office breakfast.
We don’t want a mobile phone because we are desperate to have a couple of hundred grams of metal, plastic and circuitry in our pocket – however well designed. We want it to keep in touch, share, connect, retrieve or search for information, etc. – all on the go.
Design for use
So far, so much common sense. However, it is easy to overlook this simple truth because we, or the client, or the IT crowd, get excited over the latest gadget or upgrade and want to make it fit what we think we need. What we should do first then is focus on the problem.
- What are you trying to achieve – more data, more sale, streamline processes, allow flexible working
- What are the objectives behind these – increase revenue, reduce costs, improve staff performance
- Who will use it – clients, prospects, staff, suppliers
- How will they benefit – save time, save money, make ordering easier, work better
- How will the proposal achieve the objectives above and why is it better than other solutions discussed or the idea the CEO had that nobody wants to argue with
Whether this is an internal situation for an organisation or a project for a client, the principals are the same: you are not selling the technology but its benefits. (You might even find it more difficult to sell to internal stakeholders, as there is a good chance all they will see is the cost, whereas a client may well have already identified why they want to change and be prepared for the cost.)
A focus on the benefits of the project will help make the right decision, i.e. what it will mean to the company and how it will help to achieve stated objectives, rather than being hell-bent on having the latest, shiny thing. You may be able to test in order to provide proof of concept, which will strengthen the case or provide insight into issues that might otherwise not come to light.
In this way the technology becomes a means to an end, rather than the end in itself. The design, infrastructure and use will all be streamlined into a coherent whole that will make the business more efficient, more effective, more profitable, or whatever other aims are being sought. Technology is not important – what we do with it is imperative.