Don’t Confuse a Technology Problem with a Process Problem

As a C-level manager for my company, I get pitched on new technology products a lot.

Now obviously I’m a big believer in the power of technology to transform inside sales and marketing processes. When I started 20 years ago as a sales manager at then Franklin Quest (now Franklin-Covey), the coolest technology on the market at the time was a fax machine.

Now we have CRM, dialers, sales force automation, automated email and drip campaigns, iPhones in every pocket, streaming video, the Web, SEO and PPC, blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn . . . .

But the fact is, the longer I stay in this business, the more I realize that in many cases, when a company uses technology to help them solve a problem, the most valuable part of the process isn’t the technology—it’s the reexamination of the process itself.

Sure, new technologies can make dazzling improvements to productivity, but it’s the insight gained by really focusing on the problem that often becomes the most valuable asset of change.

Sales consultant Dick Lee has a fabulous article that partially addresses this issue, stating that throwing technology at a problem without redesigning the process and attitudes surrounding its use is a near sure-bet failure.

So why are we so hesitant to address process?

  • Because it’s uncomfortable.
  • Because we have to actually change.
  • Because it means we have to admit that we may have been wrong in the past.
  • Because a lot of people have invested a lot of time, energy, and money into developing the current process.
  • Because in some cases, changing a process means employees’ reputations are at stake.

As much as I want it to be true—because it’d mean my company would make a whole lot more money—simply throwing technology at a problem doesn’t inherently solve it. Confusing a technology problem with a process problem leads to costly, sometimes fatal mistakes.

So the next time you get pitched by a technology vendor with something that’s going to “revolutionize” your company, don’t necessarily be skeptical. Just make sure that you couldn’t solve the same problem by simply talking to Bob or Jill down in production, and making a clear, definable process change.

Author: Ken Krogue |
Summary of Ken Krogue’s Forbes articles

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