Stocktaking is at the heart of business development and improvement, and should be both frequent and systematic. The monitoring and evaluation process applies to employee performance, of course, but also to the technology that they utilise in the process. Just as employees are required to adapt to, and grow with, market trends so too do the tools that they rely on to. This article outlines how to undertake an evaluation of a company’s ‘technological state of affairs’. The Process The technology that your company utilises has to suit your business needs. Technology that was useful a few years ago may no longer be useful to you today, and you might find that the costs of upkeep and/or subscription outweigh the benefits. It is possible that there are gaps in project implementation or execution that could benefit from specific information technology solutions. To complement standard enterprise resource planning (ERP), undertake the following exercises to better understand the state your technology is in. The ‘E-Team’ To begin with, put together a committee and assign them the task of reviewing your company’s current technology. Having a dedicated body of employees, who represent different teams or departments, will ensure that the review process is focussed and time-bound. Having a multi-stakeholder group will also offer you a holistic view of your company’s technology deficits. Technology & Workflow Once you have your ‘crew’ or team assembled, the first step will be to examine the relationship between different workflows and the respective types of technology they use. This means assessing the use value that specific hardware and software—all your information and communication technologies for example—bring to the table. What you need to ascertain is whether they contribute to the smooth execution of a task or set of tasks. How does one go about this process of evaluation?
- Come up with a performance-evaluation checklist: It is important to craft and collate a (minimum) set of performance criteria or parameters that can be applied across workflows and technologies to gauge their combined efficacy.
- Collect employee feedback: Using qualitative and quantitative methodologies (focus group discussions; surveys) to solicit employees’ critiques of their workflow-technology interface. Additionally, examine data related to overall output to look for inefficiencies such as slow turnaround times etc. If they dovetail with employees’ own analyses, all the better.
- Determine gaps: Are there any activities that can be automated? For example, can you take advantage of cloud computing software to streamline and expedite project management accounting?
- Upgrade or eliminate: After processing and analysing all the data that you have collected, determine which hard and/or soft technologies can be upgraded or updated. Using older or out-dated models and applications can cause problems in document retrieval and service delivery. You may decide to abandon a particular tool altogether because it has proven to be redundant or you could chose to upgrade.
- Acquire: Finally, you might decide that you want more innovative products, and newer and more cutting edge ways of facilitating better workflows. Should you undertake such a venture, remember that any new acquisitions should be easy to integrate with your company’s broader technology ecosystem and ideally, improve its overall performance.
Technology, no matter how sleek or fashionable, can’t be said to ‘work’ unless it works for you. Your job is to discover—over and over again—the kind of technology that does just that.