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Why Technology is Driving Change

by Nancy Dailey, Ph.D. and Kelly O'Brien

Proposition: technology facilitates convergence and integration to achieve better, faster results. Executives nod and buy-in. They look to technology to drive change in their companies. After all, they've been making heavy financial investments in technology. Yet, for many, the expected business results aren't materializing, especially with customer-facing applications like CRM (Customer Relationship Management). The reality is often unintended outcomes, such as?

"?we can't execute well on what we have now?" "?there's enough technology to hold us for the next 10 years?" "?the focus needs to start with the business or end user and how to execute well, not more bells and whistles?" "?trying to do too much at once is a big mistake?" "?there is too much change, it's overwhelming?"

Anything sound familiar? These are just some of the comments from a CEO Panel at a large CRM technology conference held this month in Chicago. The honeymoon with technology is over. Now the hard work must begin. The emphasis has been on what technology will do for the business. Now it's time to examine what technology is doing to your business. It's changing what you do (work process) and who you work with (relationships), not just how you work (enterprise-wide, networks, virtually, real-time, etc).

A partially valid proposition.
Executives have been sold a partially valid proposition. What's missing is the causal relation. It should read: technology facilitates convergence and integration to achieve better, faster results if organizations can align their people and work processes to deliver on technology's promise.

Maximizing technology's promise is not a superficial effort. It requires rolling up your sleeves to plunge deeply into the inner workings of how your organization functions. Technology is driving change because it fundamentally alters the implicit social patterns of interaction that exist in your company (whew, that's a mouthful!). In other words, the data might converge and integrate, but it will not become business intelligence until your people and processes converge and integrate.

What happens when you buy into half a proposition? You get social patterns in your company that look like cross-talk, territorial disputes, fear of technology, open and subtle resistance, running faster and harder (but going nowhere), wasted energy and resources.

Don't automate the dysfunction.
Most of us grew up in companies learning to compete -- for resources, for customers, for budgets, for rewards. It was about winning. But the "I win, you lose" attitude in a complex, technology tooled business will backfire. Successful technology implementation requires an integrated network of helpful, productive relationships inside your organization to act as "oil" for the technology. Senior management needs to get comfortable with the reality of shared decision-making and shifting power dynamics. Relationships need to be reexamined and perhaps reworked. If left to happenstance, you run the huge risk of automating dysfunctional social patterns that currently exist or will erupt as you move necessarily deeper into your organization to reach technology's promise of faster and better.

The art and science of dealing with the people side of the change equation is Change Management. As a practice, it draws from a multitude of social science disciplines to effectively bring people, technology, and ideas together at the same time.

First published on 3/18/02

Nancy Dailey, Ph.D. and Kelly O'Brienare social scientists who help companies navigate the complicated people issues involved in CRM implementation.

First published on 03/18/2002

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