The Next Generation of Technology is Coming: Is Your Organization Ready?

August 14, 2014
By: Carrie Majewski (née Schmelkin)

If you were to ask Louis Richardson, IBM (News - Alert) worldwide storyteller and enthusiast, what it takes to prepare your business for the next generation of technology, he would say it’s about changing culture and mindset before you can change existing business processes.

As Richardson (News - Alert) explained during an ITEXPO panel Wednesday titled “Leading Change: Taking Your Business and Technology in the Next Generation,” IBM spends a lot of time interacting with different business executives, exploring the concept of adoption and change management, especially as it relates to technology. As an example of how you have to change behavior before you can change existing technology practices, Richardson talked about his previous experience as director of information management for a large insurance company that handled claims adjustments.

To help the business process claims faster, the insurance company equipped its claims adjustors with digital cameras when the technology first surfaced. Prior to the technology implementation, the adjustors were getting paid 50 cents for every photographed they processed. But with digital, companies can process a piece of film for less than 50 cents, so when the company gave the adjustors digital cameras, it took away their revenue.

“They would leave the cameras on the street, break them, leave them in their cars,” Richardson said of the adoption challenges. “Until we realized what turned them on—money—this kept happening. So we said we will give you a bonus if you use all digital photography because it will help us process stuff faster and then we made them responsible for replacing the devices.”

“Our business increased, the guys were happy and we did better business,” he added. “But it wasn’t until we figured out what turned them on that we saw these results. You have to understand that part be successful with buy-ins.”

Expressing a similar sentiment, fellow panelist Sam Liu, VP of marketing for Soonr, encouraged attendees to be willing to approach the C-suite when you identify a new technology that could successfully replace a legacy system. Find those opportunities, grab the executive and ask them to try it out.

“You’d be surprised how far you can go if they are behind you,” Liu said.

As the panelists argued, it’s a no brainer that if IT solutions are properly designed, properly applied and utilized effectively, they can truly become business enablers. And some of the winning IT solutions today are those that are already used in the consumer landscape.

Liu reminded attendees of what happened when Salesforce first came out. It had little success in IT until end users started using the cloud-based SaaS (News - Alert) solution because it addressed very real consumer pain points. Once consumers starting casting an eye toward Salesforce, companies had no choice but to take notice.

“All of a sudden they had a real justification for that system to come in and challenge its predecessor,” Liu said. “With emerging technologies you have end users versus IT; there’s always a competition going on with who wants what, and that’s always an interesting dynamic.”

In fact, Richardson took it a step further and stated that your competitor these days is not another company coming up with an application. Rather it’s Angry Birds; it’s the guy in the garage coming up with a great consumer app; and it’s the fact that consumers can use technology seamlessly in their private lives and want the same experience in their professional ones.

“Your competitor is the consumerization of IT,” he put it bluntly. “For your IT to be relevant… you need to be familiar with what those people are doing. You have to be listening to those conversations.”

“From an IT perspective, when we talk about change and change management, the challenge we have as IT professionals is to become relevant to the line of end users,” Richardson concluded. “We have to get off the IT platform and become friends and relevant with them. Until you show them that you care not about the system but about their productivity and their ability to do their job, you will not become relevant.”

Edited by Adam Brandt