I’ve never heard a CEO brag about not understanding the company financials. Yet I have heard many share they don’t really understand their company’s technology. A few even admit, usually in private, they don’t totally trust their technology staff and vendors.
Wow. In this day, many companies are at greater risk from a major technology failure than embezzlement. Yet often the leadership focuses, perhaps out of habit alone, on financial processes while remaining unsure or uninterested in the business’s technology and team.
In my work, I’ve found this issue to be common and, at times, an obstacle to our work. Uncertainty and fear are hard to overcome. Lack of understanding leads to many bad conclusions. Bad business and personal habits are hard to overcome, especially if we think they are okay and normal.
I often write about how we all are mentally “wired” to fool ourselves. But today, let me just share what I see as Ten Surprising Tech Dangers to most businesses.
10 Surprising Tech Dangers to Your Business
1. Being impressed by technology staff, consultants and vendors that speak too much techno-babble.
Here’s the scoop. No matter how smart someone is or how impressive the big words sound, if that person cannot communicate clearly with you it will cost you more money in the long run. Possibly lots of extra money. The really smart people who can help you best are the ones who can also communicate well and in your business language.
2. Buying technology without first really understanding how your processes really work (or should work).
All the great things a new technology can do is fantastic PROVIDED it will do all the things it HAS to do. Because most companies cannot define all of their own processes in detail, they have no way to properly evaluate how well new technology can help them (or hurt them). So instead, they are “WOW’ed” by cool new technology and then buy solutions that often don’t really fit their true needs. When the project goes poorly, they jump to blame the technology instead recognizing they are the cause.
3. Assuming the technology staff and vendors have your firm as well protected as your accountant does.
Your accountant has more regulations and laws to guide them than most of your technology experts. So, if you don’t guide and lead regularly, your systems will have hidden security and risk issues you may never know about until it is too late.
4. Thinking technology is an expense.
Technology implemented intelligently is an investment and should have a return. Ideally, a quantifiable and measurable return (although not always). You would not buy a truck for the business without understanding it made financial sense. Don’t buy technology without the same understanding.
5. Auditing your financial books regularly but never having your technology audited.
From decades of business habit, regulations, and business requirements, most companies have their books audited regularly by someone external to the company’s accounting department. Even if it is a hassle, it leads to better accounting and better processes. I have found, however, that except for large firms and those in financial sectors, few companies have any third-party assess their technology and technology-related processes. Yet what would be the cost if the technology failed to work, or worse, failed to protect your information from destruction or theft?
6. Ignoring the people and processes around technology.
When working with our clients, we routinely find that upper management thinks they are delegating technology issues to the technology staff. The mistake is they also often delegate their checks-and-balances, business process oversight, and even old-fashioned leadership. Sooner or later, this always creates expensive problems.
7. Buying into a technology just because it’s cool or what you heard you should do.
Cool is great IF it helps your business succeed. However, you’d be surprised how many technology projects were rammed through approval not because of the business value but because either upper management or the IT staff just wanted something cool to play with or show off. A dirty little IT secret is that some IT staff will select technology primarily for the experience that will help them get their next job or promotion, not what is best for their current employer.
8. Thinking social media is magic and will successfully spread (and cure) your boring messages.
Look, if your marketing or brand message stinks (or is just boring), social media will just make even more people want to ignore you. Social media is just another tool in a set of tools, not a cure of crappy marketing.
9. Not realizing that building your own custom software means you are now in the software business.
Custom software is a great way to automate something for a strategic or tactical advantage in business. This approach has powered many companies to incredible success over their competition. However, when something goes wrong or needs an update, you are responsible for the correction, the update or the patch. You are in the software business, even if you are the only customer. You must plan accordingly. Or don’t plan and accept the consequences.
10. Embracing communication gaps that leave everyone at risk.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard senior management brag about how smart and great their technology staff is, then later also admit they don’t really understand what there technology staff really do. Okay, Mr. CEO, then how do you know they are so great? And why are you openly sharing (and sometimes bragging) about such a huge risk to your company?
As the old saying in counseling goes, admission is the first step to recovery. So admit it. There are often gaps between the technologists and the company management. At least to some extent, everyone usually has a share of the blame. Even when these gaps occur with no bad intentions, it still leaves your technology team without clear understanding of what is expected. And it leaves management unsure on risk, direction, and how to lead.
Strong leadership accepts, and with consideration, embraces better ways of understanding and overcoming risk. Look for your hidden technology related risks and you’ll find new secrets for business success.
Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website, www.nerdtoenglish.com, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly at email@example.com.
Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.
© Copyright 2012. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111