Smaller organizations with limited budgets have to figure out how to embrace and conquer technology in today’s world. Too often I see this dynamic happening the other way around. When there are so many tools to help solve a problem it can be difficult not to defer to technology and its experts. The danger with this deference to experts is the technology begins to drive your decisions, rather than the goals and needs of your organization. So how can you prepare yourself for what will be a daily struggle to keep up with an ever-changing landscape that seems to be driven more and more by technology?
Start with a Mindset Shift
Over the next few posts, I want to discuss some of these foundational principles important for every decision maker when faced with decisions that appear to be technology related. This series will cover 5 of the key organizational capabilities that every organization I’ve ever worked with needs to efficiently build off the value its team members create. While this is not a discussion of specific technology tools, discussing the capabilities technology can enable is important to establish a foundation for approaching eventual technology decisions. These are areas to consider before you make the next decision locking you into a tool or contract that can dramatically change the way you function as an organization.
Start with the need you’re trying to address. It might seem obvious, but it’s not that easy. We often think we know what it is we need, but we’ve been tricked into considering the solution first, and then looking for the problem to solve. You have to flip this. #WednesdayWisdom
Capability #1 – Communication
You may be thinking to yourself right now, “why are they starting with such an obvious component to ALL human interaction?” It’s because there are plenty of organizations out there still approaching communication in a surprisingly expensive and inefficient manner.
For example, there are very few scenarios that require a traditional landline telephone system. We are working right now with one small business that is paying an unbelievably high amount per month for their legacy landline phone system. It’s not because they want to, it’s because that’s just the way they’ve been doing it for the last 35 years. Meanwhile, their customers are busy checking Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook for ideas around our client’s core product offering. The hundreds of dollars a month that are being paid for “crickets” is consuming valuable resources. For a lot of organizations, it’s not always easy to step back to evaluate the current way of doing things. It takes the right mindset to help ask the questions that matter.
Communication comes in so many packages in today’s world. Just a decade and a half ago there were a handful of methods people used to communicate. Fast forward and today almost all technology tools we use are either some form of communication tool, or at the very least have a feature built into them which allows us to communicate in some fashion.
However, aside from the packaging of the communication platform, there are still only a few fundamental ways we communicate. The text, audio, and visual are still the foundations to how we communicate. The only thing technology has done is changed the ability to take these three modes of communication and deploy them in extremely scalable ways. So what should you look for if you are an organization faced with evaluating a new communication tool, or set of tools?
Here are three key elements to consider before jumping into a specific communication solution:
On their terms
If you are trying to reach an audience and engage them, you have to be able to do it in the way they prefer. How? Remember, there are three methods: Text, audio, video. Understand that all of those forms need to be part of your toolset. Additionally, where your audience is, and meeting them there, in any one of those forms is extremely important.
You have to figure out where your audience is talking, texting, and engaging visually. The last part of communicating on your audience’s terms has to do with “when” you communicate. As much as we may grow weary of it, today’s world requires an always on approach to just about everything, communication is no exception. This does not mean you have to be responding at all times directly, it just means that whatever forms of communication you employ, you have to be ready when your audience is ready, and your communication tools are key..
We mean this in the general sense. Your communication ability has to be tightly integrated into as many aspects of your organization’s process and people, as possible. It is your ability to build a relationship with your constituents that ultimately determines your success. Because communication is essential, you have to build the ability to know your customers’ preferences, how they like to be updated, and where they are paying attention.
Knowing how many times your customer communicated with you in the last 3 months, and in what manner, is just one of the keys to building that strong relationship. It’s what helps the sales person understand their needs, the service representative know their concerns, the manager address a problem, or the marketing folks determine what to send them for Christmas this year. When your communication tools are tightly integrated to the rest of your organization, you have better insight into your audience’s needs and you can better provide your solution.
A big theme of ours is that the beauty of technology isn’t so much the cool things it can do, it’s that those cool things are accessible, from anywhere, at any time, and on any device. Your communication tools have to follow suit in order to offer the most value to your audience.
If your primary mode of communication with your clients is via phone, and you can only communicate with them while in the office, during certain times, you are limiting your communication ability and missing out on opportunities to build stronger relationships with them.
Again, this does not mean you have to necessarily be available 24/7, unless that is what your clients need. The key point here is that you need to make sure you are available to your audience in a way that fits both your workflow and theirs.
So What Next?
As always, find someone you trust. If you’re hearing the pitch about how awesome their product is and what it can do for you and they haven’t even taken the time to understand what your goals are, most likely they can’t be trusted. However, if your advisor understands you, your goals and your business, listen to them. The technology packages are different around the margins (aka preferences), it’s more important you solve the right problem with the right tool, rather than get a tool to go look for a problem to solve.
And if you don’t have anyone to turn to, feel free to give us a shout, we would be happy to help answer questions, point you in the right direction, or see how we might be able to help you more directly.
Stay tuned for the next article on ERP, where we make the case that it’s something everyone needs, including the smallest organization, the organization of 1.