In my previous article, I discussed proper process and how it creates efficiencies and predictability in an organization. Once processes are in place, tools then support and enhance those processes. How you discover, buy, and apply those tools is critical to their success and use.

Picture the following scenario. You are at your first day on the job at a new company. You are getting the usual on-boarding training. You have met your team, filled in all the paperwork, and your manager shows you where you will sit. As you log onto your computer for the first time, your manager points to an icon on your desktop. It reads Super Important Software. He says, “Why don’t you play around with this a bit. It’s the most important application to our organization. You’ll get the hang of it.” There is no official documentation. There is no training. Worst of all, there is no clear reason why Super Important Software is being used other than, “It always has been.”

The number one mistake that I see organizations make when enacting change is to first look to buy technology without understanding why they are buying that technology or how it will help them.

From Fortune 500 companies to a two-person start-up, no company is immune to the above scenario. Having worked for both the largest and smallest organizations, it is, in fact, all too common.

The number one mistake that I see organizations make when enacting change is to first look to buy technology without understanding why they are buying that technology or how it will help them. I have made this exact mistake which led to hundreds of hours of lost productivity. It is easy to watch a flashy demo (and they are all flashy) and move right to buying. Anyone can do that. The foundations of people and process must be in place – and this is difficult. Only then will technology do its job.

Technology is not magic. It will not make problems disappear. Poor technology implementation, at best, will be something your organization overcomes. At worst, it will become an anchor on your organization and drag your team down with it.

What is Technology?

Technology is a tool that helps an individual or team perform work, automate work, and create efficiencies in the process. Technology should support your people and process. Your people and process should never support the technology. (Of course, if you’re a large enough organization, you may have a technical staff to do exactly that, but that is for a different discussion.)

These days, when service-oriented organizations talk about implementing technology, they are typically referring to software. Software continues to advance and change entire industries. It enables the creation and destruction of markets (see: Amazon vs. everyone else). Software offers the opportunity to reach individuals and share information in new ways. While powerful, approach it with caution. I have seen millions wasted on implementing and customizing software platforms.

Buying Intelligently

Much of tech news focuses on sexy software such as augmented and virtual reality, the latest gadgets, and cloud platforms. The reality is that business software makes up most of the software world. There are often hundreds of options when it comes to buying business software. A search of accounting software returns twenty major vendors in the first result. Finding the right technology for your organization can be a daunting task indeed. As you buy, consider the following questions to ensure you are making wise decisions for your changing organization.

How will technology accelerate the organization’s vision?

Technology accelerates. Technology, by itself, does not precipitate change. As you are listening to sales people taut their products and features, keep your focus on your vision.

If your vision is to drive new sales, does the software provide the tools and paths for new revenue channels? If your vision is to enable a more technology-forward organization, is the vendor providing regular updates to their software? Are they taking advantage of the latest technical capabilities? If your vision is to create a high-service culture, does the software enable strong communication and transparency with your families? Does the software create efficiencies and take advantage of what technology can offer, or does it simply replicate on a screen how things have always been done?

Always maintain focus on your ultimate destination.

What process(es) will be replaced or improved?

Technology should enhance processes. How will technology improve existing processes or how will it remove a poor process?

A common example for this is a service desk or ticket system. In a service-oriented industry, your people spend a majority of their time serving families. A simple process is to work through a paper tracking system and your staff follows-up via an email or phone call. But by introducing technology, you can now leverage it for greater gain. Now, you can better understand how well your organization is following up on requests. You can see how long it takes to handle those requests. You gain an understanding of priority rather than a first in/first out scenario. This technology allows you to move closer to your goal.

Elevate your processes
Elevate your processes

You can manage it all with webCemeteries!

Can your team explain how the technology will fit?

Oftentimes, when shopping for software, a team member will present a possible solution. They may have seen it at a trade show. They may have received a cold call from a sales person. Perhaps they know someone at another organization that uses it.

That is a great start. But, when sitting down and evaluating that technology, can your team members identify how that software will fit into your organization? Who will use it? How will it improve the work lives of those who use it? What problems will it not solve? What are its weaknesses? There are too many times I have seen “cool” be a reason to justify a technology purchase.

What kind of vendor are you buying from?

Approach a technology vendor like you would a marriage. Business software purchases are difficult and don’t change often. This is a long-term relationship.

It is important to understand the vendor’s goals for their products. Do they heavily customize their product for each customer at an increased cost? Are they focused on a singular set of dynamic products but with limited customization? Do they provide a base product with consulting built on top?

Consider their relationship to the industry. How well do they know and understand your business? What is their reputation with their current customers? How long have they been active in your profession? What do other vendors think of them?

Consider future growth between your organization and your vendor’s organization. What does their product investment look like? Are they growing or scaling back? Do their products and expertise give new opportunities to leverage technology in ways you hadn’t considered? How does their support work? How available is their support? Do they provide training?

These are but a few of hundreds of questions that you might ask. Think about what is most important to you as the buyer. As you buy, ask specific questions and get a straight answer. If you don’t get an immediate straight answer to an important question, make sure you get one in follow-up. Do your homework!

Last of all – even the best technology is not for every business. Do not try to force a fit where one doesn’t exist. Major kudos to any vendor who recognizes this during the sales process. If that does happen, this is not a bad thing – in fact it’s quite the opposite! If this happens, ask that vendor who they might recommend. I have seen surprising relationships form from this exact scenario.

Solving the Right Problem

Any kind of change is difficult. Organizational change is even more difficult. While these last three articles do not begin to dig into the depths of these topics, I hope they lay the foundation and provide you direction. Organizational change done right can be one of the most satisfying things a leader can do.

This article was first published in ICCFA Magazine in October 2020.

Meet our Chief Technical Officer

Jason brings his impressive leadership experience and technical background to bear at webCemeteries. His past achievements have included managing technical mergers and acquisitions, leading a team of 20 engineers through large system transitions, and developing leading industry products. Jason’s technical leadership at webCemeteries is advancing our systems to shape tomorrow’s cemetery management software.

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What are cemeterians saying about webCemeteries?

This [website] project was quite an odyssey with plenty of twists and turns. The webCemeteries website design team weathered the storm. I think it’s more than fair to say that without their efforts, we would not have gotten this over the finish line…and with such an excellent outcome.

Mark J. DePalma
Forest Lawn Buffalo