Technology projects can slowly drain your business productivity

Productivity growth in the US has stalled out over the past several years.  Productivity is the measure of output in good or services per hour worked.  There are a lot of experts on this area, so I’m going to focus on some observations I’ve had in the business environments we manage.  If you want to really get into this, check out the US Department of Labor site.  Good information here!

Does any of this sound familiar:

  1. The document management system just didn’t ever really work right
  2. The “insert random web-based application name” was great when we started out, but now nobody really uses it
  3. We only use those systems for REFERENCE.  We don’t NEED them, but they can just never be shut off
  4. The new system is great, but most of us still work out of the old one, we like it more

All of the statements above become common when your technology projects are not planned, scoped, and executed correctly.  To be clear, this is outside the scope of what most businesses should be handling internally anyway, so if this is you, know you have a lot of company!

Lack of a dedicated technical delivery team

Many projects start off with a lot of enthusiasm and clear planning.  Then “your job” gets in the way of that beautiful Gantt chart, and starts slipping.  Soon enough the project is deemed finished.  The reality is that it was not finished, but closed once it was “good enough”.  This leads to inconsistent results, confused team members, and ongoing finger pointing about why the project didn’t deliver.

Lack of an overarching technology strategy

This could also be called “shiny object syndrome”.  Once a new piece of technology is decided on someone goes out and signs up for it and uses it on a personal account.  Ten more folks do the same and then it’s decided the entire company needs to use it.  That happens and suddenly someone doesn’t like the new system and installed yet another one.  Rinse and repeat.  The next thing you know your data is in several different applications, your workflows are broken up between systems, and productivity is impacted.

Decommissioning older systems

The new application goes live and it is great.  Users like it and the old system is scheduled to be turned off in two months.  Three years later the old system is still going.  Does this sound familiar?  The reason is that complete data migrations, especially from different applications, are expensive and hard.  Just ask the Vanderbilt University Medical Center!  The issue now becomes users are looking in multiple places for information, and new users don’t receive training (they shouldn’t) on the old system.  Know we have users asking other users to lookup information in the “old system”.  Definitely a productivity drain!

A solid business partnership with a technology savvy group will help stop up the drain.  The final part is that as a business you need to be able to make decisions that stick, even if that means turning off the Unix-based order entry system that has gone offline since 1978!