This guest blog was contributed by Tawnya Stone | 10/8/13
Like many other families, we spend our evenings and weekends running from activity to activity. This requires an extreme amount of planning and coordination to make sure we don’t accidentally leave one kid at soccer practice while we are supposed to be carpooling to dance. For this reason, my husband and I live by our calendars.
Long ago, we each had our own handwritten calendars, but that never accounted for the last-minute changes and additions. Once we progressed to each having our own electronic calendars, it was easier to make changes, but we didn’t have the synchronization issue resolved. This is an example of how technology solved one issue, but not the one that was causing the most pain.
The answer to our problems was not only to have electronic calendars that keep our own professional appointments, but also to have a shared calendar. The shared calendar shows all family events and is, by default, synchronized without requiring extra steps or manual intervention to keep updated.
People who are looking for and implementing business technology solutions struggle with the same issue. It’s easy to throw technology at a problem, but a successful outcome relies on incorporating a solution that solves not just one issue, but addresses the biggest (and often multiple) problems.
When identifying processes that would benefit from automation, it’s important to not assume utilizing technology will automatically make the process better. It may feel like progress is being made. However, many times, the pain, expense and inconvenience of making a change – without solving the greatest problem – will create an even less-efficient process than the original manual process.
Understanding all the steps is obviously the first part to automating a process, but it’s more important to understand the primary objectives of the process. Why is this process important? What is the goal for this process? What problem does this process address? What is the outcome once the process is complete? What does a successful outcome look like? What are the elements that are causing the most pain today? Examining each step and its relationship to achieving the overall goal will aid in determining whether the step needs to exist in the newly automated world. Automating a bad process will not give you the outcome you are seeking. It will just wrap technology around it, without addressing the real problem.
Even if it’s as simple as my family’s calendar synchronization, as a techno-geek, I love seeing technology in action. What is even more fun to see is when technology solves problems – and certainly the greatest problems. Look at each process as part of the bigger picture and find a way to automate that; now, that’s a cool way to use technology. Oh, I just got an alert from my smartphone: My son needs to get to soccer practice early today. Gotta run!
Tawnya Stone is Director, Business Unit Strategic Technology, at GreatAmerica Financial Services Corp. (http://www.greatamerica.com). She is responsible for working with GreatAmerica vendors and dealers to find opportunities to improve their operational effectiveness. She is also instrumental in architecting the company’s technology integrations and other software solutions. GreatAmerica is a member of Technology United (http://www.technologyunited.com).