If you were a fly on the wall of a grey, fluorescent-lit cubicle at an anonymous corporation in the mid 1990s in Anytown, USA, and you may have heard this conversation take place:
[Employee A] What’s with this “electronic mail” they want us to start using? Whats wrong with Post-Its?
[Employee B] I’ll tell you what first they make us use these computers, now they just want to record everything we say and do with our customers! It’s like 1984 in here…soon the Thought Police will be measuring how much toilet paper you’re using!
[Employee A] You know it’s just another computer fad. Once it breaks you can forget about it, well never use it again.
Whether it was the desktop PC, e-mail, digital calendar, or CRMs, technologys late adopters have held on to the past and consequently sabotaged an organizations advancement since the invention of the typewriter. Even if there is clearly a better, more efficient and highly useful alternative to a traditional toolsuch as new mobile technologies, apps, and wearable techthe fear of change often freezes decision-makers in a holding pattern that stagnates growth within an organization.
Time and again, we see a company take a critical loss from which it cant recover due to slow innovation. Take Blockbusters sluggish adoption of the online and streaming content model that eventually resulted in the closure of all US stores; or the dinosaur newspaper industrys slow but steady immersion in the tar pits of irrelevance, in favor of online outlets and publications that have engineered a winning digital strategy. These difficulties all stem from not finding a viable way to monetize online content. Businesses must adapt regardless of their industry.
Neither Blockbuster nor newspapers are thought of as high tech but their inability to adapt as quickly as their customers to new technologies has shut down a once thriving organization and sent another scrambling. Examining the stock price of Gannett (GCI), a large national newspaper/multi-media organization and the owner of USA Today (and full disclosure, one that used to employ me) on New Years Eve in 2004 traded at $81.70. Fast forward to Dec 31, 2013 and trading ended with a price of $29.70. But thats also quite a move from Dec 31, 2008 when a single share of stock was only worth $8.00. Not even enough to buy a monthly digital subscription, a new service which is a big reason why the company has bounced backthat and their other investments into producing digital advertising revenue.
The point being made here is theres no such thing as a “tech” company anymore. Your organization doesnt need a Silicon Valley zip code, and doesnt have to arm its workforce with a thousand pairs of Google Glass to evaluate concepts (but hey, if you want one pair, feel free to send me an electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to get it!). Whether you sell widgets, are involved in healthcare, groom dogs, roll burritos or make sculptures, you better be open to trying new and innovative ways to delight your customers, manage your inventory and boost your business by keeping an open mind and more importantly, a line item in your budget for technology.
Just think about how your company functioned before e-mail, and how critical it is to your business now. Today it may be a mobile app, it may be Google Glass, QuickBooks, Facebook or some other yet-to-be-developed mobile software thats just a twinkle in the eye of a college freshman coding away in their dorm room right now. Regardless of the tool, your companys sustainability could very well depend on your annual budgets flexibility in adopting new technologies. Your organization simply cant afford not to keep a line item in your budget for researching, developing and improving your business by investing in tech.