By Tom Paquin
As someone who cooks a lot at home, I have been trying to improve my culinary chops for quite a while now. Between binging on cooking YouTube channels (Highly recommended: Bon Appetit) and simply getting creative with ingredients, I think that I’ve built up a strong home cook aptitude, and have proudly expanded my repertoire (and my palate) with new spices and ingredients. One thing that practice has taught me is the tenuous balance of done-ness. There’s a lot of precision that goes into the balance of overcooking and undercooking. Once something is on the skillet, the clock starts ticking. When do I flip this? When do I add the garlic? When do I take it off the heat?
The preparedness of a business for a new technology requires an intimate understanding of a similar balance. Leave your business in the oven too long without adopting the right tech, and your competitors will have surpassed you, your infrastructure will have become too rigid, and your customers will move onto someone who delivers more. We all know that, though, and talk about the dangers of resting on your laurels quite a bit. What happens, though, when you adopt a technology before your business is ready for it?
I discussed an example of this a few weeks ago with a service leader who preemptively deployed augmented reality tech without properly addressing infrastructure challenges, leading to the tech sitting uselessly on a shelf. In the inverse, though, I was talking to a service leader a few weeks ago who had yet to adopt IFS Lobby, a dashboard utility that’s part of the IFS service management platform, and asked him why he hadn’t yet.
“We need to explore every avenue before adopting any new system,” He said. That’s fine, of course, but had they explored any avenues yet? There’s ultimately no difference between technology you own sitting unused on a shelf and technology that you have the capabilities to use but refuse deploy. Both are useless. So, with any new technology, how do you know when your business is ready?
No two businesses are the same, of course, but based on what I’ve seen, when it comes to successful adoption, there are a few steps you can take to know you’re making the right move at the right time.
Hear from reference customers. We all want to be trailblazers, but the fact is that most technology advancements have been adopted in one way or another before you considered it. In service, what often happens is that technology saturation happens in sales, retail, or some adjacent industry, or in a disruptive tech play, which sets the standards that are adapted and iterated upon in a service environment. Find those customers and hear their stories. Look not just at the value, but at the best practices, at the initial legwork that goes into adoption, and, most importantly, where things went wrong. Best practices are often built upon mistakes. You can make them yourself, or you can learn from those who came before you. Save yourself the headache and learn from your neighbor.
Take stock of your digital inventory. This goes without saying, but there are a lot of digital switches at play in the modern enterprise, and the data collected from them, their functionality, or their output could be a key component that folds itself into a new technology adoption. Understand that technology mix, and whether or not any pieces are missing. Key at this step as well is looking at the software that will sit around your new tech purchase. Does everything speak a common language? How difficult will integration be? How will it impact or enhance the effectiveness of this software? Often these questions will come from your references, or from your own team, but often as well, they’ll come from the below.
Consult the experts early. Whether it’s a third party integrator or a branch of the company whose tech you’re buying, start asking—and getting answers to—"into the weeds” questions very early on in the process. This is pretty standard practice, of course, but this is frequently saved for the point when organizations are ready to adopt a technology, rather than when they’re evaluating if they should adopt a technology. At both stages, it’s easy to get handed a laundry list of performance gains, when really, you should be equally as interested in understanding how something actually works, and what the change management processes will actually be. If the people you’re working with can’t get you those answers, then it might be too early, or you should find a company that does.
Unlike business, there’s one thing that you can do to get the perfect meal, and that’s practice a lot, knowing that you might end up with the odd turkey with pink in the middle (apologies to my poor wife, who was a great sport during my trial attempts to modernize Thanksgiving). Of course with service, you can’t practice the adoption of a new technology, because each new technology is its own dish. For that reason, it needs to be more like reading a recipe. Keep a close eye on the directions, and make sure that you have all the ingredients before the food hits the pan.