Barnaby Parker, CEO of Venquis, explains why investment in tech fails without investment in people
You don’t have to be Elon Musk to see that the adoption of technology has grown enormously over the past decade, not just in the consumer world but also within businesses.
You’d be hard pressed to find any industry that hasn’t changed intrinsically as a result. Cars have gone from being petrol guzzlers to not even needing a driver, while virtual reality is being picked up by industries as diverse as law and architecture and Amazon and Dominos have publicised plans to deliver by drone.
The world is changing at a rapid pace, but for those fearing that their workforces may soon be overrun with artificial intelligence, we have some good news for you: it’s a long way off.
Ignore the media reports – the shift to automation is not going to happen anytime soon. It is challenging enough to convince people to do things differently to what they’ve always done, so trying to convince a workforce to leave behind their tried and trusted methods will be a big feat.
Here’s a situation many CFOs are likely to be familiar with. You’ve invested (heavily) in technology that you’ve been told will change the game for your organisation and make it more efficient while improving operating processes, ultimately making the lives of your employees easier.
You’ve sent your teams an email kindly asking them to start using the new tech and provided all the log-ins and information needed to make the most out of your investment. And then it’s not adopted and is left on the metaphorical shelf to gather dust.
This neglect results in a waste of money on the equivalent of a Sinclair C5 or Google Glass.
The reason behind that failure is the same one that has befallen hundreds, if not thousands, of companies in recent years.
Namely, that they think they can just invest in technology, drop it into their organisation and expect it to hit the ground running and become an instant success.
While this would be an ideal state of affairs, in reality, employees need to clearly see and understand the benefits of new technology they’re being told to use, before they will adopt it.
A study by Dr Petra Bayerl ,of Rotterdam School of Management, proved exactly that. Her research focused on a major organisation in the oil and gas sector that was looking to launch a two-way video conferencing platform designed to allow constant communication between off shore rigs and on-shore management and engineers.
This method would allow both parties to visually display issues and get them fixed immediately, rather than looking to explain an often complex problem over the phone, or in writing and then waiting for someone else to help them to fix it.
Despite this providing a solution to the problem, rig staff rejected the technology as it felt too ‘Big Brother’ and consequently, started to ‘accidentally’ turn it off or put their hard hats over the cameras.
Management had made the simple mistake of assuming that their employees would adopt the tech despite not being told what the benefits would be or how it would make their jobs easier.
Every business is regularly bombarded with the latest ‘game-changing tech’ and while the temptation is there to invest heavily, it has to be done sensibly.
Rather than just throwing technology at your workforce, it’s critical to be strategic and think about how to get the most bang from your buck.
Investing in tech and then not investing in the people who can lead and guide the change and transformation this will create, is the same as throwing your organisation’s money out of the window.
Without specialists to win over the hearts and minds of your workforce and explain how the investment can improve their work or make jobs easier, it will not be adopted, no matter how pretty it is or how much you’ve spent on it.
The robots are coming, but they’re not going to take our jobs.
Currently, and for the foreseeable future, people are a critical part of making technology successful and getting it implemented.
Change specialists, like the technology they’re helping to embed, are an investment and without them your new gadgets or programmes are likely to fail.
We’re not saying don’t invest in technology, but if you want it to be successful then you have to invest in people, too.
Barnaby Parker is CEO of Venquis