Capability Insights Consulting



Technology's Role in Building Capability (Part 1)

Posted on May 18, 2010 at 10:19 AM

Having worked inside IT and consulted with many IT and business leaders, I have to state upfront that I am a fan of technology. Some would say I’m borderline geeky! I believe that every organization and most business functions need technology to reach their potential.

  • Manufacturing processes rely on technology; Business processes/functions are often more efficient and effective when people are paired with enabling applications
  • Business Intelligence and analytics applications help leaders make better informed decisions
  • Social media applications help organizations reach out to a broader community for sharing information and recruiting
  • Entrepreneurs can have a business idea, create a corporation online, get a web site set up and be in business inside a week

Technology can create whole new industries and change the fabric of business.


But mostly, it doesn’t. Doesn’t improve things as much as expected, doesn’t change the way organizations run and doesn’t live up to the hype.


Technology’s role in building process capability

A poorly designed business process automated by technology is just a poorly designed business process that may execute faster. Automating existing processes without a good look at how they can be designed to use fewer resources, produce better products, improve customer service or retention, increase fundraising success etc is just leaving money on the table. You must have a clear picture of the goal of the process and how that goal helps the organization.


Technology’s (hardware, software, networks or infrastructure) role is to:

  • Improve the efficiency of the business process – make it easier and yes, faster to execute; to help it cost less for the organization to support
  • Increase the effectiveness of the process - provide the opportunity for that process to create new products or services or to deliver existing ones in new ways; improve the experience of the customer of the process; reduce errors; create more useful data for analysis and product/service improvement

Technology plays an enabling role. A very important role but not the only one. People have to execute the process. Leaders must oversee the process and support the people executing it.


When process improvement projects are called technology projects (because they happen to be implementing a new system), they are set up to produce subpar results. If the “project” is just about the technology without considering the people needs and skills and the leadership requirements, the “project” is building a one-legged stool. There is no balance and it will not work well.


In the next post I’ll explore technology’s role in building people and leadership capability. As with building process capability there is promise, yet too often it is unrealized.




Categories: technology, business processes

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