Is Technology Killing Your Company?

Businesses do the same thing. During a tour of a manufacturing plant I saw comprehensive data collection systems, sophisticated automation, and intuitive man-machine interfaces. They clearly spared no expense in search of process improvement.

But those investments had not impacted the bottom line. Productivity was significantly lower than the most conservative benchmark. Waste was horrible. Workers stood idle for much of the day.

I asked the plant manager the obvious question. “Well,” he huffed, “you have to understand that as an organization we are committed to giving our employees every tool they need to do their jobs.”

That’s an admirable but often misguided approach. For example, they planned to spend £100,000 on computers with faster processors even though shop-floor employees only use spreadsheets and simple databases, so processor speed is a non-issue.

Other plants in the same industry using limited automation, manual data collection systems, and buttons and knobs instead of touch screens are significantly more productive. They spend money where it pays off and let skill, experience, and hard work take care of the rest.

Buying new simply for the sake of new is always a stupid investment. Buying a new bike doesn’t automatically transform someone into a better rider. Buying new technology doesn’t automatically transform you or your company. Every technology investment–in fact, every investment–should result in savings and quantifiable improvements.

Technology is only valuable if it results in faster, cheaper, or better. If not, it just sucks up time and money that could be put to better use somewhere else.

And sometimes it even covers up larger problems–ones that could eventually kill your business.

Look in your business mirror. Determine what you should improve on your own. You can almost always do a lot better than you are with what you already have.

Make wringing every last performance drop out of yourself business as usual. Then seek the next best thing, knowing you’ll wring every possible benefit out of it, too.