Regardless of an organization's type, size, the industry it competes in, or the countries it operates in, its business needs will evolve over time -- either progressively, or suddenly.

A progressive evolution in business needs may come from changes in customer preferences (the restaurant industry and patrons' growing demand for, say, gluten-free menu items), or from the adoption of new technologies (Uber's upending of the taxicab industry). It can also come from within by, for example, deciding to cater to a different customer audience (think of associations moving from only having individuals as members, to welcoming corporate members as well).

A sudden evolution in business needs can come from new market players (the iPod and iTunes, and how they reshaped the music industry), or from new regulations (the EU's 2018 General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR). The most infamous of these sudden changes come from massive geo-political or socio-economic events (9-11 or Covid, both of which challenged the ease with which business travel took place or how in-person events / conferences could be held).

While organizations can be well prepared for certain events and known risks, they can't possibly predict all changes to the playing field. This is why the difference between having planned and being ready is important to recognize.

There is one thing we at Differly are certain of after working with hundreds of organizations across different sectors of the economy:  having the right tech plan increases the likelihood that your business will be ready to meet the challenge of ever evolving business needs.

The Path to Alignment

Aligning your technology plans to your business needs typically implies the steps outlined below. None of it is rocket science - it's a systematic approach to long-term alignment, usually performed by someone who understands well the nuances of both business and technology.

0 Start on solid ground with a firm grasp of your needs. Remember: business needs define technology planning, not vice-versa

1 Understand your current tech stack, its capabilities, and how it measures up to the needs of your business

2 Tech is never a silver bullet: so, in parallel, understand your team(s), their capabilities, and your processes.

3 Outline the existing gaps between your current capabilities and your needs

4 Understand your budget and available resources

5 Develop your strategic roadmap

6 Develop clear and concise requirements for each specific tool in the technology roadmap

7 Develop, outsource, or procure the new tool(s)

8 Implement, while paying close attention to change management

9 Measure and monitor performance

10 Go back to step zero -- your environment and needs have likely evolved by now

In this article series we're going to explore many of the above steps, providing practical information for business leaders who are responsible for the overall direction and performance of their organization's technology strategy.

For today, we're going to focus on steps 1 and 2 to assess whether your technology strategy is successfully doing its core job of putting you in a state of readiness for the future.

Before doing a deep dive into the individual systems and their integration points, we'll start by asking a few key questions, each of which can act as a simple "pulse check" to identify symptoms of misalignment.

Pulse Check 1

If I ask the same question to two or three different members of my organization, do I get a consistent answer?

For example: What's the size of our client/member base? How many new clients/members were onboarded in the last quarter? Last week?

Not getting a consistent answer is a significant barrier to effective decision making and is an indicator that:

  1. The organization lacks a "single source of truth" (or SSOT) for its customer data
  2. There are gaps in the integration and 2-way communication between the different systems in the tech stack

Pulse Check 2

If I ask my team for a routine business report - such as sales to a particular customer audience over a period - do I get a dashboard-based report directly produced from the relevant system or do I get a manually built spreadsheet analysis?

This answer is a good indicator of at least two things:

  1. Team members might be spending too much time on manual analytical tasks trying to understand the past, instead of focusing on more productive work like optimizing your customer/member experience or improving your products & services
  2. It's possible that the information you're basing your business decisions on is either outdated, or erroneous (due to manual error)

Pulse Check 3

If, as part of my growth plan, I want to cater to new customer types (e.g., to student/senior/corporate members, each with their own set of privileges, access rights and pricing), can my staff easily take care of the required adjustments?

The answer is a good indicator of whether all the technologies involved in your customer journey are flexible and nimble enough to enable you to adapt quickly to changing markets

Pulse Check 4

If my five-year strategy is to double my client/member base, will I be able to handle the additional volume and complexity of customer-related transactions?

The answer is a good indicator of:

  1. The scalability of the relevant systems in the tech stack, and the quality of their integration points
  2. The quality of current operational, hiring, and training processes and their ability to adapt to changing workloads

Pulse Check 5

If any of my key team members were to go on leave, could relevant system knowledge and routine processes be seamlessly transitioned to a new person?

The answer is a good indicator of the extent to which day-to-day business is user agnostic.  Excessive dependence on the knowledge of a single person or a small group is not only risky, but also a clue that there is too much reliance on ad-hoc, manual work. This is in turn a sign of low adaptability, low productivity, and a high likelihood of error

While a mis-aligned technology plan will surely imply many additional issues, here we've captured five very common symptoms: siloed data, manual reporting, inflexibility of systems and processes, poor scalability, and dependency on skilled users for routine tasks.

These five simple questions are not a substitute for a thorough analysis of your tech stack and processes, but they should help you gain an initial, directional idea of the current level of alignment between your technology and your needs, and therefore the readiness of your business to meet future challenges.

If your organization's answers to any of the above concern you, we can help. We have worked with leaders of many organizations in developing Technology, Growth & Innovation Roadmaps to put them confidently on the right path to alignment.

About the author

Daniel Eduardo Dominguez

Daniel has 20 years of experience leading project delivery across a variety of industries in North and Latin America, in corporate & consulting settings, and as an entrepreneur.    For the past decade, Daniel has worked as a business strategist and change agent focused on the digital transformation of customer operations (CX). While program and project delivery-focused, Daniel has product design exposure and knowledge, and a track record of design and delivery via waterfall and Agile/Scrum -- he is a Certified Scrum Master.    Daniel holds Industrial Engineering degrees (B.Sc., M.Sc.) and an MBA, he is a Native Spanish speaker and is fluently conversant in French.

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