Today, every company is a technology company . . . right? While you might not think of your organization as being in the tech sector, you undoubtedly use technology to drive your business. Even in times of economic uncertainty, businesses recognize the importance of investing in tech to promote organizational growth. But how many software tools does your business use? How much of it is actually put to good use? Each person has email, data storage software, project management tools, CRMs—and the list goes on depending on their role.
The best tools won’t help if your employees aren’t proficient at them and don’t use them to their fullest potential. A recent study by Electric, an IT company, found that employees spend an average of three hours a week dealing with tech issues. This costs companies up to $5K per employee, per year. And remember, the more bloated the tech stack, the more your IT teams must troubleshoot and manage, compounding the financial and human costs of complexity.
But with advancing technology hitting the market every day, to say nothing of software updates, it’s easy to find your tech stack unwieldy. Dr. Mason Smith has a degree in clinical psychology and is a Solution Designer at Collective Next helping people and organizations drive change successfully and effectively. Smith's approach to assessing “tech stack bloat” is to examine the root cause: the people using them. He offers four change management tips for improving your culture to manage tech problems.
Dr. Mason Smith
Fostering a continuous learning culture
As more employees work remotely, companies onboard new hires in many ways. A trainer might demonstrate software briefly, but the first-time employee is expected to explore its features on their own. This can lead to a lack of understanding of the software and its capabilities, resulting in decreased productivity and efficiency.
“It's really about learning and fostering a culture of continuous learning,” explains Smith. “If you're not learning every day then not only are you not going to get ahead, but you're going to fall behind.”
Smith suggests organizations offer ongoing training to ensure employees use the latest software features. In addition, employees are more likely to learn about technology updates if they see leaders using them. A leader who exemplifies continual learning will reinforce learning values in the organization.
Creating a conversation culture
In GoTo's 2023 IT Priorities Report, 50% of decision-makers in small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) reported their companies support hybrid work. With employees working in a virtual environment, departments and technology can become siloed within an organization. To prevent that, communication across your organization is key. Smith recommends leaders participate in conversations when assessing company technology. Leaders that understand why certain tools are critical can give insight into how those tools relate to the end business goals you're driving. For instance, if the marketing department is considering new software, the CFO or CEO should be consulted to determine if it is a worthwhile investment.
Smith recommends approaching conversations with employees by inviting them to shape the organization’s culture and focusing on tools that drive company efficiency. Another useful approach that might provide more unbiased insight from employees is through having conversations around scenarios. Kicking off a conversation with employees by asking how they might handle a situation or solve a potential problem will prompt employees how “to prioritize and assess [. . .] the tool, or assess the processes so they can be more honest and transparent about it.”
Avoid adopting cutting-edge tech “just ’cause”
Bringing in the latest and greatest in technology isn’t always the way to go. Reviewing technology in the context of the company’s business strategy or culture is crucial. “If it fits with your strategy and you know why you're going after it and what role it's going to take, [. . .] that's a great impetus for change,” says Smith. He says, “If it’s not going to serve business needs or fit your organization's culture, that can become problematic.”
Smith suggests putting that new conversation culture to practical use. Take the time to listen to employee feedback. Evaluate the cost and utility of the latest technology and decide whether it’s worth investing in. Discuss how the move to a new software might impact your customer experience. Keep in mind that properly training your employees will be a huge determining factor in whether a technology implementation succeeds. Finally, ensure the new technology is compatible with existing systems and processes.
Implementing with intention
Once your organization has identified the technology best suited to its goals and outcomes, the way a leader approaches implementation is crucial to how effective that journey will be. Smith recommends designating a small group of champions to drive change to ensure the path is effective and accelerated.
Another resource to lean on is your IT team. “They can really help with translation,” says Smith. “Ideally the IT team is lending some expertise in helping people understand what is it about these tools that is going to be more helpful.”
With the addition of new software, your company should assess what can be subtracted. Consolidating your tech stack doesn’t have to be tedious. Review each tool you’re implementing and flag any redundancies in old technology. If leaders gauge the tools using Smith’s change management tips, making decisions to eliminate underused programs becomes easier.
Rapid advancement in technology can leave organizations in the dust, but taking a change management approach is an effective way to get the answers leaders need to drive their business into the light. As Smith points out, leaning on humans will help to hone your tech stack—and as a result you’ll have better success implementing technological change and a stronger corporate culture.