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< Underutilized Technology: Getting the Most of Your System >

Bridging Gaps Through Technology
Underutilize your systems and they turn into old rusty clunkers - like a tractor at a kids playground!
Underutilize technology and it will rust away…

As part of an office redesign, an organization I used to work at installed all new screens in the conference rooms. They also installed two large touch screen projectors that allowed for an “interactive” presentation. Instead of sitting behind their laptop, the presenter could control their presentation directly from the projection screen, making for a more engaging and collaborative experience. Except it wasn’t. Few staff bothered to learn how to use or even connect the screen to their computer, primarily using the screens to just display presentations. Because they leveraged projectors, the image was inferior to the HDTV screens. So, what seemed like superior technology turned out to be inferior in practice.

Too often new technology is introduced to an organization at great cost without addressing the strategic purpose or plan for the tool. This results in under-utilization of the technology, which in turn leads to wasted resources. Avoiding this waste requires thoughtful preparation, implementation and operation of new technology. Consider leveraging the following four steps to ensure success.

Define success

New technology should be trying to solve a problem. Make sure to articulate the problem and expected improvements once the tool is in place. And it cannot be that, “once we implement X, everything will be great!” That’s the perfect way to set technology up to fail. Instead focus on specific measurable outcomes you’re planning to accomplish with the new tool.

Identify relevant use cases

When working with small organizations, nothing makes me cringe more than the phrase, “Well at Amazon they…” or, “You know Apple uses…” It’s like comparing an orange with an entire apple orchard. There are tools tech giants use that are relevant to other organizations, just make sure you identify how your organization is going to apply a tool. A great example is Slack. Slack can be an incredible collaboration tool. But if staff don’t understand how their processes fit into the tool, then adoption is likely to be low. Connect the tool to the process, and you’ll have a much greater chance of success. Which relates to my next point.

Personalize training

Everyone is busy, which is why processes rarely change. Assuming a new tool will encourage change is a mistake. Because everyone is so busy, no one has time to identify the best ways they can leverage new technology. Instead, people will identify ways the new tool fits in their current process without disturbing anything else, which likely underutilizes the tool. People focus on what they understand and ignore the rest. Personalized training helps remove the burden. Staff don’t have to invest as much energy into the tool. Accomplish this with a pilot group who is willing to invest in the tool and can the role it out to the rest of the organization. Or have trainers conduct follow-up one-on-one sessions with staff to see what they are doing and identify any potentially new processes. Explain the tool in their terms, and they’re much more likely to understand the bigger picture.

Measure progress

Everyone measures how their customers engage with their technology, but what about staff? Many tools allow for some level of reporting on staff usage. How often do staff login? What functionality are they leveraging? If a direct messaging system was introduced, has there been a decrease in emails? If a cloud storage solution was introduced, is the system holding machine back-ups seeing less data usage? This all goes back to the first point on defining success – how will you know you’re there if you never bother to measure your progress? If you never stop to check the map, how can you confirm your headed in the right direction and not about to drive off a cliff.

Being more strategic in the tools you implement will likely mean you leverage fewer tools, but that’s likely a good thing. Fewer tools means less learning by staff, which results in them spending more time focused on their actual work. While at times taking a short cut to a quick implementation of a new tool may seem optimal, you’ll end up waste both staff time and financial resources in the long run. If you are strategic when you start, and you will succeed in the long run.

A similar version of this post was originally published on IT Chronicles.

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Justin Burniske

Justin Burniske

Justin serves as the Director of Enterprise Solutions at fusionSpan, bringing his experience implementing and overseeing an association management system for an education nonprofit. Additionally, he brings his positive, can-do attitude to any project on which he is working.Justin graduated from University of Maryland’s MBA program, and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining fusionSpan, Justin taught middle school math and worked with education nonprofits. Also, he wants you to know he loves his family.

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