We live in a digital age where algorithms, artificial intelligence and connectivity are driving a proliferation of new services and solutions – for problems big, small and non-existent. Businesses, services and platforms are understandably keen to take advantage, to enhance their capabilities, keep ahead of the competition, and solve problems.
But technical solutions are not the appropriate response to every problem.
Some problems are logistical. Example: the Thai cave rescue which was primarily a logistics problem. Elon Musk approached it as a problem that technology could solve, but it was not. That problem was solved by people and processes.
Some problems are process-based. It is tempting to think you can solve process problems with a technical solution (automated workflow! email notifications!) but that’s not really the case. Automation increases efficiency once a process is optimised, but you usually need to fix the process first. (I’ll cover that in a seperate post).
These days it’s easy for business to fall into the trap of thinking there should be a technical focus applied to every problem. This can lead organisations to overlook other solutions that can be more effective.
The good thing though, if your management tends to discount non-technical solutions, is that you can often implement non-technical solutions quickly, at low cost and ‘under the radar’. You can test different approaches and find what works, with less oversight than a technical build attracts.
At my last contract job, the most successful project our team delivered was a re-jig of existing workflows and service tickets by the continuous improvement specialist and the operations team. It delivered real improvement for our customers and service team, at as close to zero time and cost as can be done. It was a big success, and even if describing what was done lacked ‘wow factor’, the improvements kicked in immediately, and could be measured.
Common business problems not likely to be resolved with ‘technology’ (or with technology alone) are customer service problems, risk problems and performance management problems. Systems can definitely help in some aspects, especially reporting and measuring (but take care there!), but systems and automation cannot solve the problems, which are more likely cultural, or organisational.
Problems that technology can help address include data, monitoring and compliance problems, and of course improvements to systems and apps that manage customer service, supply or delivery – but even then, the full solution is going to be bigger than just the system or build you deploy to manage it. Obviously!