During the recent vote by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to select the location for the 2022 Winter Games, a “re-vote” had to be conducted using paper ballots when problems occurred with the new, electronic voting system. This technology challenge was quite comical when you realize there were only 84 total votes to tally, and everyone was located in the same place. Why try to apply technology to such a simple, infrequent process?
As a kid in the 1970s, much of the technology I now take for granted (computers, internet, cell phones, etc.) was not available. Televisions had knob controls, telephones had dials, cars had no airbags, and letters were hand-written and mailed. Technology has in many ways improved our quality of life, and has saved countless lives. In business, technology has greatly improved information flow, manufacturing quality and efficiency, and employee productivity. Our love of technology, however, often leads to poor investment decisions.
I recently toured a local manufacturing plant that was having significant challenges fulfilling their production schedule. Several months prior to my visit, this facility had installed two very large, complex, and highly-automated machines. After several months, these machines were still not working correctly, and the workforce did not have the expertise to fix the problems. When I asked why they were purchased, I learned that it was the “latest technology” that could “solve” all their biggest production challenges.
All too often, organizations make poor decisions when they invest in technology. In the book The Toyota Way, one of the 14 management principles listed by the author is to “Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes.” To help avoid making a mistake in your technology investments, follow these guidelines:
In our personal lives, we can enjoy flat screen televisions, iPhones, and satellite radio, even if we don’t need them. But organizations must be practical and smart with their investments. Use technology wisely.