5 Steps to Digital Fluency

Steve Steele, Lawn & Landscape - August, 2021

The intense speed at which tech is moving, along with the strategic and competitive advantages a digitally run organization provides, make it more critical than ever to stay ahead of the curve rather than play catch up.

The question is not if we need someone to handle tech; it is determining how technology fits into and drives our operational infrastructure. We must verify who’s on point for tech governance, strategy and the smooth running of our organization’s digitally driven engine.

Here are five ways digitally fluent organization answer these questions.

1. What tech specialists are needed? Options must be consistent with budget and strategy. A C-Suite professional for tech operations may be cost-prohibitive, but a budget-friendly tech generalist and/or third-party resource may result in coverage gaps. The answer is likely a combination of resources.

A Chief Information Officer (CIO) or similar could handle everything from strategic advice to end-user support, though many companies may not have the complex technical needs to both pay for, and warrant, this addition to the C-Suite. Therefore, an external vendor is a cost-effective option for cyber-security, network maintenance and end-user support activities.

A tech committee composed of managers and end-users from each functional business area, augmented with a consultant or trusted advisor to provide them with technical knowledge and counsel, can consider tech needs and options.

Have somebody leading the charge, whether it’s one person or a team. Having a tech specialist ensures it will be used strategically.

The consultant may also provide fractional CIO duties, filling the gap at a fraction of the cost of a C-Suite addition.

Any resources employed must effectively present advice from a neutral viewpoint and not one motivated by vendor relationships, individual profit or other factors which may result in strategic decisions inconsistent with what is ultimately best for customers and employees.

2. What responsibilities do specialists fulfill? Tech specialists translate business needs into an actionable plan.

Whether it is finding and implementing tech that provides efficiency gains, or working with the C-Suite to determine how tech drives revenue, performance or competitive advantage, they are tasked with several critical responsibilities, including:

  • Ensuring system security
  • Determining what tech gaps exist
  • Evaluating the long-term scalability of tech solutions
  • Determining compatibility and overlaps with existing systems
  • Effectively implementing solutions
  • Providing on-going training and support to users

3. How can systems be optimized? Documenting a specific evaluation process helps provide logical and consistent criteria to evaluate the value of your investment in new technologies. It should also ferret out areas where there are unintended impacts on other areas of the organization.

Evaluate proposed tech’s organizational impact by asking your team: what gaps does this solution fill? How will customer service and/or internal workflow improve? How will technology reduce costs?

4. What is my desired outcome? Knowing the outcomes that drive strategic business decisions is critical. Focus on defining deliverables like “provide gross margin by service at the customer level.” This specificity allows the proper questions to be asked of the vendor before a commitment is made and clarifies in advance the specific uses the tech is being employed for and how it will function optimally.

5. How do I know if tech is providing value? The right technology allows you to establish and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) and management dashboards that show real-time progress toward objectives. Focus groups of users and customers can help provide critical data on the user experience, identifying training gaps and needed improvements.

Discovering through hindsight that different decisions in the past would lead to a better outcome today is not a sustainable business model. Properly supported, technology gives us a crystal ball to make pricing, service level and scheduling decisions in the present, and allows us to keep, or even increase, our competitive advantage while positively impacting gross margin and retention operations.

Reprinted with permission. GIE Media. Lawn & Landscape May 2021 (c)

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