Management Blog and case study


Technologies: Don’t Confuse “Tool” and “Solution”

December 5th 2011

ERP Solutions and Tools

Through my years of experience, I have noticed that company managers who come up against business problems often confuse a management tool with a solution.

While not negating the role a technological tool plays in solving a management problem, there is a need to acknowledge certain basic principles to avoid exacerbating a problem rather than solving it.

The most straightforward analogy is based on my personal experience. I have limited talent as a handyman. We can’t all be good at everything, so when I was once given a high-performance mitre saw as a gift, I was told how great an improvement this would be.

Between using a handsaw to cut through a plank and using my new mitre saw, there was a difference in operating efficiency that even the word “enormous” does not come close to describing.

But the problem is, if I begin by taking the wrong measurement at the outset, the result, namely cutting the board the wrong length, will obviously be unsatisfactory in either case, regardless of which tool I use.

In this simplified example, one thing becomes clear. As difficult as it may be on the ego, but very real nonetheless, it is important first to “know-how”, i.e. to have the skills necessary, to correctly analyze a business situation and a goal you have set out to achieve before deciding to optimize a process using a new technological tool. Otherwise, you risk losing control.

Did you also notice in my example that, in addition to cutting the board the wrong length, which rendered it useless, I could produce the same effect… only faster?

My point here is that if your business process has shortcomings, even before introducing an optimization tool, you will only find out sooner how bad an operator or manager you are. Because over the same period, you will generate a lot more poor results than you did before! Fortunately, most of us learn from our mistakes and can adjust quickly.

A second more subtle and perverse operational finding: a sophisticated, high-performance tool is likely to magnify a procedure’s operational shortcomings to the point where you will feel that it is creating more problems than solving them.

So, at the risk of incurring the wrath of die-hard techno freaks, before you throw yourself into the latest new cutting-edge technology that revolutionizes all manners of thinking and operating and that will propel you to the top, my suggestion would be to carefully review which operations and business processes will be affected with the introduction of the technology and ensure that they are, if not optimal, supported by at least some references showing that they are effective. And don’t forget the human factor, a critical element in the success of your approach.

Ensure also that you do not fall into the trap of thinking that you have no other option but to mould your operations to those imposed on you by a new and revolutionary technology, which is impossible for you to operate based on theory rather than practical application.

Because then, you are transforming a “tool” into a “solution”.

You are subsequently on a slippery slope where the success of your plan to optimize operations hinges on improvised management and the likelihood that the tool imposes operations that are, presumably, in line with the nature of your sector and the innovative character of your business vision.

Don’t place decisions dealing with your operations in the hands of technologists. Instead, use their expertise to see how your organization can become more efficient, more productive and, ultimately, more competitive.

Lastly, I must confess and acknowledge that I have a weakness with any new technology. Not a day goes by that I am not exploring the possibility of improving operating performance by incorporating an emerging technology that might completely support my vision.

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