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Technology vs Machinery.

Technology vs Machinery.

Technology and machinery are not the same thing. They sound compatible but often they’re not. They often work against each other rather than with each other. Technology vs machinery.

Russell Davies talked about the “machinery of government”.

Steve Hilton talked about the “machinery of political funding” in the States.

They were talking at the APG’s brilliant Strategy vs Robots conference at the Royal Institution. But they weren’t talking about technology.

They were talking about how things get done. Machinery is a catch-all term for issues like organisational structure, process, governance, leadership, culture and communication.

Sometimes, seldom it seems, the machinery is compatible with new technology.

Technology vs machinery

More often than not the machinery reacts to technology like a cat with a hairball in its throat. The machinery rejects digital transformation like a poorly tissue-typed donor organ.

I’ve worked on a few  digital transformation projects recently. By which I mean the kind of project where the scale and scope and significance of the change wrought by new technology truly justifies the “transformation” label.

And what these projects had in common is that, out of the discovery phase, technology was the last thing we had to sort out. In all cases we had to sort the machinery before we could prescribe and implement the technology.

Talking to stakeholders from senior management (the people who would be paying for the technology) and from various operational functions (the people who would be using the technology) invariably raised issues of strategy, governance and internal communication that rendered redundant any discussion about CRM or CMS platforms.

The old(ish) Forrester POST methodology has never rung more true.

People. Objectives. Strategy. Technology.

In. That. Order.

You might find that everyone is talking in similar terms about the importance of CRM technology. But probe a little deeper and it becomes evident that no two stakeholders define CRM in the same way. Some stakeholders are adamant that there is a CRM strategy, others are blissfully ignorant of this “fact”.

You’ll probably find that what the left hand of the business thinks the right hand needs from technology is wildly at odds with the right hand’s self-assessment.

You shouldn’t be surprised if no two members of the senior management team share the same understanding of business strategy. Seriously.

I had a chat with Neil Perkin during coffee and he mentioned that he had been working more frequently with senior management teams on recent consultancy projects. And he observed how apparent it quickly becomes in stakeholder workshops just how little time these business leaders spend with each other. In fact it is questionable whether the word “team” actually applies to the senior management of many large organisations.

The machinery is broken, or at best dysfunctional, and technology won’t fix it. The digital transformation of a badly oiled machine will only make matters worse. It is doomed to be a very expensive mistake. If you don’t want a technology vs machinery situation, you need to focus as much attention on the legacy issues of structure, culture, teamwork and politics as on the desired outcomes and the technology required to achieve them.

Done properly digital transformation is, first and foremost, an exercise in management consultancy. No surprise then that management consultancies are the organisations with which we most often compete to secure these digital transformation projects. Agencies vs consultancies. Past vs future. Technology vs machinery.

Russell talking about technology vs machinery.
Russell talking about technology vs machinery.

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