Excuses, excuses …

a road sign showing all turnings as excuses and straight ahead as no excusesI should apologise for the length of time in between posts, apologise, but not make an excuse …

A Supply Chain Director recently asked my advice on how to double their organisation’s IT project delivery performance. My advice was straightforward, “do half the number of projects you’re doing today, you know half of the current ones aren’t worth doing”. His look of confusion turned into a one of sheepishness. We all know it, but we seem incapable of stopping it. Perhaps some hard evidence about the value it’s destroying will help.

But before we do that, we should understand how we end up in this situation. It’s not uncommon to hear executives in large organisations blaming the inflexibility, or lack of capability, or age of their current technology capability for their inability to deliver outcomes. Outcomes in the short term, and outcomes in the long term. And one of the reasons we seem to like doing it, is that it feels like a victimless crime. We’re not pointing out the failing of a colleague, or our inability to execute, just the failings of an inanimate object. Of course, when you attempt to pin down the value of the new features and capabilities that are needed, you face a slippery, generalised response. In any event, even if we can’t articulate the precise benefits, it must be better to have a new one, rather than an old one, right? Wrong.

Recently I’ve been involved in a comprehensive omnichannel review across over 80 european retailers. The review is based on actual empirical research, so shoppers actually shopped the retailers across all their channels, to understand the degree to which each retailer presented a consistent, engaging customer experience. We were able to overlay onto the research the age of the technology platforms being used. And the interesting result was … those retailers who had replaced their technology most recently, performed least well. Yes, you read that correctly. And it’s a large enough sample size to give confidence.

Another Supply Chain Director I know rejected requests from the team for continued technology investment, and instead told the team to use what they had properly. That company has some of the highest availability in the UK. Because often it’s not about systems, it’s about focus and execution.

One thing I notice about start ups, is that they don’t sit around moaning about the state of their systems. Or I imagine that those that did have gone bust. Instead they take solid, open-source tools, roll up their sleeves, and get on with the job at hand. We need more of that can-do mindset in large organisations. So the next time you feel like complaining about the parlous state of your technology platforms, reflect for a moment, maybe they’re not the problem … maybe it’s you.

Excuses, excuses …

Rob works with technology start ups and leading retailers on the impact and opportunities of digital technologies

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