Technology Enablement: Getting the Best Out of Existing Technology

At Coffin Mew, we are currently in the training and customisation stage of our Horizon project, which will see the roll-out of a brand new practice management system in 2020. As part of the project, we have also selected and developed a suite of applications exactly tailored to the needs of different teams and clients. This is all very exciting, and we’ve achieved enthusiastic engagement with our staff and other stakeholders.

But what’s new is always more exciting than what is already in place. Not every business is in a position to overhaul its IT and we ourselves also have plenty of specialist systems that will continue, even with Horizon. So, how can a business get the best out of its existing technology?

The starting point is a bold assertion: you definitely can get more out of your existing technology.

This is due to several, if not all, of the following reasons:

  • No matter how carefully the technology was assessed and selected in the first place, your business has moved on and changed; as have your customers and suppliers.
  • Users were not adequately trained at the outset. The IT team weren’t always made clear about the detailed day-to-day workflows the technology was applied to.
  • Users haven’t had adequate refresher training on a regular basis. The IT team weren’t kept up-to-date about changing workflows and processes.
  • The configuration for any particular user was over-the-top and provided unnecessary functionality. What each user really needed has been obscured and made difficult to access. This has led to reduced use of the particular technology in favour of other means to achieve the required action.
  • No technology exactly suits every user. This is a fair point, but people are inventive and many users will have developed workarounds to achieve a certain level of self-customisation and non-technical hacks. That may suit them but may have also inadvertently compromised how other users and teams can engage with them through the technology.
  • The processes followed by users (regardless of the technology) may not be efficient or optimized in light of the current needs and constraints of the business. It’s one of those universally acknowledged truths: if your processes are poorly designed, technology will only compensate to a limited degree, and possibly not at all.

Whether making the case for new technology, or for investing more into existing technology, it’s essential that IT people remember one of the things which distinguishes them from other stakeholders: IT people love technology and all the things that technology can do, and they delight in a well-designed architecture and so on.

What about non-IT people? Well, we only care about what technology can do for us. It’s also essential that IT people keep in mind that they can tell us every day that a piece of technology – a device, app or entire software system – is state of the art. But if we can’t personally get a handle on it, we will disengage, and either not use it or fudge how we use it.

At the same time, other stakeholders need to remember that IT people are not magicians. They cannot train us, or configure systems to be customised for us if we are not clear about how we work. We also need to assist IT people by challenging ourselves to reimagine how we do things in order to drive unnecessary complexity and process out of our workflows.

A re-engagement with existing technology can therefore deliver significant benefits to the business and all stakeholders. It can:

  • Lead to a reassessment of day-to-day operations and how to do things better regardless of the technology on an individual basis, within teams and between teams;
  • Identify what elements of the existing functions have become redundant so that, where possible, they can be disabled, simplifying the user interface;
  • Spot common and recurring bugbears that annoy and irritate users, impacting the quality of their working experience and therefore their effectiveness;
  • Pinpoint specific improvements which will have a measurable return on the investment of time and resources to implement them; and
  • Highlight critical enhancements needed to better integrate with customer and supplier operations, controlling the level of further investment needed in new technology to sit alongside the existing tech.

We first started planning our Horizon project four years ago. As we spent time investigating the value chain and our user and business requirements, we began to see clearly that the thing to focus on was the outcome of bringing people and technology together.

To enable your people to contribute to the best of their ability, and to get the most out of your technology (whether new or existing), it’s best to facilitate a lively and regular exchange between your IT team and other users.

When all stakeholders are willing to take the time to explain what they need, your IT team can deliver meaningful training and customisation. Provided most people are ready to flex a little, you will have the best chance of getting the best possible results.

Mark O'Halloran

Coffin Mew
Mark heads up the Commercial & Intellectual Property team, providing business-focused and responsive advice and solutions on all commercial legal matters. They deal with the full range of contractual issues of concern to clients, from preparing Terms & Conditions appropriate for their size and sector, to designing full-form Framework Agreements for multiple international trading activities. Mark started his career as an adviser to the Andorran Trade Mark Office and then worked on non-dollar derivative options in the City of London. However, he really cut his legal teeth as an in-house adviser in the engineering sector, eventually becoming General Counsel to a Japanese semiconductor manufacturer. That role took him all across Europe, Asia and the US, working with managers, engineers and advisers from many different cultures and jurisdictions, and taught him how to provide advice that was precise, relevant and easily understood. When Mark went into practice in 2001, his aim was to add the benefits of the in-house approach to the advantages of being an external adviser. His client base now extends to the semiconductor industry, enterprise-level software development, UK and European fragrance distribution, radio spectrum management for military and telecommunications authorities, agile management consultancy and specialist retail installations. He is also committed to working with start-ups developing innovative apps and products.