Do you ever wonder how some companies can leverage technology into breakthrough innovation and improved revenues while others languish with one failed attempt after another, stuck in the muck of aging technology?
Is it a cultural issue? Or generational?
Generationally speaking, my son Max is a “gamer”. I don’t think it is the best use of time, but don’t get me started on that! A few years ago, he called to tell me he wanted to start streaming. What?! Don’t you have a stats class? What is streaming? He went on to tell me about how a group of gamers get together to play a game and broadcast the game so others can watch. The gamers laugh and make fun of each other, yell and scream about the events in the game and people come in droves to follow along and watch. While I was dismayed by the amount of time he would not be studying, I quickly became interested in this endeavor after he told me what he needed to begin streaming online.
Technology and Millennials
Max needed to learn creative software tools and he needed an open-source streaming package to start his streaming journey. He also needed to learn how to adjust audio preferences using YouTube. Prior to this discovery, I couldn’t have cared less about gaming, but I was very interested in my “not so interested in school” son learning major software packages! I gladly paid for the SaaS license for Adobe and OBS was free to use. Within a couple weeks, he was up and running and so proud of himself. I was proud of him too. And it really made me think about the ease, low cost and sophistication of today’s applications. What can’t you do?
My son is part of a generation that was raised with technology. Like other kids his age, he had a cell phone before he was 10. He had gaming consoles, laptops and desktop computers. He has amazing online playlists and on and on. He totally believes that any problem can be solved with technology. He would just need to find the right app.
I can just imagine Max as an executive at a company. He would be sitting in a meeting with a CIO who is telling him that he could absolutely solve the company’s problem; it will just take millions of dollars and years to develop. Max would laugh, pull out his phone and download an app, while texting one of his wizard gamer buddies to come in and take over for the CIO.
Now, let’s not get the wrong idea. I’m not suggesting that you run your company with free phone apps. But as an organization, it’s important to start thinking about new ways to solve problems. When you interview candidates for IT roles, what questions do you ask? How about, “Tell me about the last time you solved a business problem for less than $50?”
What about culture? Do you get more from technology if you believe it can transform your company? The answer: Yes, you do.
Culture: The Role of Technology in Organizations
My research began with a 2018 Information and Management article, which looked at how the role of technology impacts an organization’s financial results. In their work they looked at industries where technology was either automating, empowering or transformational and the subsequent impact on business results. If you expect more from technology, do you get better results? In this case, they answered yes, and we followed up in 2021 to look at similar parameters.
Our study extended work previously done by looking specifically at SaaS technology. We wanted to understand whether organizations that implemented SaaS and required or expected more from technology got better financial results and higher levels of productivity. In our study, the role of technology was a significant mediator between the amount of SaaS implemented and organizational results.
In our survey of 554 senior IT managers and CIOs, using the previous research, we asked how respondents classified technology within their organization. This helped us to understand the importance of technology within the organization; is it critical or nice to have? The survey question asked;
What is the role that best describes how information technology is viewed in your organization?
The response choices were:
- Information technology helps us to automate by replacing human labor with automated business processes.
- Information technology helps us with information to empower management and employees.
- Information technology fundamentally transforms our business and industry processes and relationships.
The biggest differences in results were between the Automate and Transform categories. Let’s take a deeper look: