Technology as example of organizational change driver

What is an Organizational Change Driver?

Organizational change drivers are major forces which create pressure for change.  Sometimes they are obvious and intentional.  Other times, they are imposed upon us by changes in the external environment.  But sometimes, we can bring them upon ourselves unintentionally.  Technology presents a great example of an organizational change driver that may apply to all these cases!

Technology and Organizational Change

I am fascinated by the advances in technology.  I just came back from a visit to my optometrist, and was amazed that a small, painless flash of light could reveal a 3 dimensional view inside my eyeball!  It is difficult to imagine the old days, where physicians had to make assumptions based on external evidence only.

The business environment is constantly affected by technological changes.  Some of these offer great opportunities and/or cost saving.  But with each technological advantage comes a cost.  Sometimes it’s a direct and obvious cost – such as the purchase of specialized equipment.   But indirect costs can also include changes to your operations, integration with other systems and training for staff.  What is the cost to maintain your new technology?   How long before it becomes obsolete and you have to start again?  These are important factors to consider when it comes to organizational change.

How does this relate to Organizational Change Driver?

It can be easy to get caught up in the hype, especially when you look around and see your competitors adopting it.  But before jumping on board with a new technology, you need to carefully analyze how it fits with your overall business strategy.   The consequences of your choice can have a major impact on the long term viability of your business. I suggest we can look at this from two perspectives:

  1.  Technology as a organizational change driver.  That is, the evolution of technology requires you to adapt in order to maintain a competitive advantage.  For example, you may be required to adopt emission reducing technology in order to comply with changes to environmental regulation.  Or, your customers have adopted new technology which can no longer be supported by your existing technology.
  2. Technology as an organizational change enabler In this case, you have a choice to adopt the technology in order to increase your competitive advantage.  For example, an Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP) can connect different aspects of your operation, create greater efficiency and reduce overhead.

Consider your Overall Business Strategy

And while the term competitive advantage is often used in the private, for-profit world, the concept also applies to public and non-profit organizations.  You must always justify your existence as an organization by providing value which exceeds the cost of operations.  As the needs of your clients, donors and the general public change, you must also adapt to remain relevant. In the case of organizational change driver, you should consider both the cost of adopting the technology, and the cost of NOT adopting the technology.

Consider both direct and indirect impacts over the long term.   In the above example of the emission reducing technology, failing to adapt may result in fines.  But it may also damage your reputation, eventually leading to lost customers.  Adopting the technology may be expensive, cause significant downtime, and require that you hire new employees with specialize skills.  But it may also be less costly to operate than the old technology, or improve the quality of your product.

How will this technology support your strategy?

Considering organizational change driver from the perspective of intangible values can be more challenging, but very important.  For example, we may consider that our brand is based on having up-to-date technology.  The challenge with brand is that our views are often biased from our own internal perspective.  Many businesses think that technology is their advantage, but are surprised to learn that customers really value their friendly customer service, or reliable delivery.  You need to be realistic and objective in assessing the direct and indirect costs and benefits to things like brand, reputation, etc.

Change enablers will help you implement other changes in your business.  They are not the driving force of change itself.  But decisions must still be made carefully, as you could potentially divert resources away from a vital part of your business.  So once again, you must weigh the full, long term costs and benefits. For both cases, consider:

  1.  The impact to your internal operations.  Take a broad view, as a change in one area often results in indirect impact to other areas.
  2. The needs of your customers.  Will changing technology benefit them?  Or could it potentially cause problems if they are not as up-to-date on technology?
  3. The impacts to your suppliers.  Will they have to change their technology or processes to serve you?  Are the supplies and materials you need to maintain the new technology readily available and cost effective?
  4. How does this technology relate to your strategic plan?  How does it position you to achieve your goals?

If you cannot demonstrate significant, measurable benefit from adopting this new technology, you may consider that this new technology is perhaps more of a want than a need.

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