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Technology Sometimes Hurts More Than Helps: Consulting Group Finds Wide Discrepancies

Saturday, May 1, 2004

In a survey of its membership, the Society for the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) found that businesses vary widely in net gain or loss from the use of technology.

SAC member Wayne McKinnon, a technology consultant from Ottawa, states that, "Businesses often have it backwards. They look at technology and then try to figure out a use for it. Instead, they should first look at business outcomes. After that, technology can help in just two areas: new opportunity and increased efficiency."

Many organizations spend more money "wrangling" technology than they gain in commensurate savings. Examples include: endless phone menu choices that cause customers to hang up; reduced staffs, which produce inefficient lines and waiting time; incorrect automated responses, which cause "failure work" and live intervention; email that generates meaningless and never-ending threads of messages; and cell phones that constantly interrupt discussions, meetings, and even creative processes.

Ron Montgomery, SAC member from Overland Park, KS, observed, "Organizations neglect to establish criteria for success. How they can use technology to help their customers and suppliers succeed is seldom a priority. If you ask your customers and providers how you can best help them, that process in itself will provide competitive advantage, almost irrespective of the ensuing technology change," Montgomery said.

SAC CEO Alan Weiss, Ph.D., adds that technology is often a crutch to avoid dealing with both employees and customers on an interactive basis. "My personal survey," Weiss says, "turned up an inordinate amount of customers who know that by punching phone buttons indiscriminately, they will eventually reach a live person. No one is winning from technology in those situations. Technology must begin with legitimate business goals, or it's probably going to cost more than it saves."

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