Business or Technology Driven Transformation?

Should technology transform the business or should the business lead a transformation through the use of technology. Others have asserted that transformation mandates large scale technology driven change where the business is compelled to accept new systems / solutions. In my experiences with this type of approach, a gap opens up between the business and technology organizations which is very hard to close. Technology for the sake of technology frequently fails to be satisfy the business. Too often this creates an over-engineered or under-engineered solution. Given today’s business environment, I am not sure any company can afford either of these alternatives. In fact, with am exclusive technology led transformation, the likelihood that the technology will meet the needs of the business is very low.

You may think that I am advocating a business led transformation in light of my comments above. The challenge with a business led transformation is that the business may or may not want to change. If you apply a business led change approach, and the business resists change, how do you make change happen? Many articles, blogs, white papers, and books discuss the resistance to change. This resistance to change is my hypothesis for why technology driven change has grown. In some corporate cultures and environments, technology can be used as a hammer to drive change. This addresses some challenges, and creates new ones, one of which is introduced above.

Change is rarely “back and white”. The question of business or technolgy led transformation encapsulates this debate. At times a business driven change is appropriate. Other times a technology driven change is better. In order to lead change, you need a took box full of approaches, techniques, tips, and even tricks that span business and technology domains. Depending on where your change effort is in the lifecycle of activity, you will be well served to lean on the business at certain times (e.g. defining the strategy) while leveraging technology as well (e.g. overcoming resistance).


2 thoughts on “Business or Technology Driven Transformation?

  1. Interesting. I would agree that business and technology interests must operate symbiotically to manage (if not cultivate) effective change practices across the enterprise.

    Timing is also a key component. I wonder if the newspaper industry should have predicted the transient and evaporative nature of media these days, perhaps integrating social media tools as a part of the stream of conversation (rather than hoping such innovations would just go away).

    A business precedent can be found in the way the music industry resisted Napster and MP3 technology circa 2000; it wasn’t about whether consumers could freely exchange music files, it was about controlling the original point of distribution. This is an example where technology and business interests failed to converge in time, and the industry evolved as a result (leaving behind such casualties as Tower Records).

    Anyway – nice stuff.

  2. Thanks Kel. You pose an interesting question. Certainly, the newspaper industry should have prepared for / planned / or at least anticipated for, as you refer to it “the transiet and evaporative nature of media these days’. “Predicted” is probably too concrete a concept. Not many companies, let alone industries, predict their challenges, demise, or decay.

    I believe business is cyclical. Most newspapers used to be relatively free in the early days. They evolved over time to grow revenue beyond advertising based on writers content and other specialty capabilities (e.g. WSJ). As they evolved the model changed to subscriptions based on content. Much like the napster / music reference you make. The same will happen to newspapers online. Time will tell and there will be casualties along the way. Who is the “tower records” of the newspaper industry?

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