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  • Adam Walter

Smarter not Harder

Listen: Humanize IT Podcast Blog Ep 126

Sometimes we believe the most high-tech solutions available will solve all our problems when in reality, the human element is what builds loyalty among our customers and clients. In this episode, Adam and Skip expand on their “What Really Matters'' miniseries to discuss how to work smarter — not harder — and avoid over-engineering.

What is over-engineering? When you buy into the latest technology just because it’s there, without thinking of the consequences and complications it may lead your business to later on.

Here’s an example: Adam’s kids’ orthodontist office didn’t have a real receptionist to handle their scheduling, but rather a VOIP or calling tree. For many people, talking to a computer is a turnoff because it’s impersonal. Not to mention, these systems become so built around processes that they become unrealistic. You can talk to a real employee on the phone and book your appointment, but if you don’t respond “Y” to confirm via text the day before, the computer views this as a silent cancellation. This can cause turmoil within your business.

IT was built to solve problems and make life easier, but just because you have the latest, greatest technology doesn’t mean you should use it. If this ends up costing you customers, maybe it’s time to rely on a human being; even if the human makes a mistake, at least your prospect got the satisfaction of talking to someone who was real. A receptionist will cost you around 30k a year, but they’re worth it if the VOIP system is letting down those who trust you to serve them.

Another commonly overthought field is project management. Executives spend years trying to put a complex software in place when in the end, the best option could be something as simple as a classic kanban board where you move sticky notes from task to task, or a good old fashioned checklist.

Instead of relying on technology to keep track of things for you, find the project manager that works, not the project management system you wish would work. Trust the person using the tool over the tool itself, and everything else technology-wise will fall into place if it’s in the right hands. Chances are, no matter how many calendar and task-focused apps you’ve got on your phone, you’re still going to be busting out that paper and pencil to create your to-do list in 2060.

It’s important to not get caught up with having technology for the sake of technology and instead put people first. Adam said his biggest pet peeve with companies is when they rely too much on KPIs, or key performance indicators. These shiny numbers and figures are easy to slap onto a presentation without first truly understanding why they exist.

Many supervisors ask the IT people, “How much is ‘so and so’ using the internet?”

Adam usually responds with the hard truth: “Why do you need to know?”

If your people are having performance problems, talk to them. It shouldn’t matter what they are doing online as long as they’re getting their job done. You don’t need these figures, you need better conversations. You don’t need to look for ways to fire someone, you need to look for ways to help them. This is a hard pill for many executives to swallow, but it serves as a reminder to not lose sight of what made your company great in the first place.

The moral of the story? Don’t submerge yourself in data while neglecting the people behind it. Identify your business goals first, then develop the technology and target KPIs to solve it. And it doesn’t end there. You need to review these solutions often to make sure they’re relevant and still serving their purpose. Technology is useful and fascinating, but when you avoid over-engineering and put humans first, that’s when you solve relevant business problems and create clients or customers for life.

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