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How to build meaningful relationships with your technology [TED Talk]

How to build meaningful relationships with your technology [TED Talk] Blog Feature

Connor DeLaney

Community & Events Manager, 2+ Years of Content Marketing Strategy & Project Management

November 24th, 2019 min read

Workplace relationships can be tricky. The risk of the relationship not working out can hurt everyone involved and can force your organization to make an uncomfortable decision.

Imagine it. You work together every day, navigate the ups and downs, and you can’t see working without each other.

Then, one day, you learn your manager has been speaking with leadership about a change and your partner in crime is being replaced.

How could this happen? 
It seemed like everything was going so well. Now, you are suddenly charged with feelings of betrayal and helplessness. You've invested so much time getting to know them, building processes and workflows. You relied on them to be successful.

How can your manager change software systems just like that?

Oh, you thought I was talking about people? I’m talking about technology.

In the modern age, you and your technology are in a relationship.

When you have a strong relationship with the technology you work with, two things happen:
First, you feel empowered to complete your tasks, without needing to worry that you don’t have everything you need to succeed.

Second, you are more motivated to succeed and your confidence will be high. There is nothing stopping you now.

So, how do you identify your technological ‘soulmate’ in your organization?

Back in January 2019, Nadjia Yousif, a member of Boston Consulting Group, gave a TedTalk about the relationships we build with technology and why, in the modern age, we need to be treating our tech like a colleague, not just a tool.

She identifies three approaches for improving the relationship between you and the technology you use at your organization. 

1. Know what you’re investing in

Companies can be quick to pull the trigger when it comes to new technology.

Momentum, public appeal, or special discounts or deals make it easy for executives to affirm their need for it.

However, this can lead to software becoming shelfware, meaning technology has been purchased but never used.

Yousif found that 25% of technology projects that organizations invest in are canceled or are delivering things they never actually use.

Why is this the case?

Yousif identifies a clear disconnect between top management and employees on the front line about the technology they are investing in.

“[Management] expects people will use them, it will create time savings, and people will become genuinely better at their jobs.”

This sounds like a perfect world scenario from a managerial perspective, however, we all know that is rarely, if ever, the case.

She continues, “the reality is the people on the front lines, who are supposed to be using these software and tools, they’re skeptical or even afraid.”

What does that say about the relationship an organization has with its technology?

There is a lack of trust, a lack of buy-in, and a lack of assumed responsibility.

Technology should not be purchased for the sake of saying it was the best option on the market.

Rather, it should be invested in with trainings, seminars, and regular check ins to ensure the platform and the team are successful.

An open dialogue between leadership, managers, and front-line employees is critical to identifying the needs of the organization and the technology capable of filling that need.

Where does that discussion begin?

2. Audit your business-technology relationships

Yousif proposes creating a detailed organization chart that showcases the hierarchy of your organization, plus the tools being used by each team.

This allows each team to reflect and be transparent about how they accomplish their day-to-day activities.

To do this successfully, every member of the organization must be included, from upper-level management to the new intern.

Without an honest and objective audit, it can be easy to miss ulterior motives such as pressure from leadership.

Having an open and honest conversation can save your company time, money, and resources that can be reinvested into other parts of the organization.

An example used by Yousif is a small catering company named Bovingdon’s Catering Company.

By illustrating the relationship between the company and its technology, she is able to identify the different relationships people and technology have at the company.

Org-Chat-Nadjia-Yousif-Business-Technology-Relationships-min
Yousif goes on to identify the different types of technology relationships. Use these relationships to evaluate and organize your own relationships at your organization moving forward.

Extra critical relationships

Extra critical relationships are when a person cannot complete their day-to-day tasks without their technological companion.

For example, a finance director and their accounting platform.

It can be easy to assume the job is getting done so they must be working effectively, but that is not always the case. Rather than assume, Yousif recommends pushing deeper and challenging the relationship.

Consider a recent project you worked on with your team.

Is there someone who you found to be more difficult than others to work with, but still managed to get the job done? Even further, is that same someone a person you have had difficulty working with in the past?

Surface-level success can be deep-rooted in tension and frustration.

Technology overload relationships

A technology overload relationship is where employees are using an abundance of technology in their role to the point of feeling overwhelmed.

In Yousif’s example, the operations director was using five different technologies in their day-to-day.

That can be a scary reality, and something I’m sure we have all dealt with before.

What is the login for this? Where do I pull data for that?

When Yousif spoke with the Operations Director, they recognized that “he always felt overwhelmed by his job, but it wasn't until our conversation that he thought it might be because of the technologies he was overseeing.”

Unknown relationships

The unknown relationship is where technology is reporting to several different places without a specific owner, or where it is being flat-out ignored by the company.

In this case, it’s likely the technology could be outdated but never removed or it could be an unknown resource your company has.

Yousif’s analogy sums it up best. “It was like someone had hired it and then didn't give it a desk or any instructions on what to do.”

Sometimes, it makes sense to remove the technology from your company, but that can be difficult when you imagine this technology as an employee.

How do you manage these relationships?

Build trust with your technology

To build trust, consider doing a team-building activity with the technology platform.

I know what you are thinking… icebreakers with a computer program?

Not exactly, but sort of.

Consider reaching out to a technology specialist or industry expert in the program to walk through the challenges you have been dealing with and how you are currently using the platform.

Given their vast knowledge, they will be able to provide tips for how to approach specific situations differently and maximize your relationship with the platform.

Another option, especially in unknown relationships, may be to host a coffee chat with your team and the technology.

For one hour (or more if you prefer), set no agenda other than to familiarize yourself with the technology, experiment with the different features, and see what you come up with.

Sometimes, it may confirm that this technology isn’t right for your company and it is time to move on. This saves your organization money that can be invested elsewhere.

Other times, it can open the door to new ways your organization can be using the technology that could increase productivity, simplify processes, and ultimately drive your company’s bottom line.

Delegate technology to the right person

While delegation can be seen as a sign of weakness or inability, it more often than not is better for all people involved.

Re-evaluating all the technology you use can lead to finding opportunities to pass responsibilities to someone else on the team that may be more qualified to do so.

This is especially applicable to those in a technology overload relationship because it removes pressure from one party while handing the responsibility to someone who is more hands-on and qualified to use the technology in the first place.

In the case of Bovingdon’s, there was an opportunity to delegate the food inventory program over to the head chef.

3. Be adaptable

A culture of adaptability and open-mindedness is at the core of any business-technology relationship.

Your organization must always be challenging technology and the employees using it to ensure it is in the right place and performing the right job to be successful.

When the technology is not up to par, it is time to find something new that will propel your business forward.

If you are stuck in the mindset that changing your technology will slow down your company, there may be a larger issue with your team worth investigating.

How does this compare to your business?

Are you building meaningful relationships with your technology?

Let’s discuss how you and your organization can build successful relationships with technology in IMPACT Elite

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