4 Reasons Technology Initiatives Fail Businesses

It is not uncommon when management teams begin a new technology change initiative to begin by defining and measuring the current condition of the business. 

Once those benchmarks are established, the next steps often are to define the “ideal state” for the business and the measures for defining the achievement of the ideal state.  

Stated in simple terms, there is clear business logic in this process. I haven’t met anyone who didn’t nod their head in agreement with this fundamental approach.

The question is why do so many technology implementations fail despite this thoughtful beginning?  The following are some of the core drivers of failure:

1. Definitions Fail:  Too often project teams get lost in the definition phase which can potentially jeopardize the entire project.  In the early stages, the project team often defines specific business measures that will affirm the success of the project or achievement of the ideal state.

Let’s be clear about the “Ideal State”.  The ideal state for any business is never a static fixed achievement.  Every business is operating in midst of numerous competitive and market dynamics that are constantly changing.  What you may envision as the “ideal state” today could be a failure 3 years from now.

So the “ideal state” should be clearly recognized as a dynamic, flexible operating environment where the entire management team has the most coherent view of all business dimensions, daily measures of business performance are consistently applied by all management, and the time it takes to get the needed answers to daily business activities is as short as possible.

2. Management vs IT Leaders:  Another common reason major technological business initiatives fail is that the executive leaders often hire IT people based on technical knowledge first while knowledge of the fundamental business is secondary. 

Clearly the IT leaders need the technical skills to evaluate and implement all IT priorities but when IT departments are organized with great technical skills and limited understanding of the business, long-term failures escalate.

The common outcomes that often occur when IT skills are prioritized over fundamental business knowledge are too many tech applications employed, managers fail to use new systems due to time waste, and the failure of the tech solutions to deliver the insights needed for managers at all levels to make more informed decisions. 

3. Speed to Actionable Answers for all Managers: In the daily landscape of virtually all businesses today, change is occurring at a pace that has never been encountered.  This lack of speed to critical answers is costing enterprises significant money.

The common technical solution for many companies is to place a beautiful dashboard into the hands of managers with daily KPIs that deliver the basic measure of performance. 

The challenge is that most dashboards only answer the basic questions and do not empower the user to interrogate further to get to the root causes and make truly informed decisions. This is a core roadblock for many enterprises reaching that “ideal state”.

For many management teams operating in what they hoped was that “ideal state”, informed root cause decisions are often never obtained or require reports from multiple IT applications.  Or managers are waiting for standard reports coming from IT at the end of a week or month.  That lag time is unacceptable in today’s operating environment.

When middle and front-line managers find it hard to engage basic analytics themselves, or they can’t readily get to the answers they need, the odds move toward the managers doing nothing or sticking to old routines.

Self-service analysis must be customized for each level of management to get every answer they need to ensure informed decisions are made every single day.

4. Do the Managers Want It?  A final factor that is a common roadblock to reaching the “Ideal State” occurs when IT initiatives are delivering outcomes that managers don’t value or want to see.  If managers at all levels don’t see the value even when trained to use the new systems, the odds of failure are very high.

A formal alignment process needs to occur with every technical implementation where the right data and metrics are linked with the needs and motivations of each management level.

This alignment process goes beyond basic training for the new application but engages each manager to think differently about their individual dimensions of the business.

Once the data and metrics are aligned with every level of management, the compensation should be changed to give each manager a stake in the daily business game.

When each manager is empowered to see their stake in the business with precision and speed, and they are rewarded when good decisions are made, the entire enterprises is driven to new levels of success.  And that success is sustainable over time.

Karl Edmunds

About the Author


Vice President, Salient Management Company

is a nationally recognized business leader and author with more than 20 years of experience working with suppliers, distributors, and retailers in the CPG industry. His focus is aligning technical solutions with sales, marketing, and organizational needs to drive long-term profitable growth.

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