A blog focused on messaging, Web and collaboration issues, including email, instant messaging, VoIP, Web conferencing and other technologies that help people communicate more efficiently and effectively.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The impact of corporate culture on technology decisions

IT managers, CIOs, CTOs and others make technology decisions about a wide variety of solutions that impact how we work: email, archiving, encryption, collaboration, managed file transfer, Web 2.0 applications and so forth. Decision makers take into account the features and functions these systems will provide, how they will mitigate risk, how they will boost productivity or how they will boost revenue.

However, I believe that a key missing element in the analysis of what will work and how much it will cost is how (or even if) it will be used. This is simply because a key determinant in the success of many technology solutions is the existing culture of the corporate environment. For example:

  • If you deploy a corporate collaboration system based on social networking that allows employees to share information through Twitter-like capabilities, blogging and the like, but your corporate culture rewards employees for hoarding information, the collaboration system will have little impact and might actually be resented by some.
  • If you deploy easy-to-use, manual encryption capabilities for your employees, but do not make it easy for your employees’ recipients to receive and open encrypted emails, few will send encrypted communications.
  • If you want to alleviate the burden of large attachments sent through email and improve the security of your content by deploying a managed file transfer system, it will be necessary to make this system about as easy to use as email. However, if a file transfer system is cumbersome and disruptive to normal workflows, it simply won’t be used.

The key, therefore, is to examine technology solutions in light of the existing corporate culture to see what will be used and what employees will simply ignore. Corporate edicts of “thou shalt use” the new technology are unlikely to work – employees will typically find workarounds that will negate the value of the investment in the new technology. Instead, corporate culture should be the first thing that decision makers review in light of a) the current state of the culture and b) where they might like it to be. For example, if productivity and the bottom line will be improved by employees sharing information, they must first develop a corporate culture that rewards people for sharing information, working in teams, developing communities of content sharing and the like – and then deploy solutions that will enable that to happen.

Deploying technology first and hoping corporate culture catches up rarely works.

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