What have Magpies got to do with technology?
We were fortunate enough to be invited to take part in a CBI (Confederation of British Industry) SMI Network event in Nottingham recently.
The event was a round table style including some larger local SME’s such as Browne Jacobsen and Duncan & Toplis, educational institutions such as Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham College, international businesses such as Dell and some small SME’s like us!
The subject we were discussing was SME adoption of proven technologies and how this improved productivity. It was certainly a lively discussion. It was interesting to hear the different viewpoints from around the table, particularly how new technology was introduced to businesses.
Ostriches and Magpies!
The CBI introduced us to some interesting terminology and there was much talk of Ostriches and Magpies! As I was about to grab my binoculars and engage in a bit of ‘twitching’ I discovered these were terms for particular types of business. They define these two types of businesses as:
Magpie: The magpie has the skill and the will to adopt tested ideas and technologies and has a keen eye for spotting readily available technologies.
Ostrich: The Ostrich sticks to what it knows. It doesn’t keep its head up and look for ways to improve.
Obviously, the aim is to make the business ‘more Magpie’. Better adoption of existing technologies could help businesses streamline day-to-day functions and create more time to concentrate on what’s core: be that developing new products and services, or providing exceptional customer service. Getting this right would deliver a £100bn increase to UK GVA, and could help save many of the 120 days’ worth of time per year every business spends on administration.
The message is that innovation for SME’s is not necessarily about doing things differently. It can be about adopting the proven technology already used by successful businesses to improve productivity.
Be More Magpie!
The CBI have produced two documents. The first entitled ‘From Ostrich to Magpie: Increasing Business Take-up of Proven Ideas and Technologies’ is a research paper style giving the background and the reasoning. It makes the case for technology adoption and is worth reading for the ‘why’ of innovation.
The second document produced in June 2018 is entitled ‘Be More Magpie’ is more practical in nature giving five top tips to be more magpie:
Diagnose the problems and opportunities – so you know what you want technology to deliver
Engage your suppliers – how can they help you solve the problem?
Be cautious about customization – employ an 80:20 rule for technology solutions
Involve your people in the process
Tap into networks – talk to others about how they’ve addressed the challenge
We think this is largely an excellent framework for technological change in a business.
What’s the issue?
The first tip is a part that’s often missed out. We often get asked what technology a business can adopt. We always respond with ‘what’s the problem that needs solving’.
For example, there is probably no point adopting a cloud based solution if your current on premises solution is working and isn’t coming to end of life. We do come across businesses who want to adopt the latest technology just “because”. They usually end up disappointed.
Start with the ‘why’. Why are we looking to make a change? Then work with your suppliers to identify the ‘what’.
People don’t like change (or spending money!)
In some cases, the why is simply ageing technology. In these cases there are often a number of different options and the business has to indicate to it’s supplier what the perimeters are.
The perimeters will almost always involve cost. It’s worth remembering here that whilst new models of purchasing software and hardware can often mean vastly reduced capital expenditure this often means an increase in operational expenditure.
Software or Hardware-As-A-Service provide increased flexibility, BUT they introduce a monthly cost to the business that wouldn’t have existed before.
Another thing to talk to your suppliers about is appetite for change and risk. This is where involving your people is vital. Whilst the Senior Management might be happy to make changes to software, they may well not be the people using it on a day-to-day basis.
It’s also important that the why is part of the conversation with users. If it is to increase productivity then learning new software might actually reduce that productivity in the short-term. Users can communicate this, management have to listen. Together you can decide if the long-term gain is worth the short term pain.
Remember to include both time and budget for staff training with any change. Even an upgrade to existing software is likely to throw up the need for users to become familiar with new features and learn to work without any that have been removed.
Where to look for the innovations in your sector
The final step – Tap into Networks – is about identifying what the market leaders in your sector are doing that makes them market leading.
Try to identify focus groups, industry based organisations or round table events rather than traditional networking. Your looking to learn rather than sell. We’ve found events organised by companies that supply software are very good. These bring together users from all over the country and enable you to see how others are using the technology differently.
Also take time to read blogs, magazines, LinkedIn articles and so on from the ‘thought leaders’ in your sector. Identify the businesses you’d like to be like and try and identify what technology and processes they use. With the amount of content we all produce it’s often easy to identify what rivals are doing as they’ll have released an article about it at some stage.
It’s time to fly
We all know that the poor Ostrich is not getting off the ground anytime soon. In order to fly you need to become a Magpie.
Your IT work with our clients to produce IT roadmaps. These detail how we will help them to continually improve their technology and make them more efficient. We do this with our clients rather than to them, working collaboratively to understand the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’.
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