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Letters to a Young Manager

An Extra Day of Work, #72
LTYM > Strategy

Dear Adam,
How do you get employees to use new technology? You know that it will bring productivity gains, but you have run up against one of the most common obstacles: habit. It's often true of technology that if you build it, they won't come. Here's a story that shows how new technology can be embraced and used.

Charlie MacCormack, former President & CEO of Save the Children, was a big supporter of our Information Technology Strategy. He gets it, and shows a continuing interest. However, there's an irony. He was not a big user of technology. For the longest time others handled his email, and he dictated replies. The PC in his office was more show than useful. There were no productivity gains in the executive suite that could be attributed to technology. But that all changed recently.

A year or so ago, Carolyn Miles, Save's COO, asked for a more portable solution for keeping in touch by email than her laptop. We took the request as an opportunity to get more technology into the hands of our executives. After some research, comparisons and tests, we selected the Treo 600, Goodlink server software, and T-Mobile service, to combine voice and data in a single device. We started with the senior management team, including Charlie. The rest, as they say, is history. The Treo was a big hit. Our VPs were bringing them everywhere, including meetings. The next level of managers wanted to be in on the cool new stuff. Now we have about 60 units deployed.

The story gets more interesting. Last spring I asked Charlie to speak to the NetHope consortium of nonprofit CIOs about how technology was making a difference for nonprofits. One of the items he cited, holding it up for all to see, was the Treo. Charlie had become such an avid user, he estimated that the organization was getting an extra day of work from him each week. He was hooked. And he was pointing to the obvious productivity gains that technology was providing.

There are two things to learn from this story. First, having the senior management team lead the way in adopting a new technology is a sure-fire way to get the organization lining up behind them to use it also. Second, the perception created is that the IT department is responsive and on the leading edge for what executives need. The Bottom line? Get the technology into the hands of your leaders.


Moral of story:

Get technology into the hands of your leaders.

Discussion Questions:

1) I mentioned the benefits of getting technology in your senior manager's hands. What are the risks of doing this?
2) Is there a problem with the senior manager pushing for the new technology rather than the IT department?

For Further Reading:

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