In a recent article we discussed how amidst all the negativity surrounding us, some of it has served as catalysts for positive change at unprecedented levels. It has certainly been a time for challenge, change, and growth. And a lot of that has been affiliated with, if not centering on, technology. Finding new ways to move forward virtually comes with the territory in our socially distancing world. With that in mind, my interview with Sheila Jordan, Chief Digital Technology Officer at Honeywell, helped me get a better grasp of technology’s trajectory: the shortcomings of how it was used and the ways we are leveraging it like never before.
What Tech Was
On a practical level, technology was often viewed as a back-office and strictly a cost center. This was true even when it became critical for tasks, such as the tracking and gathering of data, along with predictive analytics. However, as Jordan noted during our interview, too many companies simply used that data like a rearview mirror. The insights gained were about issues that had already passed. Based on old trends and information, we would make our best guess as to what the future might hold. What was spending last month? What was the response to the marketing campaign? She went on to say that this was a very shortsighted and limited view of tech’s capabilities. Slowly, those ideas were challenged and IT’s capabilities were stretched as each department became plugged into new technology.
What Tech Looks Like Now
Jordan went on to note that, while individual departments are often vertical, tech is horizontal since every department relies on IT. There isn’t a digital initiative or strategy that can be done today without it. With this being the case, IT is now perfectly poised to catch redundancy and help spot any gaps. It sifts through demands from HR, sales, marketing, and more, then goes on to merge these goals and find solutions. From that vantage point, we are able to see the trickle down effect of each initiative, including things like informing sales of a new marketing initiative that will affect their department. This allows for the automation done in one function to be leveraged by other functions. Additionally it creates a simplified and more intuitive experience for employees and customers.
Jordan’s go-to example is buying plane tickets — remember when we used to do that? Ahhh… the good ol’ days. Well, tech streamlines all of the necessary departments to make your experience as efficient as possible. You can book international travel for your family on your phone in six minutes or less. Marketing, branding, finance, loyalty programs, and more are all tied together to provide the top level of customer service. Data is the connecting thread, or, if you will, the currency of that transaction.
What Tech Can Be
So, now that we are realizing and more effectively leveraging tech’s capabilities, Jordan went on to say that it’s up to businesses to determine their priority impact point, and focus on that data: revenue, employee retention, customer experience, operation costs. Timing is on their side, as, in the face of COVID-19, everything is being re-examined as there are changes in perceptions, rules, and policies. We have made some giant steps forward with remote work and cloud applications. However there is no reason to stop there. We can leverage the malleability of our workplaces to coordinate efforts like never before.
Jordan cited Honeywell’s new initiative as an example of this — a smart virtual assistant. As you work, it learns, based on your habits, and from there engages and assists. It offers smart conversation and reminders, along with decreasing your need to call the help desk. Programs like this are the complete opposite of looking in the rearview mirror. It’s more like having tech as a co-pilot who is making suggestions based on the traffic conditions ahead. As more intuitive programs like this streamline our businesses, it is becoming clear that, when it comes to creating frictionless work, tech is the new frontier.
Moving forward, as we are leaning into technology more than ever before, we are also positioned to grow our businesses like never before. We continue to transition away from the rearview mirror mentality and focus more on the terrain ahead of us. Jordan stated that she works in IT not for its own sake, but for how it can be used to have a real sustainable impact. So with tech being used in so many new and effective ways, how will you use it to support the growth and innovation of your business?
Jacquelyn Adams is a career development enthusiast and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, delving into more effective employee training strategies… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.