technology is a tool not a goal

Redefining Technology: The Tool – Not the Goal

The enterprise is constantly looking to one-up itself; there’s always an end state on the horizon, a more efficient process, an update and a reboot paving the way for the future. Today’s ambition takes shape as the digital transformation and the push for the paper free enterprise. These aims include digitization of our information, unclogging business processes, and fostering workflows, automation, and seamless mobile and cloud integration.

When thinking about a paper-free initiative or other organizational improvement plan, there is a misconception that technology—not process or people—is the primary barrier and cost of entry to

improving our organizations. A number of us have blind faith in technology as a solution, and in its innate ability to singlehandedly provide our desired end state. The reality is that you can’t buy a paper-free enterprise; technology is a tool—albeit an essential tool—but one that is inextricably linked to the support of people and process to solve business problems and achieve our goals.


Investing In the Future

The technology first approach to organizational improvement has persisted for a long time, but has begun to show its age. Today, to keep pace with a dynamically changing enterprise and to maintain competitive advantage, large scale, complex, tech-based deployments are proving unwieldy and lacking practicality for many enterprise scenarios. Consider this: in a recent AIIM Industry Watch survey titled Paper free in 2016 – Are We There Yet?, we can see that organizations along the paper free spectrum all lie at various junctures across the digital transformation journey. (Figure 1) Take a moment to evaluate which statement would best describe your organization’s current paper-free progress.


The takeaway is that all of these organizational states would require a different technology solution – calibrated to a different intensity, price point, and purpose—to elevate paper free efforts to the next level. When it comes to technology solutions, there is an apparent need for personalization at the micro-level, and yet 72% of polled organizations report using single-vendor general purpose suites as their main content management system.



The Problem with One Size Fits All

While general suites spanning the enterprise provide ample functionality and compatibility with legacy systems, they majorly require massive financial investment and present a high initial learning curve.

In addition, feature creep and software bloat can be a real problem, and much is sacrificed in terms of enterprise agility or the flexibility needed to adapt to business change. Jointly, these negatives often postpone return on investment, and by virtue of how transformative these technology suites can be, ROI can be difficult to accurately measure in the first place.


The Right Tool for the Job

The realities of today’s businesses lie in stark contrast to the typical vendor options on offer and the preferred general suite model. The truth is that a number of organizations can’t spare the huge financial cost of full scale system suites, and finding the time and devoting the required resources for training is an incredible challenge for everyone.

To meet this need, there is a growing vendor presence in simple, affordable tech-based solutions. This new toolset emphasizes a key difference: usability and an interest in technology—first as a tool to be used by people to help carry out business processes. Lighter both in price point and maneuverability than general suite options, simple enterprise tools leverage agility to adapt in real time to business change, as well as recycle value by tactically reconfiguring their operations to meet pressing needs, all the while leaving a smaller footprint on enterprise resources.


Keep This in Mind

When considering the right tool for use in your organization, look for cloud and mobile integration to break down barriers and extend the enterprise functionality beyond corporate walls to enhance communication and collaboration. Moreover, simple, user interface that promotes an intuitive user experience has potential to cut down on the cost of training, and permit even non-experts to gain mastery of systems. Finally, choose technology tools that are complimentary with your organizational problems, requirements, and needs. The technology must be positioned in support of your unique business goals – what works for your competitors and peers may not work for your organization.


Closing Thoughts

Technology is not the outcome, but the tool to get us where we want to go. It is critical that organizations understand this, and redefine their goals and expectations of technology solutions to match. In this way, to create the paperless enterprise or carry out other enterprise transformations people – not technology – must take center stage and drive progress supported by process and tools.

Written in collaboration with  AIIM Market Intelligence Analyst, Thomas LaMonte.


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