Tech Train: barriers that slow innovation and how to overcome them

21/10/2019 Barriers, obstacles, leaves on the track – whatever you call them, issues will inevitably arise when businesses undergo technological transformation. But companies can avoid being thrown off course if they anticipate upcoming challenges. Below, Mazars experts give their advice on overcoming the barriers that can slow innovation down.

Despite technology playing into our professional lives more than ever, there are still major knowledge gaps and uncertainty over the associated benefits of key workplace technologies, according to a recent Mazars survey.

After gauging the insight of more than 600 C-suite executives around the world, the Tech Train survey found leaders in France and the UK, in particular, lack an understanding of what technology could do for them. This results in lower than average investment and implementation levels, which puts them, their teams and organisations at real risk of missing the tech train. For the full results of the survey, see the Tech Train report.

So, how can organisations better get their heads around tech to unlock its full potential? And what investment and implementation obstacles should leaders prepare for?

Digital heroes needed

For Christoph Regierer, member of the Mazars Group Executive Board, the key to raising awareness and interest in workplace technology is to crowd-source ideas and have your team be part of the journey.

“You need to have people participating and ‘buying into’ the process, or you’ll never achieve the engagement levels necessary to make technological transformation happen,” says Regierer.

“In Germany, we undertook a 12-month programme to collect the views of our team – asking them what tech they wanted to work with and how they wanted it to help them in the future. As part of the same programme we recruited around 150 team members – none of them partners – who said they wanted to be our digital heroes and help Mazars transform.”

He adds, “People need to feel that their voices count, and leaders need to create a spirit where everyone wants to jump into the future together.”

Value partnerships and curiosity

A collaborative approach that welcomes participation and new ideas from several sources is also the advice of Laurent Choain, Chief People Officer at Mazars.

“Don’t think you can succeed on the digital journey without involving the world around you. Hire PhD students who are undertaking relevant research, run your own education programmes and look into partnering with innovation organisations.”

But remember to value mindsets over skills, advises Choain, “Focus on the right things.  Digital skills are valuable but they’re simply tools, means to an end. Curious minds, an enthusiasm to test-and-learn and people dedicated to making new discoveries are much more valuable.”

Deliver the business case

While leaders have to focus on the soft power of their people if they want to overcome innovation obstacles, they similarly need to pay attention to the hard-financial facts of investment.

When Caroline Couesnon, Partner, CFO and CIO Transformation, Mazars, was tasked with helping the leader of a mid-sized business secure an internal multi-million-euro investment in Enterprise Resource Planning, she knew she had to make the business case clear.

What did the company want to achieve?

They wanted an ERP that would help them break their siloed ways of working; store data more securely and reduce the number of repetitive tasks that teams had to do.

Who were you trying to win over?

We had to get the executive management on board with a technology investment of around €100m.

How did you do it?

We made sure we delivered the business case for the investment at the same time as the cost case. It’s easy to show what an investment will cost. What’s more complicated, but more effective, is to communicate what the investment will help a company achieve.

What do you think is key to winning over leaders when it comes to the investment?

Put figures against the potential waiting to be unlocked by the technology… present the ROI of the technology to the business as a whole.

Avoid the POC trap

Securing investment is just one (significant) part of the puzzle. Once funding has been agreed, leaders must then move onto implementation. Sébastien Ledent, Partner, RPA Consulting, explains why some technologies might be more implemented than others and shares his advice for leaders struggling to leverage technology.

“The ways in which these technologies affect a business go some way in explaining why some are more implemented than others”, says Ledent. “Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things, for example, have a direct impact on what a business can offer the customer – and therefore their effects on revenue and market position can be readily measured. That clarity creates a compelling case for their implementation.”

Adding, “For those finding it difficult to navigate change, my advice is to build IT strategies before or during the benchmark or proof of concept (POC) stage of the technology you want to implement. If not, you risk falling into – and staying in – the POC trap because you failed to define how you wanted the technology to transform the business.”

Barriers to progress are an unavoidable part of any company’s journey, but leaders who do their research on technology, focus on the business case and invite ideas from various sources including their own people could outmanoeuvre the competition and tap into technology and its many benefits.