What is your company’s technology personality?

By Bill King

Change. It’s life’s one true constant.

In the business world, the ability to keep up with change is vital.  Over the past 17 years, as an information technology (IT) service provider working with small to mid-sized businesses, we’ve seen a great deal of change in the way businesses work, in many different areas – electronic correspondence, remote connectivity and offsite data backup, to name just a few.  Quickly changing technology offers as many exciting possibilities as it does new threats and risks.  Viruses.  Hackers.  Spy-ware (mal-ware).  These challenges were not on the SMB marketplace radar in the early 1990s.

How do you stay ahead of the game?  What is the most efficient way to address new challenges while meeting your company’s technology needs?  There is no one size fits all answer.  Finding your true technology fit is as unique as your company – and the combination of people in it.  The key is to understand your company’s technology personality.

For example, is your company always after the latest and greatest or do you prefer the tried and true?  Do you want to manage your technology in-house or would you prefer that a close business partner assume all or a portion of the responsibility?

Discovering your technology personality is fairly easy and well worth the effort.  Take the following “Company Technology Personality Quiz.” ?Select the answer that best describes your company:

When it comes to considering new ideas/concepts:

  1. We’re open; we like to be the first to try something.
  2. We take a wait and see approach.  We want to know what will work and what won’t.
  3. We’re content to let others forge the way.

When working with new ideas/concepts:

  1. We see the innovation advantages early.
  2. We prefer improving on accepted ideas rather than forging new ground.
  3. We only embrace widely accepted ideas/concepts that have been around for a while.

Regarding surprises:

  1. We have a tolerance for surprises.  We easily roll with the punches.
  2. We can handle a few here and there, but would rather avoid surprises.
  3. We have no tolerance for surprises, we like the predictable.

Our technology approach:

  1. Push the limits.
  2. Maintain the status quo.
  3. Just the basics.

When thinking about technology, I view my company as:

  1. Innovator
  2. Realist
  3. Cost conscious

If you mostly chose “1” to answer the questions, your company fits the leader/innovator personality.  Companies whose industry is growing or facing a lot of changes may fit this type of personality.  They view technology as the driving force in their business that provides a competitive advantage.  This personality has its strengths and limitations.  On the plus side, such companies find innovative ways of doing things.  In turn, such innovation gets perfected into a skill and they see advantages sooner than others.  These companies adapt easily to unpredictable environments, uncover new opportunities and realize bigger returns.  On the other side, these companies may do things because they are new, not necessarily because they’re better.  They may lose sight of disadvantages, take unnecessary risks and stand to realize bigger losses.

Most companies fitting this profile are best suited to the Managed Information Technology (IT) Care service model.  By finding a managed IT care partner they can trust that they are able to look beyond simply resolving technical issues.  A close partner is better suited to look ahead and anticipate future company needs.  Since the partner, not the company, is responsible for technical decision-making, the company’s management overhead is reduced.  The partner shares the IT risk including loss from hardware or software failure, viruses, disaster, user error and other issues.  And, because service costs are “not to exceed” based, IT expenses are largely fixed and predictable without budget spikes or surprises.  Managed IT Care frees resources so the company can focus on core business activities.

If you usually picked “2” to answer the questions, you’re in the mainstream/realist personality group.  Generally speaking, smaller companies in mature industries usually fit this personality type.  They view technology as giving them a distinct competitive advantage.  Mainstream/realist companies are open to exploring new ideas and concepts and will adopt the idea that represents the best result.  They reduce risks associated with new ideas and concepts resulting in a predictable success rate.  But, they may also be close-minded at times shying away from innovation.  These companies have a lower return on investment potential associated with new ideas and concepts than the leader/innovator type.  They may also be slower to adapt to unpredictable environments.

The mainstream/realist company is usually best suited to a hybrid of the Managed IT Care, which I mentioned earlier, combined with As You Need IT care, better known as time and materials.  In a combined Managed IT Care and time/materials arrangement, you leave certain aspects of your technology management up to your provider and on other aspects, you take the lead to manage your provider’s support.  A hybrid of Managed and As You Need IT Care offers a degree of predictability and reduced technology risk while retaining your ability to manage your hourly service requirements.

Finally, if you mostly picked “3” to answer the questions, your company fits the cautious/follower technology personality.  You always look before you leap!  You are interested in ideas and concepts with known results, good or bad, to manage your risks.  You are very predictable overall, can easily recognize ideas and concepts that will work.  You make choices that are widely accepted and minimize innovation risks.

On the flip side, your company adapts to change very slowly and might be hesitant to consider ideas that aren’t highly predictable.  Companies with this personality may miss opportunities or fail to capitalize on early innovation advantages.

If you fit this technology personality, the As You Need IT Care service model, as mentioned earlier, will likely work best for you.  In this arrangement, you’re in charge of your technology.  A provider may offer counsel but you ultimately decide what gets done and when.  You are happy to assume a degree of responsibility for technology management by purchasing your providers time only when you need them.  The As You Need IT Care model suits your hands on management style.

Learning your company’s technology personality definitely helps you choose the right technology partner and combination of IT services.  Personality compatible technology choices will do more than just help with your bottom line.  They will give you real peace of mind – and that’s priceless.

Oak Hill Business Partners is a professional services firm serving small and mid-sized businesses.  Oak Hill provides Growth Management Services, Mergers & Acquisitions, Turnaround Solutions, and Bank Management Services.  We help entrepreneurs and business leaders win based on their business ideas instead of all the other things that get in the way.

Bill King is a Strategic Partner of Oak Hill Business Partners, specializing in technology solutions for medium- and small-sized companies.

Posted by Erik Owen