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When helping clients to select the most impactful solution, sometimes I am reminded of the old story of the American visitor who had lost his way in West Cork. The frazzled tourist, eventually stopped and asked for directions , only to hear the reply, “Well now! if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here!”.

The impetus for business tech investment is often driven by the “squeaky wheel” – some (final straw) frustration with an existing bit of technology or some process that’s seen as broken. Too often, because of this starting point, the opportunity for broader improvement is squandered. The search becomes too focused, too soon, on just fixing the “defective bit”. When choosing tech, I find it’s better to take a little bit of time, stand back and find our bearings, before diving too deep into a particular problem or solution. In other words, make sure the ladder is against the right wall and we are in fact addressing the right problem.

If the client is open to it, I’m inclined to start with the big picture and examine the overall (external) environmental trends using something like a PESTLE analysis. This will help us identify big-ticket items coming down the line that may impact the business overall and, more specifically, influence our tech selection.

However, if you wish to stay more focused, then visual tools such as the I Wonder Exercise (more on this later), Customer Journey Maps, or Day-in-the-life-of maps can really help engage your employees and uncover critical insights.

The ‘I Wonder Session” is one of my favourite tools to use as it focuses strongly on your customer and how you deliver your product/services to them. It helps us to step outside the business and see things from a customer point-of-view. These sessions often throw up real gems, and managers can be surprised at the reality of what’s going on in their business. These workshop formats are a quick and easy way to engage employees and capture their ideas. Here is a suggested format you can use to run these sessions in your business. Don’t overthink it!

Please click here to get a downloadable PDF presentation (2-pager) that you can use in your “I wonder” sessions. (Thanks again to Dominic Mazzone for the inspiration.)

Begin, by gathering a small cross-functional team representing the various functions in your business. I’d recommend always having a robust voice-of-the-customer advocate at any of these sessions. The more diverse you keep the group, the more likely you are to uncover new ideas. Recent joiners to the organisation should accompany old hands. Back-office staff are often subjected to massive inefficiencies which flow down through the company. They are often eager to highlight these when given a chance. Frontline staff, who deal directly with your customers daily, may surprise you with some of the hidden frustrations your buyers have to overcome. Salespeople will often have insights into your competitors and ideas for new products or markets you are not yet addressing. Ideally, you would already have mechanisms in place to harvest all their ideas, but in reality many busy companies don’t.

If after the I Wonder workshop , you need to do a deeper dive on how customers engage with your business from beginning to end, then the Customer Journey Map is an excellent tool. If you discover that the problems are more internally focused then the  “Day-in-the-life-of” walkthrough may more quickly get to the knub of the issue. I will provide more information on these in future articles.

Please feel free to sign up to my weekly Newsletter -Digital Adoption for SME’s – i.e., Short bite-sized chunks on how to grow your business and cut costs by leveraging technology. I’ll also keep you updated through this when the complete handbooks is available.

Contact me here, if you are ready to grow your business and cut costs through the smarter use of affordable digital technology, I will help you identify the opportunities and then evaluate, select and implement the right technology. This can transform your business by driving out costs, grow your sales and improve your bottom line. As a vendor-neutral operator, not pushing my own solutions I work for you alone.

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