Fill in the Blank: Tech Adoption + ______ = ROI
BY Brian Crowley-Koch, Ph.D and Scott Raeder
December 8, 2022
December 8, 2022

Titus Maccius Plautus, the Roman playwright who coined the aphorism “you have to spend money to make money,” may not have been a B2B business leader, but he sure thought like one. Businesses the world over are investing heavily in new technologies to get ahead, with the U.S. and other global regions set to spend an estimated $4.4 trillion on digital enablement in the coming year. When you consider the per-user price of most new tech platforms, plus the additional funds you need for system integration, change support, and workforce training, the costs add up quickly. 

With this much capital on the line, missing the mark on digital transformation (or any major change initiative) is not an option. It’s why leaders go to such great lengths to construct rock-solid business cases and lock down the proper budget. 

Yet many companies find themselves fighting for a fraction of the ROI they set out to achieve. That’s because big budgets and the latest technology alone won’t secure a solution to a given problem—but identifying, implementing, and embracing new ways of working will. 

New ways of working, defined

New ways of working take shape when you develop new behaviors (and the processes by which those behaviors are encapsulated or supported), at every level, that is required to reach the full potential of organizational change. Improving operational performance always necessitates new behaviors that span roles and departments, with the end goal of operating more efficiently and effectively. To reach that goal, you must first have a firm grasp of:

  • Exactly what your organization strives to achieve
  • The capabilities and features new tools, technology, or organizational changes will enable
  • Patterns of behavior (i.e., culture) that are no longer compatible with your desired future state 

Simply put, new results require new behavior. And “business as usual” is not going to cut it. 

Adoption is merely a milestone—not the destination

Whether you’re rolling out a new technology platform or reconfiguring an internal process, checking the adoption box is a must. This means setting your employees up for success: preparing team members for the operational and cultural shifts that lie ahead, establishing a mechanism for communicating those changes, and finally, training employees to accomplish existing tasks in a new system. 

At the first sign of adoption, companies tend to exhale. Business continuity: achieved! Time to pop the bubbly, right? Not exactly. 

Adoption is a big deal, especially when you consider how many companies never make it past the adoption hurdle. But using a new tool or solution is only one step in your company’s change journey. The business case for these solutions—the real return—relies not on people adopting the new system, but on changing the way they work. 

Have you broken old habits in favor of new ones? Have you embraced the fresh functionality at your fingertips? Are you truly working in new ways, or are you simply doing the same things within the confines of a different system? These are important questions to ask before declaring “mission accomplished.”

Exploring the bells and whistles 

Investing in a new technology or tool without exploring all of its features and functionality is a little like buying a deluxe KitchenAid mixer just to make pancakes. Sure, they’ll be the fluffiest flapjacks you’ve ever made, but you’re only scratching the surface of what the equipment is capable of. 

By merely replicating what you were doing with a basic handheld mixer, you’re using a very expensive tool to do the same job. Your return? Negative. But if you learn what all the bells and whistles on your deluxe KitchenAid can do, and you use these features to prepare new, different, better dishes, you’re working in new ways—and finally experiencing positive ROI. Imagine if your employees really tapped into all of the features of that new digital platform you invested in this year—and were as excited as you are about the new results from changing behaviors. 

Like any meaningful business initiative, working in new ways takes time, patience, and plenty of trial and error. You can recoup some of this time by taking a strategic tack from the start. For example, ask key questions at the outset to help you make the most of your investment:

  • How do we use this new system or tool to accomplish what we used to do manually?
  • What old habits do we need to break? 
  • What new behaviors do we need to develop in order to take full advantage of the tool?
  • What does success look like and how do we plan to measure it?

Reverting to old ways of doing things is a major risk for most change initiatives, especially technology implementations. Some organizations never make it past adoption, while others falter because they don’t understand what it takes to fundamentally change the way their employees operate.

One thing we’ve learned in our collaboration with a range of complex organizations is that the work is never really done. Transformation is an ongoing process requiring iterative, sustained effort. 

If adoption is your only goal, it’s time to invest in top-notch change support. But if your aspirations extend beyond business continuity, you’ll need to think differently, and you’ll need a partner who does, too.