Eight simple ways to get innovative IT right and dodge the pitfalls of tech's bleeding edge

Tips from those in the know...

This article was developed for silicon.com's recent speakeasy event, which debated how the public sector can best engage with new technologies, and was first published last week for delegates.

Whether it's swapping physical datacentres for cloud infrastructure or turning tweeting into a customer relationship management strategy, the use of emerging technologies can hold out the promise of greater efficiency or new business models for both the private and public sector.

But care has to be taken when digging up a technology stack that has been the foundation of an organisation for the past decade - get it wrong and it can bring entire departments into disarray.

Here are silicon.com's eight essential rules on how organisations can profit from innovative tech while sidestepping the common pitfalls that lie at the bleeding edge of IT.

1. Technology comes last

Before implementing any innovative new technology, an organisation needs to ask itself if the business case behind it is watertight, or if it's technology for technology's sake.


You're not just changing the technology, you're changing the business processPhoto: Shutterstock

"You should only implement technology if there's a business case for it. If you're only implementing technology because it's innovative, it will fail," Clive Longbottom, founder of analyst house Quocirca, said.

Organisations should also never expect new technologies to fix flawed ways of working.

"If you are in a position where you are doing 10 things every day and eight of them are wrong, then you can apply technology that enables you to do 100 things a day instead, but you will still be doing 80 per cent of those things wrong," Longbottom added.

Any technology investment needs to be based on a solid business case, setting out how it can change the organisation for the better, according to Glyn Evans, president of Socitm and corporate director of business change at Birmingham City Council.

"To get the most out of the technology, you should be changing the way the organisation works, what jobs people do and many other things like that. You are not going to just be changing the technology, you should be changing the business processes," Evans said.

And Evans should know - he's leading the largest business transformation programme ever undertaken by a local authority in the UK, changing everything from the way the council procures goods and services to how it administers the collection of council tax.

2. Take it slowly if you can

No new technology can be rolled out without teething problems. Staff will complain that they don't know how to use it and parts of the tech will fail or behave unpredictably after being deployed.

One way of minimising the inevitable pain in those early days is to limit the initial rollout to a small part of the organisation that is able to cope with the wrinkles in the fledgling deployment.

"Wherever you can, I would always say to phase things in," Evans said.

At Birmingham, when rolling out a new payroll personnel system, the council began by deploying it within the directorate where staff were likely to tolerate any early issues.

"We cut our teeth on what was a compliant directorate, [where we knew there were] people who were likely to play the game and not kick up too much of a fuss about teething problems.

"We rolled that out initially in that single directorate, and then it was gradually phased in across the rest of the council."

3. You catch more flies with honey

Staff are always going to resist change and need to be sold on why they should spend time and effort learning a new way of working.

Dr Nic Hammarling, an expert in business psychology and partner at consultancy Pearn Kandola, told silicon.com: "Because you are asking staff to do something different that will take them a bit of time to get their heads around, if you just launch it and ask people to draw their own conclusions, you'll get a negative reaction.

"You need to do whatever you can to make this stuff look exciting, engaging and sexy.

"Positioning the technology is really important - in terms of stressing the benefits of using this new technology for the individual.

"You really do need to dangle that carrot in front of them and set out what they'll get from it."

Providing support to staff in coping with new technologies and the new working practices they bring is also crucial. Additional training should be given to helpdesk staff to ensure they...