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5 Keys to a Seamless Tech Upgrade with CEO Coach Mike Klaus

Guest: Mike Klaus, a coach at CEO Coaching International. Mike has over 35 years of experience in senior executive roles in technology, professional services, and consulting. He’s also led private equity-backed startups and multibillion-dollar divisions of multinational companies, including HP Services.

Episode in a Tweet: Define, plan, execute, and review your next technology investment to ensure you’re making a BIG upgrade.

5 Keys to a Seamless Tech Upgrade with CEO Coach Mike Klaus

Quick Background: For every Zoom call or Slack message that quickly becomes part of your daily workflow, there’s a CRM system that doesn’t quite integrate right, a customer service platform that misfires, or an inventory management system that’s too cumbersome. Separating tech that could improve your business from so-called “upgrades” that will only cause more problems is going to be key to completing and refining your digital pivot.

On today’s show, Mike Klaus shares a five-step process for defining, planning, executing, and reviewing your tech investments to make sure they’re giving your margins, service, and efficiency a BIG boost.

5 Keys to a Seamless Tech Upgrade from Mike Klaus

1. Understand the problem.

“It’s critical to understand the reason for this very important investment that you’re going to make,” Mike says, “and to clearly set your expectations, your outcomes, and what you think the benefits would be from this investment going forward. Are you addressing large systemic problems? Are you trying to solve for a particular problem, like a manufacturing system in your plant versus integrated financials and HR to run your business? As you build your understanding, you have to make sure that the solution you’re looking for meets those outcomes.”

The good news here is that CEOs have had a lot of practice identifying problems that technology can help alleviate in the last nine months or so. As we continue to navigate the pandemic environment, we’ve seen countless examples of how tech can help us keep prospecting, marketing, recruiting, serving, and selling.

But don’t forget the first rule of business problem-solving: Keep asking “Why?” Are better chatbots going to solve your dipping customer service satisfaction? Or do you need to invest in retraining staff to give the kind of high-touch service your customers are used to over the phone and video chat?

2. Leverage your network.

Presumably, a CEO who’s considering a major tech investment has already done some homework: reading professional reviews, checking customer service ratings, comparing competing services and products, and soliciting input from your IT department. But there’s an even better tool for evaluating how this tech could help or hurt business: your contacts list.

“We all have fabulous networks,” Mike says. “We have partners we work with, like coaches at CEO Coaching International, who have expanded networks. Just go out and talk to people about what you’re trying to do. People that have faced similar challenges and have used technology to address them. Just ask all the questions that are running around in the back of your head about what they faced and how they made the decision, what went right, what went wrong, what would they do differently if they had the opportunity to do it again. Understand if they met their goals and why they did or why they didn’t. That will make you more comfortable with this decision process.”

3. Assign responsibility.

To paraphrase Marshall Goldsmith, CEOs are poets, not plumbers. Once you’ve made your decision about a technology investment, you need to make sure that implementing this upgrade isn’t going to distract you from the key tasks that only a CEO can execute. Mike recommends that you assign responsibility for this project to a respected senior member of your team who can execute independently but also has direct access to you.

“We used to say back in the days of re-engineering, ‘This is the time to bring your best and brightest to the table,'” Mike says.  “It’s really a good way to evaluate and test new leaders in your firm, those people that want to expand their roles and their capabilities. Certainly it gives them the opportunity to work at a larger level than they may have in the past. Give them what they need to succeed and let the organization know the importance of their success and the success of this program. I have seen several failed attempts, both large and small, where companies didn’t invest in the resourcing and the people to make this a successful effort and really just delegated it off to someone that didn’t have a good line of accountability up to senior leadership. It’s really important that you put a focus on this investment as being really important to the company and really important to the people engaged.”

4. Evaluate your options.

If you haven’t settled on a specific product, service, or provider during your initial research and fact-finding, it’s now time to involve the person you’ve chosen to execute this technology investment in the final decision. This leader will help you compare options and request estimates and proposals. But the real critical decisions are going to be about finding a solution that syncs with your company’s capabilities and your long-term goals.

“In the decision process, as a team, there’s a number of factors you must consider,” Mike says. “Do you want to own this technology yourself, which implies additional assets costs and carrying costs associated with that? Do you want to outsource it? What kind of data, what kind of information is going to be exchanged in this system? This helps you to determine the security you need, which would help lead you to a type of provider or the type of software. What are the skills in your organization? These are all important considerations.”

One way to navigate these issues is to think about how this investment could create true differentiation for you in the marketplace. Perhaps outsourcing a solution frees up your people for more face time with customers. On the other hand, there’s the Amazon model. To aid its expansion beyond books, Amazon built AWS, the cloud computing platform that’s now used by many of its competitors and a significant source of revenue.

Remember, the best option isn’t always going to be the newest, shiniest or trendiest. The best option is the one that’s going to solve your problems quickly and efficiently and accelerate your progress towards BIG.

5. Perform an executive-level review.

Even the smoothest technology investments hit road bumps. It might take longer than anticipated to integrate a new system. You might have to apologize to a grumpy customer about an order that didn’t come through. Employees who are set in their ways might resist any changes to their work routines.

But once the dust has settled, you and your senior leadership team need to conduct a thorough review of how well this project was executed and how it’s addressing the problems it was meant to solve.

“I’ve used a framework in the past called RACI,” Mike says. ” Responsible, Accountable, Communicate, Inform. It’s a framework that helps keep all constituencies accountable for all activities associated with the implementation of a technology. Now, if you have leveraged an outside provider, some of those responsibilities and accountabilities fall on them. But ultimately this is your technology, your system, and you have to be continually informed of its status.”

One way that Mike likes to encourage teams to take ownership over this this process is with incentives. Treat your team to a celebratory dinner when they pass certain implementation milestones. Reward employees who execute subprojects on time — or better yet, ahead of time — with gift cards. Publicly acknowledge employees who are accelerating this transition rather than resisting it. These small gestures underscore just how important this upgrade is to your company. Positive recognition can also help with employee buy-in and build the kind of momentum you need to execute this project without delay.

“If you have critical technology challenges, it’s time to address them,” Mike says. “Now is not time to wait and look for a cheaper alternative or something that might be better in the future because you could be losing business. You could be losing customers. You could be losing employees. So quickly do your evaluation of the importance of this to your business. And then actually go out and execute. Technology is evolving. It’s flexible. You will be able to adapt to it. Don’t be fearful of it. Embrace it.”

Top Takeaways

1. Keep asking “Why?” Make sure this technology investment is going to solve a specific problem.

2. Establish accountability. Delegate to a trusted leader who is going to execute on time and help drum up buy-in from the rest of your employees.

3. Analyze how this investment is progressing and if it’s having the positive impact you intended.

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About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 67.8% during their time as a client, nearly four times the U.S. average and a revenue CAGR of 25.5%, more than twice the U.S. average.

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