Have you seen the Verizon commercial recently where a father loans his young daughter, Susie, his smart phone for use at her lemonade stand? The father thought she would be able to use it as a calculator. She, of course, learns to use it for many other things, such as maps, credit card processing, tracking sales, etc. Within 30 seconds we watch her simple lemonade stand turn into a major corporation. It’s a rather clever and enjoyable ad (click to watch). The commercial ends with the announcer proudly proclaiming, “The small business with the best technology rules.”

Personally I like the Verizon ad but I am disturbed by their message at the end as it is one of the oldest cons in the world. It contends that machinery alone can improve a company’s productivity, which is suggesting something as simple as a cash register will automatically cause you to earn money. This, of course, is certainly not true, but it is interesting to see how many gullible people fall for this clever subterfuge.

It’s not about your technology, stupid, it’s about your systems. If you have well designed systems, you can apply any suitable technology, but if you do not know how to properly collect, store, and process data in a timely manner, no amount of elegant technology will solve your problem. Little Susie may have the best intentions and technology, but if her systems are producing erroneous or redundant data, she will inevitably make some rather bad business decisions.

Similar stories abound in the business world where companies have learned this lesson the hard way. Billions of dollars have been wasted on projects over the years by people throwing technology at a problem as opposed to thinking the system design through first. In my 30+ years of consulting in the corporate world I cannot think of an instance where the mere application of technology guaranteed success. Yet, this is precisely what vendors like Verizon want you to believe.

Technology may be good at improving efficiency, but it is your systems that defines your effectiveness (doing the right things). Regardless of how fast your technology operates or how pretty it may appear, if it is processing the wrong things, it is counterproductive. Technology will come and go, but your systems are with you for a long time. Those companies who have been successful in terms of implementing new technology are those that understood their systems first. No, the company with the best technology certainly doesn’t rule. The companies with the best systems do.

By the way, what they don’t show you at the end of the Verizon commercial is little Susie being led off to jail in handcuffs for fraud and bankruptcy.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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