Reinventing your Business – What Happens When Systems Fail?
There is a lot of discussion today about how our children are growing up in a world where high technology is simply part of life and lifestyle. I even read an article about how people are evolving because of the availability of information; evolving to the point where we no longer store and retrieve information, but store information on how to get information. The article cited an example of someone who couldn’t recall the name of an actress in a movie they had seen, so the immediate response was to search for the answer on Google. In the past, people relied upon memory, and found various ways to mentally associate and store information so it was able to be recalled. Now, there’s an app for that.
Are we losing our ability to effectively store and recall information? Are we forgetting how to do things before we had all this technology to help us? It makes you wonder sometimes, how technology-dependent we are. We look at the ruins of past civilizations and view seemingly impossible structures, (impossible given what we know about the technology available at the time) and wonder how they came to be. The knowledge was there at some point, but is now lost.
Is your business at risk from a similar fate? Maybe it sounds silly, but it makes sense to at least think about it, because there are a lot of companies out there today that are not paying attention to critical issues such as knowledge management and sustainability. Finding ways to capture business knowledge and protect it is essential in every organization, whether small business or large enterprise.
Small businesses are often centered on an owner who started the operation, and who just knows how things are done. The primary goal in this situation is to capture that knowledge and turn it into process. Only through this approach may a business begin to reduce its reliance upon a single individual, and this is a critical step in creating both sustainability and continuity in the business. In larger enterprises, process and structure are essential to keep the various parts and participants moving in the same general direction.
Once those processes are established, generally using technology to support or facilitate them, is that the end of the task? Many businesses seem to believe so, and move along with the impression that they have things well in hand. And then a major system or technology failure occurs, and folks are left standing around, unable to get their jobs done. In the worst cases, there isn’t anyone in the business who really understands how to pull things back together or there is no longer access to electronically stored information necessary to continue operations. How would you handle things if your systems – your computers and software and systems – were no longer available to you?
While GPS and high-tech auto-pilot systems can bring tremendous efficiencies to the process of flying, they also can give a false sense of security that encourages complacency. If something goes wrong, the auto-pilot will adjust and the computer will tell you where to go, won’t it?
Here is where technology has the ability to distract pilots–and entrepreneurs–from asking themselves if they’re both focused on and capable of solving the right problems.
Each and every business must consider how they would address a severe information technology outage, and should take steps to protect and preserve business knowledge so that there is some hope of recovery from such an event. In an article on Inc.com (Survival Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs), writer Chris Mittelstaedt makes this observation, and suggests that business owners address how they might get things done “old school”, just in case all this nifty technology fails us unexpectedly.