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There is an increasing trend within the business world to incorporate technology, especially, AI-enabled, that can provide a competitive edge and sustain the efficient running of operations without the ‘complexities’ of managing large workforces.  However, such endeavors are often embroiled in controversy as the perilous allure of embracing technology, without conducting the necessary due-diligence on its optimal use, fuels distrust, discontent and divisiveness among the alienated employees.  Such an impact is significantly felt either in a highly cohesive corporate culture firmly bound by shared values that affirms a strong psychological contract or in a strongly unionized environment that is genetically predisposed to viewing any management slogans of ‘progress’ with suspicion.

Additionally, the sobering reality of shrinking positions that can productively and profitably use ‘human’ talent is increasing workplace insecurity and incentivizing ‘career cannibalization’ of peers by ambitious professionals.  This has led to the permeation of the adage of ‘survival of the fittest’ within the workplace with a renewed ferocity.

On the other hand, the dreaded prospect of running out of ideas/options to overcome critical issues is not a daunting challenge for progressive leaders as long as there is a vibrant culture of innovation that facilitates and embraces viable solutions from all levels of the organization.  Consequently, it is imperative that prudent measures must be taken with respect to the acquisition of any ‘needed’ technology.  The following simple equation can be used as an overarching principle for such an initiative:

What is Required + What is Desired = What Really Matters

Focused on Core Parameters (Functional Specifications) + Focused on Performance (KPIs)* = Focused on Results (KRAs)**

*KPIs = Key Performance Indicators            **KRAs = Key Result Areas

The aforementioned equation is facilitated by the following questions that can be formulated in the form of a checklist to arrive at a comprehensive assessment for procuring the ‘needed’ technology to fulfill relevant goals/objectives:

1.Does this technology fulfill all the key aspects of desired functionality?
2.Are there cheaper options available with similar functionality?
3.Are there any key tradeoffs in procuring this technology?
4.Does the price justify the procurement of such technology?
5.Is there a demo available to comprehensively assess the key features of this technology by simulating the unique needs/expectations of the organization?
6.Are there any innovations suggested by the workforce that can be implemented efficiently and effectively within the current resources without procuring the technology?
7.Are there any hidden costs in procuring this technology?
8.Is there a significant chance of negative reaction from the management/employees/unions for procuring this technology?
9.Will it be easier to replace this technology with a better alternative in case things don’t work out according to expectations?
10.Will this technology permanently replace the human workforce or is it a temporary solution?
11.Can the organization selling this technology be trusted
12.Are there sufficient and robust guarantees/warranties incorporated in the purchase agreement in case of functional failures?
13.Will any updates be available on complementary/discounted basis?
14.Is there a specified representative available for any assistance?
15.Will there be 24/7 access to customer service?
16.Is training on technology covered within the procurement contract and will it cover sufficient number of employees for effective application?
17.Is the training on this technology easily transferable?  If not, will it require special facilities/venues/physical presence?
18.Is there a ‘train the trainer’ program available for the technology?
19.Are any licenses involved in the use of technology?  If so, are they covered in the initial procurement cost?  Do they require renewal?  If so, will that become a prohibitive cost due to the basis on which they are given?
20.Is the provision of any hardware also part of the procurement contract?  If so, will that require separate licenses?  If so, will that become a prohibitive cost?
21.Are spare parts/routine maintenance items/services covered in the procurement contract?  If so, will they become a prohibitive cost?
22.Is supplier the original owner/creator/manufacturer of technology?
23.Is the technology’s patent expiring soon?  If so, can the purchase be delayed for a cheaper version/better alternative?
24.Can the technology be easily hacked?  Are there any studies available?
25.Are there any environmental conditions required for the technology to work at an optimum level?
26.Are there clearly identified minimum and maximum level of operational limits?
27.Is the court of jurisdiction acceptable for resolving matters through arbitration or legal discourse?
28.Can the technology be resold/repurposed if it becomes obsolete?
29.Can the technology be integrated with present systems in the organization?
30.Can the technology be purchased in modules and integrated with better performing modules of other competitors?
31.Is the cost of conversion to this technology reasonable?
32.Will any current resources/assets become obsolete as a result of adopting the technology?  If so, is there a viable plan for their disposal?
33.Is there an alternative option available for resourcing technological support in case the original supplier goes bankrupt?
34.Are there any customer testimonials available with respect to the efficacy of this technology?
35.Are there any legal/regulatory approvals required for utilizing this technology?
36.Are there any upcoming/emerging technologies that will be more useful/better in catering to the needs of the organization?
37.Are there any Merger & Acquisitions (M&A) activities coming up for the organization that may invalidate/marginalize this technology?
38.Would the purchase of this technology impede any strategic growth initiatives of the organization?
39.Are the best available online protocols being used to address security/privacy concerns for using this technology?
40.Can this technology be used/secured offline?
41.Can this technology be operated remotely?
42.Are there any countries where this technology is banned/restricted?  If so, will that limit the organization’s ability to use this technology effectively?
43.Is the seller authorized to change/update the technology remotely without prior consent of the organization?
44.Is this technology able to interact/communicate with smart devices/machines with the knowledge of the organization?
45.Is this technology able to interact/communicate with smart devices/machines without the knowledge of the organization?
46.Can the operational monitoring of this technology be done through mobile devices?
47.Can this technology be run on different platforms?  If so, are all the major platforms covered?
48.Is the technology insured against any lawsuits stemming from a security breach/loss of data/information leakage?  If not, will the organization have significant legal exposure in areas/regions/countries of operation?
49.Is this an AI-enabled technology? If so, can the embedded AI be overridden by human commands?
50.Are there clearly defined and effective remedial measures available from the owner/seller/manufacturer in case the AI-enabled technology refuses to acknowledge or operate under human commands?

The path to accomplishing extraordinary/unexpected feats in terms of organizational success is generally paved by the ‘mile markers’ of how well ordinary/expected things are being done, e.g., transparency and streamlining of business processes, minimal employee absenteeism, low attrition rates, timely corrective/preventive actions, open and accommodating communication channels, ingrained improvement/innovative practices, preservation of psychological contracts, placating and engaging key stakeholders, effective talent management, judicious leadership development, astute succession planning, etc.

Therefore, the impartial findings of the thorough assessment done by utilizing the aforementioned questions should be meticulously analyzed for arriving at a clear realization that the technology on offer is the one that is ‘needed’ after precluding all other viable alternatives and scenarios of internal innovative capability to effectively manage without such technology.  ‘Proactive Prudence’ will always prevail over ‘Reactive Regret’ when taking such decisions.

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