Technology Debt: Is Your Direct Sales Technology Costing More Than It Is Worth?
Debt comes in many forms. When someone mentions debt, financial obligations are the first things that come to mind. But we each face debt both personally and professionally that generally has much more to do with time than with money. Debt in this context is related to a nearly continual trade off of value and time. Let me give you a few examples.
- Ron next door is in fantastic shape. For a guy in his 50’s he looks amazing, but that physique comes at a cost. Not only does he make smart choices with food and rest, but he also dedicates two hours a day to an exercise routine that ensures he maintains that look and his health. That commitment is an investment in time which creates an opportunity cost for Ron – a kind of debt. There are things that he can’t do because two hours of his day are dedicated to fitness. He has a physical debt, so to speak, where he has to make choices about the value he is getting from that investment.
- Cindy loves her husband. Cindy hates her mother-in-law. She has a relationship debt with her husband where she must make value choices about the investment of time and energy with her mother-in-law to maintain the relationship harmony with her husband.
- Karen loves the rural atmosphere of the country but works in the city for the opportunities that it provides. She is making a daily value judgement about the trade off of time with the benefit of the lifestyle that she enjoys.
- Follows an agile development methodology and is constantly investing in their platform.
- Publishes product updates regularly throughout the year.
- Is an open book on exactly what things cost.
- Works as a consultant to help engineer the most value out of your tools, your comp plan, and your incredible team in the field.
- Builds solutions, not systems.
Technology debt is similar. When it comes to your direct sales technology, there should be an active and thoughtful review of the value received versus the time and resource expended. Sometimes our direct sales technology value is also impacted by traditions and processes that should be questioned and reviewed too. Technology is implemented with the best of intentions. It helps streamline our processes, empower our people, and save us money in the long run.
Technology debt is the state where your technology is actually costing you more than its value. For example, you may be running an older back office platform. You know it’s old, you know it’s lacking in certain modern features, but you keep running it because you’re used to it and it seems cheaper than installing a new one. In this case you’re making a time/value judgement about the benefit received versus the pain of change.
Technology debt is more troublesome than just that surface question, though. What if maintaining that platform is costing you thousands of dollars per year due to a variety of manual tasks that could be automated? What if it’s so clunky and frustrating to use that it’s actually causing your field staff to quit—and preventing you from implementing a new compensation plan that will drive your sales reps to achieve new records? Are you confident about the data that your system is providing you? Are there custom programming costs that never seem to end?
The key point here is to actively consider the technology debt cost in terms of finance, capability, accuracy, and potential compared with the value that the system is generating on a daily basis.
Paying Off Your Technology Debt (and Business Process Debt)
The first step in clearing your direct sales technology and process debt is to re-orient your thinking from a process and cost perspective to a value and potential perspective. This perspective or frame of reference is the paradigm of how you see the world. Both personally and professionally, a constant focus on value generation and incremental improvement will always have an upside that creates opportunity where perhaps you didn’t see one before.
Ultimately, you can never “cut” your way to success. Actively look for time/value tradeoffs that perhaps you don’t even realize you’re making. Take a step back and look at your environment, systems, process, biases, and traditions as if you were seeing them for the very first time. You will likely be surprised at what you find.
How to Find the Best Direct Sales Technology
So, how does any of my theory above relate to my choices in direct sales technology?
Start with value. Look for value generation from every part of your business and your technology. Get out of the software business. You’re not an IT shop that happens to sell things. You’re a direct sales powerhouse that makes a difference for thousands of people. Focus on that business and not the technology.
Look for a partner—not a vendor or supplier. Look for a partner that:
Thatcher Technology is the most configurable and value-driven solutions provider in the industry. Our applications are continuously updated to meet the changing needs of direct sales companies with a constant focus on building environments that help you do more. Your time matters—expect more from the partners you are working with.Find out more about our direct sales technology.