This article originally published on Forbes.com.
Whatever your frustrations at work, you can bet someone is ready to sell you a technology solution. Thousands of productivity apps, project management sites and social collaboration tools promise to help you meet your deadlines, manage your projects and make your team more efficient.
But, in business, there are some organizational problems that no amount of technology will fix. These are signs of a company that has grown too complex, and usually reflect structural flaws that can undermine a company’s plans and threaten its profitability.
The world’s most effective companies are streamlined, decisive organizations. They make good decisions day in and day out, make them quickly and translate them into action promptly and effectively. Organizations like these outperform their competitors. They’re also great places to work, and they attract the kind of employee who likes to get things done. At companies like this, technology turbocharges performance and helps people do their jobs more effectively than ever.
For companies wrestling with deeper problems, technology serves as sand in already gunked up gears. So before your company invests in a new intranet site or instant messaging service, look out for these five signs of trouble:
Your meetings are over attended and ineffective. No online project management tool can compensate for meetings that have too many people, take too long or fail to yield a meaningful result. The most successful companies keep meetings focused, with clear agendas and goals. The right people, and only the right people, attend.
Your decision-making processes are slow. If your company’s critical decisions have stalled amid an endless cycle of data collection and debate, overly complex processes may be to blame. Effective companies design their processes so that key decisions are made quickly and repeatedly by a relative handful of people.
Accountability is hard to pinpoint. When decision processes are murky and decision rights unclear, the best solution is surprisingly low tech. We call it RAPID®, an acronym that stands for Recommend, Agree, Perform, Input and Decision. It’s a tool for assigning roles and accountability in decision making. With RAPID, everyone knows their role in the decision process, allowing companies to make better decisions faster.
You’re often unable to connect the best resources to the most important initiatives. Business has benefited from dramatic advancements in technology during the past decade, but people still matter. The best-laid plans can only go so far without the right talent to see them through.
Your company struggles to turn plans into action. Technology investments will be for naught if your company lacks an organizational structure and culture that facilitates action and results. High-performing companies have employees who act like owners, focus on customers and competitors, and embrace change. Everyone understands that strong decisions and execution are essential to success.
It’s tempting to think that a package of software can fix a company that’s not performing at its best. But before you add new systems to your organization, take a step back and consider whether they will truly help reduce complexity—or add to it.
Chris Brahm is a partner with Bain & Company and leads the firm’s Technology practice for the Americas in San Francisco. Eric Garton is a partner in Bain’s Chicago office and is the leader of Bain’s Industrial practice in the Americas.