Alexa Needs You

Interview with Steve Sell

Steve Sell leads the global sales and marketing strategy at CONTROLTEK. He has over twenty years of retail experience and has held strategic roles with Accenture, Deloitte, Checkpoint, and Tyco. Sell is an enthusiastic influencer, contributor, and advisor to the Retail Industry Leaders Association, National Retail Federation, Loss Prevention Research Council, and LP Magazine.

The theme of this issue is emerging technologies. But we might also think of this subject as being more about emerging learning. New tech means a new promise, which also means that old trends will be broken. Technology is the super oxygen of global human progress, making it undeniably necessary. Ignore it, and it’s said it will leave us behind. Yet can the technology be the one we leave behind, gathering dust, unrealized?

What’s your take on how the speed of technology impacts our business and teams?

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It’s been said that technology changes exponentially and people change incrementally. Technology moves at light speed compared to humans. Moore’s law says the speed of processing doubles every eighteen months. We spend four years earning a degree. In other words, people are not processors. We process in a slower, human way. To offset this we must create “people readiness” in our business to achieve intended outcomes of technology.

Why is people readiness critical?

Pockets and pants—what good is one without the other? Unless people understand why the tech helps solve a problem and the technology proves it can help a human solve the problem, there is no sustainable adoption. We gain nothing. Just like Alexa, she only proves herself after human interaction, practice, and regular use creates new habits in our lifestyles.

How do you create teams that are ready for technology?

First, create clarity of why technology adoption is important by sharing vision and goals deep in the organization. Like a great sales person, talk about value not gadgets. You’ll create stakeholders rather than users.

Second, don’t assume that teams can or will instantly change behavior. Give them a clear reason and sufficient time to learn. Think about the new high-tech car you bought at home, or the last analytics package you invested in at work; are you really harnessing and using all of the primary new features and advanced features and tools?

Compliance and adoption—how do you ensure consistency across an enterprise?

In the chaos of retail, this is a tough one. Make training about more than on-off switches. Let’s again look at Alexa. We can all talk, so training is not paramount. Help teams feel the new experience and derived value to the business and to them. Now, teams can be excited and motivated for adoption. Make the user guide personal and relevant to your teams and users.

How can leaders shape adoption?

First, it is critical to understand that while many things are based on technology, it’s much more about the people using it in the right way. So remember that investing in your team with energy and emotion early in the technology-adoption process is central to success.

Technology needs engaged people. So talk to Alexa, or we risk leaving technology behind.

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