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Gray Rule
October 2017 | VOLUME 18, NUMBER 4
Gray Rule
People, Process, Technology - In That Order
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People, Process, Technology - In That OrderBy Jeffrey Brandt, Principal, Brandt Professional Services, Ashburn, VA
In the critical connection of people, process, and technology, this article explains why successful projects always place technology last.

To have a successful project outcome, there are three areas that must come together: the people, the process, and the technology. While the importance of each area varies depending on the specific project, the order is critically important. If a problem arises, and you go in this order, you may find that the problem was people- or process-related, and not need to replace the technology. If you replace the technology first, and it is a people or process issue, you haven't fixed the actual problem. Your new technology investment will fail. Too often, I have seen new technology purchased to resolve an issue that was not technology based.


Everything starts with people. It is people who drive the processes, and for whom the technology is purchased. But people resist change, making them the hardest area to shift from old to new. As a result, some leaders choose to skip this step and move onto process and technology. Too often I see lawyers in the United States jump directly to the end: "What technology do I need to buy to solve this problem?"

People, preferably influential stakeholders, need to be asked questions to provide feedback on problem areas. They need to be proactively involved in testing any potential solutions. They need to define the goals, and they need to be educated on potential limitations that may arise. These goals must be visited over and over as investments in process and technology change.

Processes can be redefined, but without input from people impacted by those processes, they may not properly reflect the real-world needs. A perfect process may not get used, making people create needless workarounds in order to function.


People come and go in every organization. Turnover is a natural thing and is to be expected. It can even be a blessing in disguise, presenting new opportunities to improve procedures. But too much employee turnover, or an inadequate training program, can result in a shortcut verbal history of how to do something. This means that the mechanics of what to do are taught, but the reasons why get lost.

Many times I find that process change lags well behind changes in other two areas. Processes become out of date or even obsolete as peoples' roles and responsibilities change. Sometimes, processes fail to adapt to newer technology.

Software upgrades sometimes occur whether there is any strategic value to the organization or not. People try to adhere to the old ways of working, simply adding band aids and workarounds. This usually makes the process less efficient. When workflows change, their electronic counterparts need to change as well. As new software offers new features, those too should be utilized to keep the process as efficient as possible.


At last we come to the technology. Though many people try to jump first to this area, it is the last area they should be concerned with. Updating or changing technology in order to solve a problem rarely works out well. The saying "technology for technology's sake" also applies here. Often educating the people, or a tweak to the process, is all that is needed to fix things.

How do you know what new technology you need if you don't understand the processes that the technology will be supporting? New technology can be the most expensive component of a project, and if the other two areas haven't been worked out, it can quickly provide the least return on investment.

In summary, the people represent the need, the process reflects what needs to be done, and the technology services the other two. In order to be successful, you need to work through each area in turn. Projects that place technology first will almost always fail. Dictating processes without input from those on the ground will put your project at risk. And lastly, failure to communicate to the people will assuredly doom your project. Success comes through people, process, and technology—in that order.

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