Controlling Time

Time is scarce.

There's only so much of it and we're all (more or less) proportioned an equal amount of it. There's only 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week, 8,760 hours in a year. That's pretty constant.

So there might be a couple of considerations about time when developing a technology plan:

1. How can you and your staff maximize the use of time (personal efficiency)? How can the technology solutions you implement allow you to do more, to be more productive, within an ever-smaller slice of time?

2. How can you reduce the TRANSFORMATION time of a business? Those who went to business school know what I'm talking about. Classic business model, right? We take inputs and transform that raw material into outputs. When investing in technology, how can it increase the speed of transforming raw material into finished goods? 

3. How can you minimize time for the consumer? How can you invest in technology to both reduce their time commitment to do business with you? Whether or not that's reducing the amount of time in a check-out line, forgoing a phone call to self-service their needs on a mobile app, texting instead of emailing, self-check-out, a mobile-aware website, paying by a mobile device rather than a credit card ... all of these things reduce the time invested in doing business with you. That effect on the consumer-end of things is a strategic advantage.

4. How can you change the experience of time? Time is finite, yes, but the way we individually experience time is quite difference. How can you use technology to transform the experience that a consumer has with your company so that the time spent feels unique and extraordinary? That could be anything from what Disney does at its theme parks to using technology to tailor an experience that's all about that customer. 

5. How is your control of time related to your brand promise? Does your brand speak about trust, commitment, service, quality? How does your use of technology leverage time to fulfill your promise?

Time Isn't Just Money

If you believe the old nugget that time is money, Technology planning and strategy attempts to look at how time can be controlled and manipulated to ensure certain financial outcomes - attempting to optimize the use of time for you and your customer is a laudable goal. That's certainly true and just one side of the problem.

However, I believe that there's another qualified dimension to this problem of time: the way we feel about it. The way we experience it. People have no problem dropping large sums of cash in your pocket if you're able to deliver a consistent, amazing experience. Consider how you'd feel if:

A hotel concierge referred to you immediately by name, knew your arrival time and your preferences (as you booked everything easily from an App on your smart phone), had entertainment and dinner reservations automatically lined-up for you, a courteous bell-hop ready to help with your bags, then prepared in-stay linen, beverages, consumables like toothpaste and toothbrushes, towels, climate control ... every detail, just the way you like it, and expedited the checkout process through automated system. The stay was comfortable, easy, frictionless, effortless. Time was perceived much more relaxing. Technology surrounded this service capability. That perception is what will keep them coming back.

Now compare that to:

You have to make a phone call because the website reservation system is broken; you arrive and nobody expected you or knows who you are, and they're not particularly aware of your needs - nothing you like or want is in the room and you must go in search of it, maybe even buy it from a local grocer; arrange entertainment and dinner on the fly; stay in a room that doesn't have the right temperature; nobody at the desk could be found after several phone calls; breakfast was indifferent; the check-out process actually required a visit back to the concierge desk.  Time would be perceived as taxing, tedious, complex, a challenge. There was little technology involved with this delivery, and that terrible perception of time and experience is what will drive the customer away.

Use Technology to Control Both the Efficiency and Experience of Time

I think it's important for business owners and managers to look for opportunities where "time is money" and it can be made more efficient for both them and the customer, obviously, yes. Still, I think it's equally important for business owners to consider how time is relatively perceived and how their technology investments could be used to alter or manipulate that perception to add not just an efficient dimension to time, but, a quality dimension to time.