YSU SYMPOSIUM SERIES Expert urges effective use of technology in business

A lack of acceptance of technology by top execs is a challenge, the speaker said.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Michelle Decker was working in the fast-paced city of Las Vegas, so she assumed the business managers she was teaching were computer literate -- until she asked them to highlight something with the computer mouse.
"Several actually took the mouse, held it up and laid it on the screen," she said, grinning.
The point of the story, the Youngstown State University alumna said, is that even the most expensive and elaborate tech system will fall flat without thorough training that is customized to fit the work force using it.
"Inadequate training costs more in the long run because people just go back to their old way of doing things," she said. "You can't underestimate the amount of training that may be required."
A Warren native who earned her master's degree in business administration at YSU in 1986, Decker is senior vice president of systems and technology for Leisure Industries Corp., a travel and leisure company based in Las Vegas.
Topic for program
She was the featured speaker for the Williamson Symposium Series on Monday and Tuesday at YSU, where she met with students, university officials and business leaders. "Leveraging Technology in Today's Market" was her topic for the executive-on-campus program.
One of the biggest challenges companies face when they're adding new or updated technology, she said, is lack of acceptance by top executives. They've been successful without the high-tech bells and whistles so they don't see the need for the changes.
Tom Humphries, president and chief executive of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, brought up the issue at a breakfast with Decker on Tuesday. "How do you get senior people to accept technology?" he asked.
"It takes time, and it always takes longer than you think it will," she said, advising Humphries to start with something small that staffers will accept more readily.
One idea
One way to show managers the need for tech solutions, she suggested, is to get staff members in a room together and have them explain what they do.
"There's shock value in that," she said, "because they realize how many times a document is touched. A purchase order might make 18 stops before it's done. Technology can change that, make the process more efficient."
Decker said companies contemplating a technology investment must involve managers in all the departments affected, not just the information technology department, to assure that the system meets the needs of the work force.
"Process and functionality can't be automated if you can't articulate or perform the process manually," she said. "Don't expect the computer to think for you. Consultants can help, but they should be working with the people who know your business best."