It’s always good to start with a definition and here is what Wikipedia has to say on sustainability.
Sustainability is the process of people maintaining change in a balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.

I like this definition as it encapsulates the multi-faceted experiences that I have worked through with a number of clients in achieving a “balance” in their adoption of new technologies or undertaking process change. 

For those of you unfamiliar with our approach we help organisations undertaking change through a transformation or optimisation framework. We achieve this through a four step approach starting with a capture of a baseline to understand what you have, how you use it and why you use it. We then link this to who uses it! Without this final step no amount of whiz bank tech wizardry will embed its sustainable use within the organisation going forward. I have had too many conversations with executive teams that have tried this all before but missed this critical step. It ensures we all communicate and understand the complex interactions that take place every day within our operations and what the change impact will be.

The rush to adopt new technology to help in this area is relentless. Whilst I too can be seen with my propeller hat spinning with some new toy or gadget that promises the ability to capture more and more information, the real skill is taking the time to stop and asses why, if we do proceed with it then what is its long term fit and ongoing maintenance requirement.

To give you a practical example, it’s important for organisations to understand structures and roles. You may have heard us talking in an earlier article about the importance of organisation charts and their importance in getting internal communication started. There are a million tools out there to assist you in doing this but before you leap into using one, stop. Ask yourself why don’t most organisations have this documented as part of their core information? The answer is quite simple. The rate of change within organisational structures and roles within those structures has increased dramatically over the past decade with alternate paths to markets and employment engagement models being under constant review, it’s difficult for anyone to keep on top of this. The good news is that are a number of tech tools within most operations that can assist you in keeping this under control. Before you leap into thinking that this would have to be the HR system you may need to think a little further. Our flexible work force may include a number of external or subcontracted positions that may not be visible within our HR system and a possible alternate candidate may an access control system such as security application or possibly something like Active Directory for controlling access to systems within the group.
Whatever approach you take the trick is to keep this as simple as possible. If you can model your organisation from a role perspective rather than an individual level then typically roles change at a slower rate than users so thereby making it easier to maintain.

I hope that you found this interesting and if you want to find out more then read some of our blogs related to sustainability:
Where you start depends on the problem to be solved.
Building Business Capability

Or if you want to connect with the author, Brian Higson, visit his LinkedIn