Op-ed: What comes first: The mission or the technology?

How important is our mission?

Let’s face it, us Jesuit institutions currently have a pretty awesome drive to tie into. An innovative, approachable new Pope, a giving and compassionate society with, not least of all, the Jesuit spirituality at its very core educating the ‘whole person.’ When we methodically analyze our mission, what does that communicate? “It shows up in restructuring decision-making from the top-down to the bottom-up,” Dr. Serazio mentions and follows with, ”To me, that sounds like a theology and an ethos of responsiveness and spontaneity rather than the preordained; of flexibility and discovery rather than doctrinaire retreat; of finding meaning in all things, however complicated and messy and even profane.” It speaks to our customer and responds to our customer – their needs, their wants, their lives, their habits.

This is a massive responsibility.

If our ‘company’ defines its mission, continuously and deliberately, how can we as a technology unit ever expect to meet even partially the breadth and depth of that mission?

Simply put, we facilitate nearly every facet of it.

Your mission defines you to yourself and your customer. It has its own innate strength, oftentimes devoid of any depth beyond striking a fancy in that customer. And that is business. Plain and simple.

It also means that every project you strive for needs to support that mission. If you are an airline and your customer base is demanding a mobile interface, there is more than face value in that initiative. A mobile app/interface needs to be more than a way to pay for a ticket via a mobile device. It needs to provide every possible service that a face-to-face or desktop interaction provides.

We want to view seats available, we want to pay with miles, and we want to be able to update/change our reservation seamlessly and repeatedly. If that mobile interface does not empower all of those actions, competing airlines’ apps do, and we the customer will go there.

Airfares are increasingly less competitive with bags of peanuts being literal differentiators. If you think you will keep or attract customers with a lightweight, non-competitive offering, you are wrong. Tie that to your mission for every technology project.

Our mission at Fairfield University sounds pretty great, right?

Our mission may very well be better than your mission as there is a level of depth that is bigger than any marketplace. However, what does that mean for you and your business’s mission? In a word: squat.

You define “you” based on the needs of your customer, while still keeping your sense of self. If your mission is unclear or empty, your customer will have a hard time identifying with it and connecting to it.

Technology is no longer simply a facility. Technology is a business facilitator. If you’re not tying every effort into your business’s mission, you’re stifling the capability of the technology you’ve so heavily invested in, and you’re cheating every customer – and co-worker – you aim to serve.

So if you’re waffling or stymied on where to go with your technology strategy, start with your mission and map your plan.

Paige Francis is CIO for Fairfield University.