“Technology is just a tool. People make things happen, not technology.” - Susan Wojcicki
By Damien Harrison, vCIO
Technology projects can be expensive, risky, and complex. Many organisations invest in new technology without considering the impact on their people and processes, or the alignment with their strategic goals. This can result in wasted resources, frustrated users, and failed outcomes.
One way to avoid these pitfalls is to use the people, process, technology (PPT) framework, a simple but powerful tool for planning and implementing organisational change.
The PPT framework helps you balance the three key elements of any change initiative: the people who do the work, the processes they follow, and the technology they use.
Technology, as Susan Wojcicki quoted is just the tool to do the job.
The PPT framework has been around since the 1960s, but it is still relevant and useful today, especially in the digital age.
In this blog post, I will explain what the PPT framework is, how to use it effectively, and how it could have prevented one of the biggest scandals in UK history: the Post Office Horizon scandal.
The PPT framework is a methodology that helps you achieve organisational efficiency and effectiveness by ensuring that the three elements of people, process, and technology are in harmony and support each other.
- People are the workers who perform a specific type of work for an organisation, using processes and technology to streamline and improve their tasks. People are the most important part of the framework, as they are the ones who create value and drive change. People need to be trained, motivated, and empowered to use the technology and follow the processes.
- Process is the series of actions or steps that need to happen in order to achieve a particular goal. Processes are the guidelines and rules that people follow to complete their work. Processes need to be efficient, effective, and adaptable to changing needs and circumstances.
- Technology is the tools and systems that people use to perform their work and support their processes. Technology can help people innovate, automate, and communicate.
Technology needs to be reliable, user-friendly, and integrated with other systems.
The PPT framework can help you visualize the balance and interaction between the three elements. Some people use a triangle, a Venn diagram, or a stool to represent the framework. The key is to find the optimal balance and alignment between the three elements, and avoid focusing too much or too little on any one of them.
The PPT framework can help you plan and implement any kind of change initiative, whether it is a new technology project, a process improvement, or a cultural transformation. Here are some steps to use the PPT framework effectively:
What are you trying to achieve and why? How does it align with your organisational vision and mission? What are the benefits and risks of the change? What are the success criteria and metrics?
Where are you now in terms of people, process, and technology? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each element? What are the gaps and opportunities for improvement?
Where do you want to be in terms of people, process, and technology? What are the changes and enhancements you need to make to each element? How will they work together and support each other?
How will you execute the change? What are the tasks, resources, timelines, and responsibilities for each element? How will you communicate, train, and engage your stakeholders? How will you monitor, measure, and evaluate the progress and outcomes?
How will you execute, manage, and sustain the change? How will you deal with challenges, risks, and feedback? How will you celebrate successes and learn from failures? How will you continuously improve and adapt to changing needs and circumstances?
The Post Office Horizon scandal is a tragic example of what can go wrong when the PPT framework is ignored or misused. The scandal involved faulty Post Office accounting software, called Horizon, that created false shortfalls in the accounts of many sub-postmasters. Between 1999 and 2015, over 900 sub-postmasters were prosecuted for stealing money, based on the incorrect information provided by Horizon. Many of them were sent to prison, financially ruined, or driven to suicide.
The scandal could have been avoided if the Post Office and its software provider, Fujitsu, had followed the PPT framework and considered the impact of the technology on the people and processes. Instead, they made several mistakes, such as:
The Post Office failed to listen to the complaints and concerns of the sub-postmasters, who reported problems with the Horizon system from the start. The Post Office also failed to train, support, and empower the sub-postmasters to use the technology effectively and confidently. The Post Office also failed to disclose its knowledge of faults in the system while securing convictions.
The Post Office failed to review and improve its processes to ensure they were compatible and integrated with the Horizon system. The Post Office also failed to have a system for verification, audit, and dispute resolution to deal with the discrepancies and errors caused by Horizon. The Post Office also failed to follow due process and justice when prosecuting the sub-postmasters.
The Post Office blindly trusted the Horizon system and assumed it was robust and reliable, despite the evidence of bugs, errors, and defects. The Post Office also failed to test, monitor, and update the Horizon system to ensure it was functioning properly and securely. The Post Office also failed to explore alternative or complementary technologies that could have improved the performance and accuracy of Horizon.
The Post Office Horizon scandal is a sobering reminder of the importance of the PPT framework and the need to balance and align the three elements of people, process, and technology. By using the PPT framework, you can avoid costly and risky technology projects and achieve successful and sustainable organizational change.
(1) Fujitsu’s finance chief apologises to victims of Post Office IT scandal. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2024/jan/31/fujitsu-apologises-post-office-it-scandal-horizon-compensation.
(2) Horizon: Nefyn Post Office closes after failing to recruit staff. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-68149447.
(3) Everything you need to know about the Post Office Horizon scandal. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-post-office-horizon-scandal/ar-BB1hnok6.
(4) Post Office scandal explained: What the Horizon saga is all about. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56718036.
(5) British Post Office scandal - Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Post_Office_scandal.
Damien Harrison: the driving force behind Bondgate IT's business operations and the leader of its Technical Support team.
Damien Harrison brings a wealth of experience to the realm of IT consulting.
Damien's journey is marked by a rich history in the public sector, where he served as the Head of IT for a prominent third-sector charity.
This experience not only honed his technical acumen but instilled a deep understanding of the unique challenges faced by organisations navigating the intersection of technology and social impact.