Is It Really Under Armour’s Fault?
(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
It has not been a good Olympics for the U.S. Speedskating team at Sochi.
As of this writing, the team has no medals. None. They were expected to win many. This is a team that has won more speedskating medals than any other country in Olympic history. They won an historic eight medals back in 2002. Now it looks likely they will leave the Winter Olympics without a speedskating medal for the first time since 1984.
And whose fault is it? Why, Under Armour of course!
You know who Under Armour is. They’re the people that make that super expensive long underwear – I’m sorry – “innovative sports clothing” that “empowers athletes everywhere.” Your kids demand the stuff. Athletes love it. It’s light. It’s warm. It’s a fortune. It’s the latest thing. It’s not your father’s long johns. And this year, the U.S. speedskaters developed a super-duper-technologically-advanced version of their suits based on Under Armour’s technology. According to one report, it was “…developed in partnership with Lockheed Martin — the aerospace and military contractor — and promised the best aerodynamics yet.” The company, an Olympics sponsor, billed the so-called Mach 39 outfit as “the fastest speedskating suit in the world.” The suits, made from five synthetic fabrics, “went through 300 hours of wind-tunnel testing and incorporated the design expertise of Lockheed Martin’s aircraft engineers. Even the zippers were a special design.” Wow! With suits like these how could the American team lose, right?
Well…they are. The team has been getting trounced at Sochi. And, apparently, it’s all Under Armour’s fault. At least that’s how it’s being spun. “Under Armour Suits May Be a Factor in U.S. Speedskating’s Struggles,” reported the Wall Street Journal last week. “Vents on the back of the suit, designed to allow heat to escape, are also allowing air to enter and create drag that keeps skaters from staying in the low position they need to achieve maximum speed. One skater said team members felt they were fighting the suit to maintain correct form.”Curses, Under Armour! You have failed us! Your technology has failed us! How to stop the bleeding? Panicked, the team searched for a solution. And the best solution they came up with was to abandon the ballyhooed suits. And so they did. But unfortunately, the team kept losing.
So maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t the technology. It’s easy to blame the technology when things don’t go right. I see this all the time.
My company sells technology, specifically customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Our clients, both big and small, invest in these systems to help them improve their sales and marketing processes. They look to the technology to help them grow revenues and increase productivity. In 2014, most CRM systems are pretty mature and work pretty well. Some look different. Some have unique features. But our best clients have learned to use the best features of these applications to their best advantage. If used and implemented the right way by the right people technologies like CRM software can be a critical tool that can help a company achieve their goals. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t failures. We have plenty of those.
We have clients that equip experienced salespeople with iPads and ask them to immediately change the way they’ve been doing things for decades in order to accommodate to the new technology. We have other clients who are more interested in designing the perfect looking system instead of devoting resources to training their people how to use it. We work with people who insist that their way is the best way despite our repeated pleas to do it our way because we are expert in implementing CRM and they are not. We run into companies whose management invests in the technology without being fully invested themselves and then quickly turn and point fingers at the software when things don’t go to plan. It’s not their fault. It’s the technology’s fault. I hear these excuses all the time.
Excuses like: “We’re not increasing sales because of the CRM system.”Or: “Our people don’t like the system.” “The interface isn’t friendly enough.” “There are too many screens.” “We have to click too much.”
Oh, and then there’s this one: “We’re not winning any medals because of our Under Armour suits.”
One coach said it best. ” I’m tired of being told that science is the only answer, that intuition and experience is not good enough. You can teach a person with intuition and experience science, but you can’t teach a scientist to be a coach. It is something you learn from the very beginning.” Even the team’s head coach recently admitted that it wasn’t technology that was the cause of the team’s poor results.
Technology is a tool. In the end it’s your people who are going to use that tool to their best advantage. They, and you, are responsible for the results. Not software. Not hardware. Not long underwear.