New IT, a diamond or a lemon?
When it comes to deploying new technologies in areas like social media, mobile enablement and cloud computing, CIOs face a bewildering array of hardware and software choices. Moreover, management dynamics can further complicate matters. For example, IT professionals often fall into the trap of chasing the latest technology fad, over-designing for the application or over-committing to their internal stakeholders. All of these issues will ratchet up complexity, making it hard to separate the good technology – for your company – from the bad stuff.
The cost of choosing the wrong combination of hardware, software and services can be high in terms of wasted investment, greater project risk and longer time to business value. How do managers determine whether a new technology is suitable for their requirements? Our firm helps IT departments make these important decisions through the use of a common-sense yet rigorous 6-step vetting process:
- Is there a commonly accepted nomenclature for the technology? Immature or early stage technologies often feature a disparate set of names and descriptions. A new technology is not sufficiently advanced if the industry can’t align around agreed upon terms and definitions.
- Have standards emerged? New technologies do not coalesce around standards quickly, as vendors jockey to gain market penetration for their products. A lack of standards will pose challenges for prospective buyers who want to compare vendors on performance and features, as well as integrate the new technology into their existing IT infrastructure.
- Is there competition? The presence of multiple providers validates that a new technology is evolving into an established category. Having more than one vendor allows managers to evaluate different solutions, set reference prices to minimize cost and avoid single vendor lock-in.
- Is there clarity around functionality and attributes? A lack of clarity in marketing materials or specifications is evidence that an early stage technology is immature or has been over-sold. Managers should not purchase any new technology unless they are very clear about its functionality, features and value. If you don’t truly understand what the technology is supposed to do, chances are your technical and business users won’t either.
- Are there customers? Having existing (and paying) customers using the technology is crucial to providing your company with use cases as well as ensuring the vendor offers sufficient support and ongoing product development. Be wary if vendors can not provide a client list. It is also important to understand whether an ecosystem – customers, consultants, 3rd party developers and community – has evolved to support development and implementation.
- What have other user’s experienced? CIOs should be concerned if the new technology has no verifiable and ROI-driven success (deployment and production) stories. Failures matter as much as successes as they will help you set realistic expectations and understand technical gaps.
There are no guarantees that a new technology will not turn out to a lemon. However, insisting that vendors answer some simple questions can significantly reduce the performance, implementation and financial risks.
For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.