Choosing Technology that Fits your Business
February 26, 2020 in Technology & Tools
By Shrish Willett
Every month we explore the various tools and technologies that impact individuals and organizations. In Part One of our three-part “New Tech, New Landscape” series (“A Morphing Landscape: Technical Desires”), my colleague provided the historical context behind the movement towards cloud computing, including how the latest cloud-enabled solutions are transforming the private, public, and federal sectors. In Part Two of the series, “Choosing Technology that Fits your Business”, I touch on the conundrum of choice organizations are faced with in this new tech landscape, and then provide strategies and scenarios to help sift through the noise and ultimately invest in technology that best meets your needs.
The Conundrum of Choice
“There are so many different technology options available, how do I pick the right one?” I’ve heard this question more and more frequently from clients in recent years, and rightfully so; there has been a proliferation of new offerings enabled by recent advances in technology.
As a decision-maker, you’ve probably attended demos, discussed options with other departments/stakeholders, and weighed the pros and cons of the various possibilities. And despite careful consideration and deliberation, it’s difficult to pull the trigger- new technology is expensive, time-consuming to implement, and organizations far-too-often regret the technology decisions they make.
To overcome this conundrum of choice, there are strategies you can take to ensure you’re making as informed a decision as possible and choose technology that fits your business. While each organization is a unique case, I believe elements of each of the following steps and scenarios should be considered to ensure that you optimize the value and impact of your investment.
Assessing the Current State (People, Process, and Technology)
Let’s say you want to move houses within the year. It’s the perfect opportunity to go through everything in your house and separate out what you want to keep (which you pack) from what you don’t (which you sell/donate/get-rid-of). This is not as fun as looking at houses for sale, but we still go through this process to varying degrees of success.
Now back to technology: let’s say you want to move to a new system or adopt a new tool within the year. If you don’t take careful inventory of the current state and identify what’s working well and what isn’t, you risk bringing existing problems into the new environment. Before making an investment in new technology, take the time to do a little “house-cleaning”. First, create a map of your house:
- Sweep out all your process-related documents and map them out.
- Overlay existing tools and systems (including often-overlooked homegrown tools, spreadsheets, shared drives, and email) on this map and the purposes they serve.
- Identify the stakeholders/users of these processes and tools, and how and why they use them.
Next, study the map and think about how things could be improved. Keep in mind, owners and users of current technology/processes can have blind spots at this step, especially if they have been accustomed to the status quo for some time. Bringing in a fresh pair eyes – whether an internal working group and/or external consultants – is always recommended to help identify inefficiencies, redundancies, and other areas for improvement.
Take the information you’ve gathered from this assessment and create a new map of the desired state (your dream home!). Use this map to generate requirements and weigh them against potential vendor solutions.
Finding your Dream Home
You’re now well-informed and on the market, so how do you conduct your search and weigh your options? There are several considerations as you explore solutions and compare them to one another. Below are a few related scenarios you may encounter (or have encountered):
- “I need a summer cabin… but check out this mansion!” Most of your processes and technology are serving their purpose and don’t need an overhaul, but you identified some areas that should be automated or improved. You look at vendors who clearly meet these needs but are distracted by a more complex (and expensive) solution because of its many other advertised features. Carefully consider the likelihood of these features being used in your organization, and what it would take (in terms of new processes and data collection) to actually use them; chances are if you didn’t identify these capabilities as necessary or a value-add in your initial assessment, they will likely go unused. Why pay for 8 extra bedrooms?
- “Is moving worth it when all you need is a kitchen remodel?” You find that the primary pain points or areas for improvement are around the user experience, and perhaps identify some process improvements/automation that can be handled by relatively minor investments. Perhaps the benefits of moving to a new system entirely are dwarfed by the time and/or money cost of getting there. Consider if a combination of new tools, databases and integrations points with key legacy systems is your best bet; a “facelift” to current interfaces with seamless single-application-like user experiences can result in a more tailored end-product. Why move when you can remodel?
- “Not enough closet space!” The benefits and history behind moving to the cloud are described in Part 1 of this series: A Morphing Landscape: Technical Desires. But I’ll still provide a metaphor: Your wardrobe is constantly growing, and the main closet is at capacity. It may be time to rent virtually unlimited closet space that keeps your clothes safe and delivers the outfits you need on demand.
- “Does the house have a moat?” Given the continual risk of cyber threats, organizations are rightfully concerned about protecting their data. When considering technology options, it is essential to involve your organization’s cyber security team early on. This will avoid having perfectly capable and secure technology options dismissed preemptively without having cyber experts evaluate them (and potentially approve them). Conversely, you don’t want to move too far forward with a solution only to later discover it won’t be approved for security reasons. This looks like a moat; let me call my moat guy.
- “I just bought my dream home, but none of my appliances fit the plugs!” Even when you find a solution that appears to meet all your process needs and functional requirements, don’t forget about your underlying data! Thinking through how data is currently structured/housed, and what it would take to transform and transition into new systems (to take advantage of the desired capabilities) should always be part of the cost-benefit analysis. Hopefully I can find the right power adapters… Or do I need to rewire the whole house?!
One final, closing thought- similar to the pain of moving, making changes to any technology or system requires significant advanced planning, careful consideration, and a thoughtful implementation (for an in-depth look at data considerations as part of this process, stay tuned for Part 3 of the “New Tech, New Landscape” series). If you were thoughtful about the decisions that went into selecting your new house (technology!) then once the moving boxes are recycled and the last picture is hung, you will find yourself happier than before and looking forward to years of growth and enjoyment with your new investment.
Has your organization recently moved to a new system or adopted a new tool? Share your experiences with us on LinkedIn!