Faced with a daily barrage of messages, ads, and advice about new technologies that can take business to new heights, it’s no wonder that some organizations view these “shiny objects” as a cure-all. But, chasing the next big thing can cost your organization much more than the initial outlay of cash.
The disruption to operations, the costs of customization, training and integration, the ongoing maintenance… these are just the beginning. There are other, unintended consequences that stem from introducing new technologies, according to Ludge Olivier, CEO of The Cornerstone Professional Group, LLC. (Cornerstone).
“You may invest in something that isn’t designed to scale or doesn’t fully address the business need. Once you bump up against the tool’s limits, you may need to do additional work to extend the capability of the solution or scrap all of the effort that went into building it and start over,” he explained. This can lead to diminished ROI for the solution and the impacted group. There’s also an effect on your workforce; if users don’t adopt the new system, they may find workarounds, which can hurt productivity.
In addition, making a change to an enterprise system may affect other systems, Steve Dassoulas, Cornerstone’s COO, explained. “Sometimes, people don’t see the dependencies until it’s too late: ‘I didn’t realize the report we need required the old system.’ That shiny new tool could break something else down the line.” The downstream impact could lead to a domino effect of unforeseen rework and updates.
Why do some organizations continue to latch on to new solutions that may not address their business issues? Stakeholders, both internal and external, may have a specific need or want. Also, business leaders may be concerned if results haven’t been keeping up with expectations. Meanwhile, competitive pressures and market changes can drive the decision to move too quickly.
Olivier gave an example of how website design has evolved: “Maybe you built a site a few years back that looked good and did what your customers needed. It worked, so you left it alone while you attended to other business. Then responsive design and its focus on adaptive UI/UX took root, and customers said, ‘This site doesn’t make sense or display properly on my phone or tablet.’ The ensuing perception that your enterprise is antiquated can be hard to overcome, he said, and can lead people to making a quick decision that isn’t in their best interest.
Another critical driver is obsolescence. When tech tools are no longer supported or too many generations behind, the result can be workflow issues and missed opportunities. “The need for new tech is frequently driven by products going out of support,” Dassoulas said. “But, sometimes, upgrades don’t do everything you’d hoped, or they cause other problems. And even when they work, customers may say, ‘That’s great, but can it do this, too?’”
Viewing IT in Strategic Terms.
“IT is not a supplemental function. It’s a critical lever within the enterprise,” Olivier said, adding that IT decisions need to include an appreciation of the true cost of ownership. “Technology isn’t a one-time investment, it’s a commitment.”
Thinking strictly in terms of the initial license cost misses the other aspects of implementation and adoption, which are crucial to getting the most from the investment. In addition:
- Customization and implementation add to the start-up costs
- Internal personnel need to be trained on the new system, and new hires may be needed to operate/manage the solution
- Users and stakeholders will also need to be guided to use the system to its fullest. Olivier said this requires a consistent focus on effective product management and evangelization
- Maintenance agreements have continuing costs, and updates and upgrades can require additional customization
- Understanding the vendor’s product roadmap can help you avoid surprises; it can also help you avoid a situation where a product version is obsolete by the time you launch it
- Governance and process management can help steer organizations through conflicting priorities and off-the-cuff decisions
“At times, there’s a school of thought out there that, ‘Once we get this tool, our problem will be solved,’” Olivier said. Yet, he continued, the issues that led you to buying something new are really what need to be addressed; the impacted processes and business rules must be considered fully. If working with a technology partner to advise you on new solutions, he cautioned that “your partner should tell you the hard truths, as opposed to saying what you want to hear.”
New technology can help move organizations closer to their goals, Olivier said, adding that it’s natural to be attracted to the shiny, new thing. The answer, he suggested, is to see IT as an ongoing investment and to understand not just what the tool says it can do, but the near, and long-term, impact it can have on your operations.
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