The IT industry is an odd beast and i think sometimes it forgets its ultimate purpose. What do I mean? Often many of us work in the technology industry because (spoiler alert) we kind of like technology, we love a gadget, we love a bit of innovation and a bit like my magpie friend, we love a shiny bauble! In itself, that’s not a problem, it’s great to spend time with people who are enthusiastic about their technology, who come up with innovate ways to tackle the ever changing landscape in which we all operate, heck if it wasn’t for innovation we’d all still be driving around like Fred and Barney. Innovation is of course a marvellous thing and technology providers should indeed be looking to do things better, so that we, the users of technology can do things more efficiently and effectively, or even do things that previously we couldn’t. Do we still want to be buying rooms of physical underutilised servers? Do we still want to be tied to our desk as the only way of doing our job? Do we still want phones that are tethered to the wall? Do we really want our Internet connectivity to be accompanied by the ever cherished noise of a modem at all of it’s 14.4k performance… of course we don’t and we can go back further, do we still want kids sweeping chimneys? (fill in your own jokes!). So if innovation is such a great thing, why my initial complaint about IT forgetting its ultimate purpose? Well I suppose, it’s when the IT industry gets excited about innovation for innovations sake, the IT industry and its watchers and commentators (says me.. someone blogging on technology!), get excited about innovation because, well it’s shiny and new and we begin to forget that the users and consumers of IT are often not technology enthusiasts, they are people tasked with a job, a job of using IT to deliver services to their users, so that their organisation can do its job. I’ve had lots of conversations with companies recently about all kinds of things – should we use this, how about that, we’ve been told this new technology is great how can we deploy it, the chief exec is telling me the cloud is the future and we need to use it… and a whole bunch of other things as well.. It’s not just users though, industry watchers (i know, pot and kettle) can be big part of the problem, which was what prompted the title (well that and my use of tenuous musical links in my blog posts). The industry can get very excited about certain technology and technology providers, telling everyone that whatever the current flavour is, this is absolutely the future and if you’re not on it, your lagging behind, what tends to happen of course is that these technologies always tends to be the newboys – well who doesn’t love a new bit of tech eh! – and normally it’s the established big boys that are lagging and failing, be it Microsoft, IBM, HP or any other line of big IT vendors you can think of – these guys are lagging behind, not innovating, have no future… add the doom mongering phrase of your choice! So is that the reality – are the only people capable of delivering hot technology, the new boys and the giants of the tech industry are too slow and lumbering and set in their ways? Of course they are not, not saying that new guys, or emerging technology and trends are not capable of delivering hot technology, of course they are, hot and the kind of stuff that can change the game, however that doesn’t mean the big boys can’t. Look at the changes in Microsoft over the last year, the entire shift of the company in the last 12 months is remarkable, go and check out what they are doing with Azure and see the massive range of service offerings available in a few clicks, look at how AzureStack allows you to take that and deploy it on premise – 12 months ago, Microsoft where going nowhere, the popular press had Apple and Google eating them for breakfast (and at the consumer device end, maybe they are) but as an organisation they have the financial clout and experience to innovate like many others simply can’t and it’s not just them, things like IBM’s Softlayer repositioning them as a a global IaaS provider or current tech watcher whipping boys NetApp, when you look at what they are doing in flash and cloud integration, these guys are innovating at a massive rate – but they just ain’t sexy! Well what does all that mean, to all those people I speak to on a weekly basis about their IT decisions, it means the world is very confusing, as a company you know you want your IT to come from a provider who understands your enterprise needs, who has the support and channel infrastructure to help, has a history of delivering services to businesses – but on the other hand, you’re told those guys are offering nothing in innovation and you need the sexy new kid on the block! How do we square this little circle then? With that in mind I’d like to round off this BLOG with some ideas about how we can ensure we don’t get lost in the techie hype and the shinyness of our technical baubles, but look at the things we should focus on, this comes from a bit of experience in helping people to architect solutions over the last 20 years, so maybe I can save you some time. In those 20 years, it’s been extremely rare that people need a technology because they are desperate for a new toy, more so today than ever, when all of our technology choices need to deliver a return, it’s important to understand what we want out technology to do. I had this conversation with someone this week, they where confused about how they go about comparing technology choices, to not only what they currently have, but how any solution fits in to what they want to achieve as a business. So here’s 5 things to consider when buying that new tech bauble!
Understand what you want – what are you trying to achieve with this technology purchase, what problem are you trying to solve?
Don’t waste time on features – it’s way too easy to get lost in the technology bingo nonsense – my product does this, mine does that, mine has a golden doobary (you get the picture) – the question isn’t about what “things” does it do – but whether the technology that is being presented to you fixes your challenge and meets your needs, not necessarily how it does it (not saying at some point you don’t want to pay attention to that, but maybe not the first thing to worry about).
Does the solution provider you’re considering meet your business needs – so if you are an organisation that needs 24×7 country wide coverage for example – can the provider you are looking at give you that?
Does the tech provider have a long term plan? – we very rarely make short term technical decisions – so is the organisation whose technology you are looking at have a long term vision for where their solution is going and how it will work and adapt to your changing needs?
Do you have the skills to support the solution – somebody made a great point to me this week – it’s great putting in sexy new tech, but not if as an organisation you don’t invest in ensuring your team can support the technology long term – so if you are going with new tech, make sure you’re investing in a support solution for the long term.
They are just the first five things that spring to mind, and the first five things I try to advise people to look at when they are considering a technical investment.
To sum up, am I saying all “trendy” technology is bad, absolutely not, there’s some excellent innovative tech out there across storage, hardware, mobility, cloud services, lots and lots of stuff. But I am saying, that the established players ,Microsoft, IBM, NetApp, HP for example, have huge investments in research and development and are delivering innovative solutions and technology to the market, but often this gets lost in the glare created by the shinyness of someone’s new technology.
If you are buying technology, I fully understand how difficult it is to look at the industry and see past some of, not only the slick marketing and sales presentations that you will undoubtedly get, but also the plethora of opinion that industry “watchers” are throwing your way.
The only thing you can do is understand what the challenge is that you are looking to solve and ask your prospective technology suitors, how are they going to help you do that, but in doing so, we don’t want to hear how rubbish the opposition are, just how you can help us achieve what we want.
Hopefully there is something in here that can help you when you are considering your next technology investment and that investment is indeed hot and helps you achieve what you need.