So many technology companies today are selling themselves as “solution providers” or “turnkey offerings”. Sometimes they even mashup verticals like marketing and technology or software and service. The fact is technology has saturated the market to the point of leaving latecomers drowning in options.
I, myself, have seen organizations adopt complex and cumbersome “solutions” because they were sold what they could do…at some point…down the road…potentially… One could try to figure out what they will be, or they can focus on the here and now. There is no such thing as future-proofing when it comes to today’s technology. Now, more than the 80’s and 90’s, technology is evolving at an epidemic rate. What is cutting edge today won’t even be viable in 5 years. Some say “market for the curve”. You have to believe something will happen and try to put yourself in the right place at the right time. There is another word for this activity…gambling. While evangelizing technology is fun, its also extremely dangerous; there has to be another way!
Fortunately there is. Opt for a simplistic approach. If you’re augmenting your business with technology, you can deploy simple solutions that are cost effective and tax your organization just enough. The idea is to leap ahead, pause and then do it again. Use these 5 tips and you’ll be sure to have a successful program that doesn’t break the bank or your organization:
Know the Technology You’re Buying
The technology you’re about to deploy throughout your organization is something you’re going to have to live with for the next couple of years. Just like the food you eat, it could have an excellent or detrimental effect. You’d never ingest anything you weren’t aware of…why would you deploy something you had no background on?
I’m not suggesting you do all the engineering and design work. This is what your partners are for! That said, you should always check into the technology recommended and see what others are saying about it. Go in knowledgable and don’t get sold on something that could harm you or your organization. The worst thing to do is convince your partner you don’t care. If you don’t…they won’t.
Demand Proper Delivery
Technology deployments should be clean and simple. Just like automobiles, under-the-hood technology is complicated, finite and engineered by someone who has their own budgets, deadlines and limitations. Technology is not magic. It was built by a person just like you. And just like automobiles, technology should be accessible to anyone. Billions of people drive vehicles every day. Most haven’t the foggiest on how they work or why. That said, they’ve been engineered to be zipped up, look pretty and work for a period of time.
Your technology should be the same. Imagine walking into a dealership and seeing engine parts, door frames and loose cables on display. When the sales person tells you its going to be an awesome car to drive…would you buy it?! You shouldn’t accept this mentality from anyone. Period. If they understand what they’re selling, they should be able to communicate the most complicated of technologies with grace and simplicity. They should be able to decide what you need to see and what you don’t. Just like automobiles, your technology solution should have models with more or less features. It should be able to stand on its own or integrate into your current situation. It should be pure priced without negotiation. If you demand proper delivery, you’ll get something thats clean and simple.
Keep to the rule of 3
Where most deployments go awry is when they get too feature enriched. Stick to 3 core features. It could be a storage array, payment system or digital signage solution. You should be able to describe what you want in 3 meaningful phrases…and I don’t mean corporate nonsense (see http://bullshitgenerator.blogspot.com/). Centrally manageable. Scalable to 1000’s of units. Deployable in 2 hours. These are goals that anyone can navigate in their assessment of what is right or wrong for your solution.
Properly designed and engineered solutions should serve exactly what you need and nothing that you don’t. Simplicity is difficult. Ask Apple, they will tell you that their products are the best because they focus on making them simple and elegant. If you’re saying to yourself, “I can’t describe what I want in 3 phrases, this guy is nuts!” then you probably don’t know what you want. Demand simplicity from yourself and it will permeate everything forward. You solution should be as simple as your request. Centrally manageable, scalable to 1000’s of units, and deployable in 2 hours? The credit card pin-pad was born.
Look for the luster
When you see it…get skeptical. Technology solutions shouldn’t be glitzy and full of glamour. Marketing has a sheen like glass and texture like butter. Technology solutions don’t. They are still very clunky beasts. Properly engineered and deployed, they will do exactly what you want and should clear the path for some amazing results! But as solutions on their own…they’re sort of ugly.
The iPhone’s insides are as ugly as can be…ask anyone who repairs them. Tiny Torx screws, hairline ribbon cables, plastic clips, impossibly close fittings…its a nightmare! But it’s finished, polished and has some of the best marketing in the world behind it. As a solution…it works! All I’m suggesting is to look under the hood before you buy the car. If all you’re hearing is how fast the processor is, how great the beacons are, or how open the architecture is…you’re being sold to…not consulted with. Luster is for the marketeers. Good technologists button up complex things the best they can…but it’s still just an engine, transmission and 5 quarts of motor oil…
Shake things up… with support
If you’re properly deploying new technologies they should be a bit jarring. To stay ahead of the curve, you want to deploy something new that shakes your existing model up. That said, it shouldn’t shake things apart! Prior to hiring specialists, you should get internal alignment on what needs to be done. Explain your 3 wish list items. Get your own experts to evaluate technologies on the market. Look for your own shortcomings and know that they will be tested if you’re doing things right.
With the right internal alignment, you can weather the storm that will come when your new solution is proposed and installed. Your infrastructure people will say you don’t have enough bandwidth. Your security teams will say you’re opening up holes that cannot be secured. Your operations staff will say the installation will be too laborious. Your finance group will say its too expensive. And at that moment, you’ll know that your alignment team will help pave the way for exactly what you need. Sometimes you have to stop and fix something you didn’t see coming. Maybe you need better infrastructure. Maybe you need to evaluate what you’re installing. Honestly, if you have a good partner they would have been speaking to those groups throughout the process and helped design something that fits into the bucket you have…with minor alterations.
Remember that simple solutions are replaceable. Your iPhone doesn’t last forever. Your 2-door coupe doesn’t blaze the open road for decades. To restate the goal; you’re trying to leap ahead, pause and repeat. You don’t know what’s coming. You want to progress in an exponential way, but you don’t want to gamble. My advice is to go simple. Get something deployed. Settle. Then re-evaluate. You’ll find that in 3-5 years it will be infinitely easier to pull the solution out, buy new, and do it again. Long term, mistakes can be rectified easier and successes can be repeated. Simple solutions tend to cost less over the 3-5 years you own them; and while everyone is busy making everything…you’ll be perfecting something.