By Lou Washington

Lou Washington

Some companies approach technology as a sort of grand corporate excursion through a Disneyesque Technology Land. All the wonderful and exotic new toys are just waiting to be brought online to amuse and entertain. They look at new technology as a sort of yardstick of coolness with which they measure themselves in relation to all other companies.

That really is not an entirely bad approach to take, but it does leave the door open for a lot of wasted effort. It also has the simultaneous effect of delaying the application of effort to more rewarding investments on the part of the enterprise.

The adoption of new technology must be accomplished through deliberate effort. This is best done by keeping the overall mission, strategy and enterprise value add in mind during the evaluation of any new technology.

A better way of articulating this would be to say that for any strategy, be it enterprise wide or at the departmental level, there should be an evaluation of technologies needed to drive that strategic initiative. The simple rule would be, Strategy First, Technology Second.

I was reading an article by Sam Barnes on the Think Vitamin site related to technology and competitiveness. While he was mainly speaking of HTML5 and CSS3, his points were quite portable across any technology consideration. He said that as seductive as new technology might seem, the need to stay commercially competitive must remain the prime directive.

In the case he is discussing, the question of how these two technologies will affect the end-user is critical. It makes no difference what snazzy things the upgraded website can do, if the end-user is running a browser that doesn’t exploit those aspects of HTML5 and CSS3.

His piece advocates several specific considerations.

  • Impact on the user experience – In the world of software (this is where I live) it’s all about the user experience.
  • Impact on the target audience. Will more people or fewer people receive benefit once it is implemented? He is talking about browser demographics, but conceptually this applies to anything you are doing. Will the change in technology make you more exclusionary or will it increase the footprint of your appeal or benefit.
  • Strategic impact. He cites both internal as well as external strategies. Will the technology serve to enable the strategy or does it work against the strategy.

The central message is still about making the deliberate plan or the careful evaluation of technology to strategy a center piece of your efforts.

Microsoft accomplishes this by evaluating technology on multiple levels. I ran across a brief white paper on their internal adoption strategy and it is really very instructive.

Spending or Monetary Impact

Here any candidate technology is evaluated on two fronts. Strategic importance versus benefits offered. This is simply a matter of spending your money where it is most useful. They map these two ranges into a grid, the upper right quadrant being the area of high importance and high functionality. These upper right quad projects would drive the highest spend.

In order to do this effectively, you must have a solid understanding of the features delivered with the technology and the potential benefits associated with those features.

What does it cost – What’s in it for us?

Specific costs must be determined. With software this might include license fees, hardware upgrades and training on the cost side. Benefits can be a little more elusive to nail down, but think in terms of reduced overhead from changes in hardware, headcount reductions and increased opportunity through potential increases in market share.

Nailing these numbers down in advance will give you the information you need to better evaluate the risk associated with the proposed change.

Microsoft has a ton of information available to help IT folks. Just visit technet.microsoft.com.  They have a number of tools available to help you evaluate technology, manage the adoption process and measure the effect of deployment.