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Common Sense and Technology Selection

When did common sense get removed from the corporate technology selection process?

For those that don’t know what it is, technology selection is the process by which an organization decides which technology platform (software, hardware, etc) will be used for a particular application and/or piece of the business. For example, selecting an organization’s Content Management platform (e.g., Sitecore, Interwoven, Vignette, etc).

Using a common sense approach toward selecting technology seems reasonable. To take this approach, a person doesn’t need to be an expert…just someone that can think through things and apply common sense to the selection process.

How would one approach selecting technology without using common sense? Glad you asked…and I guarantee you that you’ve seen this before. 馃檪

  1. Hear about the ‘latest technology’ and/or hear a buzzword.
  2. Think “yes…we need that….that will make everything better!”
  3. Talk to a few vendors.
  4. See a demo.
  5. Buy the platform
  6. Throw it over the wall to the technology group to implement.
  7. Go look for your next buzzword.

This approach happens more often than you would think. There are so many things wrong with this approach. Common sense has been thrown out the window.

I’ve personally seen this approach taken in many organizations when the leadership team decides that ‘X Technology’ is going to be their savior (note to people…technology will rarely save you) and they ignore the “common sense voice” in their head. Very rarely do these types of approaches work.

To compare, let’s look at the approach that I follow when assisting organizations in selecting a new platform…it isn’t necessarily the ‘right’ way…but it has worked for me…and I think it’s an extremely simple and common sense approach:

  1. Take a look at the organization’s strategy for the future
  2. Look at the technology strategic plan (if one exists)
  3. Build a business case (if not already created)
  4. Ensure that the organization’s strategy is aligned with the technology strategy (many times it doesn’t)
  5. Work closely with the information technology/systems group to understand their current capabilities
  6. Find an answer to the question of “What are you trying to accomplish with this technology?”
  7. Perform some risk analysis (e.g., affect of the new technology on current processes, etc.)
  8. Take a vendor agnostic stance
  9. Look at all available options (including current systems) to find the ideal solution.
  10. Develop a comparison of solutions with strategic direction
  11. Choose a platform
  12. etc.

I could keep going…but you get the point. Common sense stuff, right? Basically, you look at where you are trying to go and choose the technology that will help you get there. How hard is that? Apparently….very difficult for most organizations.

How can we get common sense back into the technology selection process? If you have some ideas…I’d love to hear them.

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About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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16 years ago

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