One of the things that I most firmly believe is that technology organizations within companies need to support the business goals; in fact, my belief is that the only reason for them to exist is this fulfillment. This is not a popular belief with the tech cognoscenti, who somehow view technology as a special snowflake existing for its own sake. This is true – for hobbies. For businesses, not so much. With this in mind, let’s look at the some of the costs that this special snowflake belief incurs.
- Latest, greatest-itis – I am a strong believer in choosing the appropriate technology for the role to be filled; in many cases, this may be a new technology or a more recent version of an old one. However, I do not believe in the ‘cult of the new’. Any technology – old or new – must be chosen to fulfill a role; part of this decision includes the cost of the new technology, both direct and indirect. While the direct costs are usually fairly obvious (actual cost, per seat licensing fee, etc.), indirect costs are often less so. Indirect costs include such costs as switching, inexperience, and reduced availability to help and support. The first cost relates to stopping use of the old tool and starting with the new tool (i.e., moving from C to Java involves rewriting everything, but changing from regular Perl to object oriented Perl will have a lower amount of rewrite), and can involve costs related to training and reduced productivity as your staff gain experience with the new tool
- Compliance non-compliance – this is related to the one above but has a number of subtle differences. Basically, depending on the technology from and to which you are moving, you may have to amend, refile, or redo any government and industry compliance or certification documentations. This is not always the case; however, the more stringent certifications are quite picky about how technology is applied to business solutions
- Workflow changes – often, a radical technology can either make an existing swathe of the business processes redundant or add new steps. An example of this is automation in factories – what worked for manual assembly did not work for robotic or machinery-driven production. Use of Agile software development frameworks dramatically improve a company’s ability to respond to change; however, the very nature of the product development cycle changes along with the relationships between business and technology partners.
Note – there are many other costs associated with change in technology. Often, the cost of changing is far outweighed by the benefits of the capacity or productivity the new tools will enable; however, I believe that we should be discussing those costs. What are some of the costs that you have seen sneaking in and not being accounted for, in your experience?
Image courtesy of Jose Francisco Del Valle Mojica