Written by Jon Farina, Chief Technology Officer at WCKD RZR
I’ve been in the tech industry for quite a while, long enough to remember the days of “Sybase Decommissioning”, “Teradata Migration” even “Lotus Notes Migration”! What do all these things have in common? Well – they were all technologies that looked attractive at first glance but over time they did three things:
1. Make it easy to get into.
They used to say when I was growing up – ‘the first wrap is free.’ The phrase referred to a drug dealer giving someone a freebie. Great if you wanted to try it, which I didn’t, but if you did, you’d very quickly get hooked.
2. Make it proprietary.
Once you’re in, there are a few things that are ever so slightly (or perhaps not ever so) different. This forces you to adjust the way you operate, normally dressed up as “enhancements” or “powerful features”. Finally, as the growth slows and investors get twitchy, they:
3. Ramp up the cost of ownership
Perhaps to increase “ROI” for investors or make the company’s balance sheet look healthier etc. They often do this by increasing the licence cost to you the end users.
The obvious outcome of this cycle is that the organisation who uses the software starts to look for alternatives. This finally results in “migration” away from the old and into the new. A sensible business decision because who doesn’t want to reduce costs where they can?
Three Basic Questions New Tech Adopters Need to Ask
However, and this is the rub. We never seem to learn (especially in technology). The decision makers understand they need to move away from technology X and move to a new option. They evaluate the options and pick fancy new trendy technology Y. However, they never ask themselves three basic questions –
a) Is this locking me into a new type of technology?
If you’re moving data into a new “container” or “database” or perhaps changing your SQL scripts into a new significantly new version of the language, using extended feature sets that aren’t available across the industry. Then the answer here is YES.
b) Are there fundamental things about this technology that mean I will change how I work?
Sounds obvious but if you need to fundamentally adjust your user’s workflow to adapt to this technology, the inverse will be true, you will need to fundamentally adapt it at some point in the future to come out of the technology.
c) If this vendor were to ramp up the price, would I need to find an alternative?
This is insanely simple. If today they are going to charge me £500,000 a year and next year, they will charge me £5m, is this ok and if not, what action do I take? If the answer is no and “We’ll start a migration programme” then be concerned.
Further when senior technologists pick the new technology, they fundamentally all make the same mistake…they follow the herd.
After all, who gets fired for taking the safe option? Why stick your head above the parapet and take a potentially risky option when you can play it safe? Let’s face it, you won’t be in the job when the reckoning comes.
I have lost count of the number of meetings I have sat in where we’ve discussed A or B and even though B was the best choice for the company, it was agreed to go for A. Sometimes it was “Just do it because I tell you to” or perhaps its “Well everyone else uses A and so we will” or even incredibly “Well our company has invested in Technology A, so we have to use it, even though we know it doesn’t work for this”.
Rarely if ever have I sat in the room, critically reviewed A and B and then had the conversation “Well if B, really is the right option for us, even though it’s new/different then let’s agree and move on.”
So, finally we come to the shiny new “technology” of the day, you know the one, it’s the software “everyone is using”.
You’re an intelligent reader, you can see where I’m going with this. Before you jump in and start your digital transformation to: “The great new product named after some cold precipitation” remember to ask yourself those basic questions.
If you have answered Yes…
Please…think…is this truly the right answer for you organisation? Is it as “cost effective” as you think it is?
Now I personally add another question to my list, a cherry on top if you will – Is everyone else doing it? If the answer to this is “yes they are”, then the herd is moving.
So, I offer this advice. Don’t be a sheep. Don’t follow the herd unless it’s the right technology for you and you can honestly answer the questions above. Be critical of technology and be brave.
There really are some fantastic products out there that can transform your data journey, be savvy and you’ll soon find the Diamond rather than the Cubic Zirconia.