Should you believe the hype on new IT trends?

What decisions would you have made in the past with the knowledge you have today?

I remember many IT predictions that, if ignored, would have saved us millions and probably also would have left a better impression of IT as a whole. It’s the nature of our fast moving industry that often makes us believe that the next new “thing” will help us to compete more aggressively, do things faster and better.

Today, the pressure is more intense than ever. Where we had months to respond to the needs of users a decade ago, we are now expected to act in weeks or even days. And where there is a lot of pressure, there is always the hope that some new product, methodology or technology will help us cope with these demands.

Almost every major change in IT starts as hype, and it’s difficult to pinpoint the moment that becomes something that can really help you.

Below are some pitfalls we should try to avoid. Simple universal truths may help you decide if you should have a serious look at “new stuff” or ignore it for a few more months.

  1. If you do nothing, your challenges will not stay the same, they will get bigger. Our industry moves at an incredible speed to keep up with You simply have no choice but to implement new technology to cope with these demands. If you don’t move, your competitors will. Doing nothing is not an option.
  2. Anything new will make things worse before they get better. Technologists and analysts often look at new technology as if there is no history or no existing (complex) IT Infrastructure. But it doesn’t hurt to realize that every company is different. You will need to spend time and money to make everything fit into your organization.
  3. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is, for now… Hardware Virtualization, Cloud, Relational Databases and even the Internet all looked like they would solve all our problems the moment they were announced. But in many cases, the technology was just mature enough and many of the early adopters went through rough and expensive times trying to make it Good technology needs time to mature.
  4. If you do what you did, you get what you got. Many IT people are hopeless optimists. We can go through hell implementing new technology, but we plan new projects with the same optimism as Continuous improvement also happens slowly because for every finished IT project, there are three new ones waiting. So we never really take the time to document what failed, what we have learned and what we should change to prevent it from happening again.
  5. Nothing is forever, but it takes ages for things to disappear. 20 years ago, UNIX fans would tell me (a mainframer) that I was working on “legacy” stuff. And now, Windows Server admins (or Linux experts) are saying the same about UNIX. The same is true for methodologies (like ITIL) and programming languages. But many of them are still there today, simply because we didn’t have the time, money or need to rewrite or replace them. When we make decisions and write our RPFs, we like to think that this new technology will be used heavily for many years to come, but in many cases, the average life-span is 5-6 years. So buying from a vendor who will still be there when the product turns into “legacy” is much more important than buying the latest and greatest from a one product company.

 

 

So how do we walk the fine line between a laggard and an early adopter? It depends. If you don’t mind following the leaders in your industry, simply wait six months to a year until others have demonstrated that new technology works. It’s a matter of keeping a close eye on your peers and staying on top of things.

If, however, you feel that your business, competitive pressure, or the economy is forcing you to be a “late early” adopter, you don’t have lot of choices. To avoid many of the uncertainties and high expenses, you need an agile approach that relies heavily on your own employees.

I have recently seen some examples of companies who appointed a small team of people whose single task is to look at new technology, hype and other hot “stuff”.

Don’t just appoint experienced Enterprise IT Architects, but also young and eager people from other areas in IT. They should meet with various stakeholders (the business, trusted IT Vendors) and make sure they attend relevant events. There they will see what’s coming for your industry, so they can think about the technology your company will need in the near future.

Make the team diverse and make sure the vote of the senior architect has the same weight as that from the junior developer. Change at least 20% of the team members every year so there will always be fresh blood and new ideas. Allow them to play and fail, but most of all, make sure they understand their value for your business. And I am almost sure that, if done well, a group like this will save you money too. People from across the company will bring ideas to them instead of playing around with new stuff themselves.

Every business today is a software business, and with today’s pressures, you simply have to do something different. You owe it to your company, your people and to yourself.


Marcel is principal for product marketing EMEA for CA Technologies, mainframe solutions and is a…

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