The IT Director’s Non-Technical Check List for Evaluating New Technology

As IT Director’s, we are constantly bombarded with every vendor and their brother trying to sell us the latest and greatest thing to revolutionize our businesses. Whether it’s the latest gadget, that super-hot app, or whatever is in the cloud today, how does one go about evaluating whether it is needed for their business? As a warning, this blog post will not go into the bits and bytes of the latest technology.  You can ask my good friend Rob Cox for that.  This checklist will cover some non-technical aspects to consider when evaluating new technology.

Is there a business need?

This is probably the best starting point of a checklist for anything that is being considered for purchase. That’s great that inventory can be done from any computer in the world.  What if the business has no inventory? I’m glad to hear I can do geographically redundant backups to a multi-tenanted cloud kept in my country of residence. What if I can rebuild my data from an external backup drive in 30 minutes?  To evaluate whether there is a true business need only one question needs to be asked.  Will this technology increase profit?  Let’s review the profit equation quickly because some people tend to complicate this one.  Profit = Revenue – Costs.  So to increase profit, the new technology must either increase revenue or decrease costs. Don’t over complicate it!

Do the business lines want it?

As IT directors, we can geek out sometimes.  We get some flashy new product and think that thing is really cool. One is needed for every office because it is cool.  Then it gets deployed and collects dust because the business lines didn’t want the product in the first place.  Or maybe we are evaluating something using the wrong criteria because we never asked the business lines what their requirements are.

What is the required infrastructure to support it?

It’s totally awesome that the new switch you just bought can pass 10Gig.  What if your infrastructure is only built for 1 Gig?  That’s great that you can deploy tablets throughout the world with the latest application.  What if some of your locations can’t get to the internet for updates?  Asking this question makes you take the whole picture into account.

Do you understand it?

This is where you need to have your Tom Hanks moment from the movie Big. In the movie, Tom Hank’s character has been taken over by a 10 year old boy and he is sitting in a board room going over new toy products. Suddenly, a transforming building gets pitched.  Tom Hank’s character, being a 10 year boy, just doesn’t get it. It’s not something he understands or would play with.  The same should apply for technology that is being evaluated. If the company is going to invest in it, the IT Director must understand it.  A good rule thumb – can you explain it in 10 minutes or less to someone intelligent but non-technical? Don’t buy what you don’t understand.

Is it cutting edge or bleeding edge?

Another way to ask this is “how old is the technology?” It is ok to be on the cutting edge. The bleeding edge is to be avoided unless the business absolutely needs it to transform in some way and is willing to accept the natural consequences of technology that has not been proven in the marketplace. Let someone else go through the trouble of figuring out all the bugs and ‘gotchas.’

Can you afford it?

This last question is probably the toughest.  Even if it passes all the rest, if it doesn’t pass this one, it can’t be purchased.  No technology is worth putting the business at risk.  If the price tag is too high, then it is too high.  Find something to meet the need that is cheaper or continue to do business as usual.

As we wrap this up, keep in mind that not every technology needs to be evaluated on its bits and bytes.  If the below questions can’t be answered with confidence, then move on to the next fire at the door.

  • Is there a business need?
  • Do the business lines want it?
  • What are the infrastructure requirements to support it?
  • Do you understand it?
  • Is it cutting edge or bleeding edge?
  • Can you afford it?

jeremy-niedzwiecki-1A proven leader, Jeremy Niedzwiecki has over 20 years in the IT industry. As the Director of Customer Support at ABS, Jeremy works to ensure that the ABS Customer Support team continuously provides the highest levels of support possible ABS clients.