Technology Myths

26044421_mA lot of the work I do with my colleagues at OpenIssue involves informing people about technology options and approaches. We discover in that process that clients have certain “beliefs” or ideas about technology. Over the years we have found the following short list of ideas are prevalent in the client (and consulting) ecosystem. When clients can be informed that these are, in fact technology myths, this helps us avoid putting time and money into no-win pathways:

Myth 1: You can have a single system.

There is no such thing as a single system in information processing architectures, especially if it is cloud-based. Many pieces come together to make a user experience possible. Our work calls upon us to architect systems and the connections between them. Not all systems can work together well, and when they can we favor communication over consolidation. Picture a forest, and all the things involved that make it function – the trees, the low ground cover in between, the squirrels that spread acorns so that more trees can grow, etc.

We pay special attention to this myth because, when present in a project dynamic, this can misdirect decision makers towards a false simplicity which is, unfortunately, often supported by vendor promises. This paves the way for becoming a “Beta Tester” (or even Alpha!). We like to balance customization and new features with business continuity and opportunity cost analysis.

Myth 2: Project requirements are complete.

Project and system requirements are never “finished” per se, nor can they ever be fully “correct”. They are always draft until the team gets into the project. At their best, requirements provide a good starting point for what always becomes an evolving business negotiation, and an evolving understanding of the projects goals and outcomes.

We always make room for both reality and change in the execution of a statement of work. It’s something like crossing a narrow rope bridge over a high ravine; I’ll tend to watch each step very closely, and never lose sight of the other side nor the way back.

Myth 3: Budgets and timelines can be fixed.

Timelines and budgets are critical for any project. Most project timelines and budgets do not stand the test of external change. The best a project team can do is to both have a plan, and also expect it to change. Just like when you plan to take a long walk on what starts out to be a gorgeous day, it’s important to bring a rain jacket or layers, because the weather can easily change.

Flexibility and change management can become a difficult when consultants produce “Not to exceed” (NTE) agreements in this dynamic environment. Compromise will be the outcome. Key here is to remain actively involved in what compromises are made, when and how. NTE agreement offer “fixed costs” and can wrest control out of your hands, and into the hands of the vendor if not implemented inside of a good communication model.

We employ these and other mitigation strategies to manage this dynamic: weekly project check-ins, a well defined escalation plan, and burn rate reporting. Both client and implementation teams need to be at the table and communicating regularly for this to go smoothly.

About the Author
Thomas writes about information systems and the transition challenges encountered when making a move to cloud computing platforms. He writes from a technical perspective for an audience of decision makers. The intention is to present practical guidance on how to embark on a conversion to a new, possibly consolidated, cloud based system.