“Do not learn from your mistakes, learn from the mistakes of others so that you do not make any.” –Sean Karsten
Better yet is to learn from the mistakes of others that have gone before you. Making decisions regarding your IT investment is no different. Here are five common mistakes for you to learn from that we see time and again.
#1. Investing in the shiny new technology instead of the best fit
It’s all too easy to get distracted by the latest and greatest. The shiny new technology that promises to solve all of our problems at a fraction of the price. If nothing else this is a testament to the expertise of those marketers whose entire focus is to convince us that we cannot possibly run our business without their product.
Your challenge is to not be distracted by the marketing hype, but to rationally assess the true value of the product on offer, and the potential benefit to your organisation in the context of your IT strategy. Sometimes this will mean that the latest technology is in fact the best choice, but sometimes it may not. Experienced IT management will help assess the options through a pragmatic lens.
#2. Failing to involve staff in IT investment decisions
A leader’s role can be a difficult one. On one hand it’s your responsibility to drive the organisation and its people forward to greater things, and often the decisions required to make this happen are yours alone to make. On the other hand, some of the worst leadership decisions I have seen were made in isolation without appropriate consultation with others.
The final decision may be yours to make, but it is your team who will need to work with the new technology that you are assessing, and dropping a new system on them without any discussion or consultation may prove counterproductive. They are also the people who may be in the best position to offer a rational assessment of the proposed change, and see through the marketing gloss to the true business value (or lack thereof) on offer.
#3. Believing everything will magically ‘just work’
It is amazing what we can do with technology these days. Despite how far we have come though, IT systems still need to be setup and configured correctly to work properly. Not only that, but the reality is that complex systems will require some degree of ongoing support. You may not suffer a full system crash, but the fact of the matter is that things will go wrong at some point, and you will need expert assistance to get back on track.
The best time to get the experts involved is when first assessing a new technology. The right experts will be able to advise on the best way forward, as well as highlight potential problems or risks that you may not have thought of. By getting the right experts involved early on, you greatly reduce the risks and potential costs of implementing your new system.
#4. Under-investing in IT support and training
You may have infinite faith in the marketing promises of reliability, intuitive ease of use and of course, the abilities of your team, but the reality can be quite different. New systems can be complex both in their setup and integration requirements, but also in their day-to-day use. Even the simple systems will likely present a change for your team to come to terms with in how they do their job on a day-to-day basis.
To make the most of your new investment in IT your people need the proper training and support. Skimping in this area is false economy which will at best result in you not realising the potential benefits of the new system, and at worst result in far greater costs and damage to your business. By ensuring that your people are suitably trained on the new system, and that effective technical support systems are in place, you maximise your potential return on investment.
#5. Losing track of your IT budget
As so many parts of the IT industry move from an upfront capital investment model to an ongoing recurring fee model, the methods that we use to assess and plan IT budgets need to adapt. Neither model is inherently better or worse, but as always, it is important that you assess the real costs of any new system accurately, in order to make a proper informed decision.
Traditional capital investments could be depreciated over a period of years, with a certain allowance for further investment for upgrades, enhancements and fixes, with the upgrade cycle inevitably starting again with a full replacement. These days many IT investments are no longer coming from a capital budget, but are part of operating expenses. Often these systems include within the subscription price all upgrades, enhancements and major version upgrades, changing the way the expense is incurred by the business. It’s all too easy for these smaller recurring fees to sneak up us over time when we’re not paying attention.