How poor planning makes great technology useless

Why getting the sequence right is critical in rolling out enterprise technologies like UC&C and cloud.

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Lather, Rinse, Repeat. That set of instructions – printed on just about every shampoo bottle ever made – has to be one of the most well-known on the planet. It’s difficult to understand why manufacturers would continue to print them when common-sense dictates that anyone purchasing shampoo probably knows how to use it. One would think people must understand that if they attempt to rinse before lathering they’ll get the poor results of having shampoo in their hair all day.

I make this silly point to emphasize that getting the sequence correct is a critical part of the success of any endeavor. This is also completely true when discussing workspaces for tomorrow. I can’t begin to tell you how many organizations reach out to me for assistance executing a project to deploy a technology that they’ve already chosen before performing the steps needed to find out if that technology is really the one they need. Regrettably, excellence in execution will never make up for the lack of a strategic pan.

One example of this is in Unified Communications. Many technology managers will look at the available options and then select what they believe to be the best product or suite to meet the needs of their "typical user." Unfortunately, the concept of a typical user is a myth.

All Enterprise Users Are Not Equal David Danto

All Users Are Not Equal

Most organizations have multiple types of users, each with different needs. Development of a user segmentation plan – with input from the actual users – is an absolutely essential first step to understanding what solution or combination of solutions will meet those discovered needs. When I get that call from an organization that says they've selected product X from their preferred manufacturer and need support to make the deployment a success – or when I receive an RFx that details technologies to be provided but has no information on the desired outcomes – all I see is an organization with shampoo in its hair.

Another example is "The Cloud." Many organizations buy into the hype about how cloud services will be the magic pill to resolve all their issues. It's like they just go to their local McCloud store and order a family meal, saying yes when they're asked if they want fries with it. In the real world, cloud solutions are as complicated as they are powerful. Without a strategy regarding what the actual needs are, what consumption model(s) will meet those needs (public, private, hybrid) and how the various providers stack up against each other – yup, shampoo again. At the very least, before shopping for a solution, organizations should be looking at three primary areas to define the consumption model they require: what do they want to own, what do they want manage, and what do they want to control.

Without strategy, organizations may develop workspaces with what may be excellent technology, hoping it will fix all their problems, but which will result in spectacular failures. These failures are usually not because the technology was "bad," but rather because it did not fit in with their actual needs (which they never took the time to properly discover.) It's important to realize that it doesn't always take the smoldering ruins of a useless product to equate to a failure. Failures can be as simple as a multi-million dollar deployment that has less than 20% utilization. Compare that ROI and TCO to a project that achieves utilization in the 60% to 80% range and the economics of the cost per user detail the failure.

The unfortunate reality is that it's usually the precise technologists closest to an organization's project who have the most trouble identifying the correct strategy. As employees, they typically carry a bias of what they think the needs are and wind up spending their valuable efforts meeting those perceived needs – instead of taking the necessary steps to validate their assumptions.

So the message here is that getting the order of a technology deployment correct and taking the time to perform every step – including a formal needs-assessment to develop the correct strategy – is an essential component of successful projects…that is, if you don't want to walk around with the organizational equivalent of shampoo in your hair.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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