How Should We Manage Technology?


How far into the future should your technology plan look? That’s a question I am asked often these days. Technology can be a capital expenditure for businesses and not-for-profits. It seems like yesterday I was sitting in board meetings considering investing in technology, websites, servers, and productivity tools that we expected to be useful for “the next 10 years.” Oh my, how times have changed. Unfortunately today I run into all sorts of limitation issues when clients who bought expensive technology 5 years ago want to continue to use it in today’s context.

The proliferation and democratization of technology has taken innovation from the large software and hardware developers such as Microsoft and has moved them down to the level of a college kid who starts a little online tool for his friends based on an open-source platform we now call Facebook. It seems like every day something amazing has been created overnight by either Apple, the Google guys, or by a 13-year old kid in Sri Lanka. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, but change is coming at a neck-breaking speed.

How should we manage this elusive technological curve? How should we look at investing in online tools, software, and servers? I think the answer is to become platform agnostic and not to expect any technological investment to last more than two to two and a half years; and that’s even pushing it. Really.

Depending on your business or ministry, your website functionality should be evaluated every six months. Your overall site functionality should be assessed every 15 to 24 months and your front-end interface should change annually to keep it fresh and relevant. Consider purchasing only API-friendly (Application Protocol Interface)  software. In other words, don’t buy technology that doesn’t play well with others. The days of being held hostage by software are over.

How well is your organization managing technology?

  • Your remark about "playing with others" is key. Technologies are going to continue to fly in our face. The challenge is to run them through the "so what" filter. Every business needs to first understand its business objectives. Then, it applies the technologies if and only if it advances them. There will be exceptions where a business will just try something because of a low cost/low risk profile. But in the end, its about the biz strategy. Even with this (admittedly over simplified) approach one will end up with a large number of components to tie together. Adherence to open standards and products that integrate well is the key to "playing well with others".HTH

  • There's still a great deal of complexity in the way things are created – we're hanging onto old behaviors and mindsets. Yet the hardware (and connections via the web) have become so fast, our brains (and software tools) haven't caught up.I literally have a pile of tech books and equipment that is useless, so investment has to be targeted towards rapid & higher rates of return. (Depreciation rates are useless).Equipment is expendable, but people aren't and yet skill sets need constant revision. Investing in the core values that endure through change is critically important.Adaptability and self-education seem to be a trait that's moving into legacy behaviors – just as being able to write, and communicate well.Identifying and instilling that is more important than the next greatest hardware innovation.

  • Lisa Green

    Understanding the "win" is critical for me. What's the best way to reach our goal? That's the question people should ask and not "What can be come up with the technology and skills we have." Also great insight on websites. Most people assume their website design and functionality should last way past its time.

  • The difficulty comes when you try and monetize something. The biggest and best non-hardware technologies that have emerged have been free – Google, MySpace, Facebook, etc. They were created by people that have a passion for excellence and meeting a need. They knew that if they built that (and built it well) first, the money would come.I can't tell you how many meetings I have been in where people were excited about emerging technology and green lights were even given, but nothing emerged. I knew from the beginning that nothing would emerge because I knew that we weren't willing to invest first and worry about money later.Being DRM free is a big key. I love the way you put it – platform agnostic. Until we move past kingdom building, emerging technology will always go first to those that can afford it. Think about how many iPods and/or iPhones would/could be out there if they weren’t tied to one carrier and were more affordable?I have been out of the digital world in my industry for about two years now, but I am still passionate about it. Obviously money has to be made – it’s the American way – but when that is the primary concern, technology will continue to be difficult to manage – both for the creator and the consumer.

  • Steve Shantz

    My organization manages online technology by using The A-Group. That’s a shameless plug for TAG, but it’s helped us get on the curve with cloud based systems and mobile device ready solutions with content management that talks to our front end interfaces including social media.

    I believe that any online initiative today, must have a robust mobile device component.

  • Just recently I was involved with restructuring a small business’ (< 30 employees) tech infrastructure. Moving them to scalable & open tech was one of the primary goals. Google Apps instead of in-house exchange, Asterisk VOIP instead of proprietary in-house PBX, cloud based hosting and SAAS where applicable. 

    I think the temptation for a lot of companies is going to be giving up control of certain assets (e.g. customer data) for short-term savings or profit increases. Amazon will result in great profits, but you lose customer data and the ability to build a direct meaningful relationship with customers. It is important to strategically invest in systems which strengthen core competencies and outsource essential but generic services. 

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