By Tom Fedro
One of the problems technology professionals often face is the tendency to think of technology as an end in and of itself.
Often, professionals within a particular sector tend to consider their particular disciplines as critical, independent of the value that discipline represents. Literature professors sometimes believe the written word is valuable just because it’s the written word. Accounting professionals tend to think of their reports as valuable simply as reports rather than as business tools that can be used to make operational decisions. Perhaps most problematic, though, is the tendency of technology professionals to consider technology the end in and of itself rather than the usefulness of a software or system to achieve operational goals.
It’s not uncommon at all to see a tech professional express a great deal of excitement about the functionality and features of a software product without considering what the product actually does to promote profitability or prevent loss. Software loaded with features is exciting, but the bells and whistles don’t make the product effective or valuable. It isn’t rare that a simple and easy solution is far more valuable to a company than a complicated one.
Most word processing software products, for example, have hundreds of fonts from which to choose. Realistically, who needs more than five? Any professional has seen documents that are made distracting or virtually unreadable by indiscriminate use of features. Presentation software, spreadsheets, and even databases have features that are rarely useful and when used are often used indiscriminately.
When technology is critical, as in the case of data backup, protection, and restoration; companies should be very careful to avoid the trap of feature-based decision making. When analyzing a purchase and implementation, consider always the value the feature brings. No intelligent company executive is going to choose one product over another because the wrapping paper of one is blue or the other is red. Buying based on a feature that brings no value represents the same decision.
The problem is this: Technology features have the “wow” factor. When a salesperson demonstrates the neat new wizard or reporting feature, the first question a prospective buyer should ask is, “How will this feature help my company?” Purchase based on the value that’s provided, not based on the functionality that may or may not have any value at all. A software isn’t valuable to a company just because it can accomplish something novel or even unique. It’s value comes only from the way the software advances the company’s operations or protects the company from loss. Always translate functionality into value for the best results in technology management.