Don’t get caught up in trends

The beginning of a new year and the end of an old usually means it’s time for magazines, tech pundits and vendors to start talking about what’s hot in terms of technology for the coming year (virtualization, apparently). Such discussions have always seemed rather misplaced to me.

While it’s important to always stay on top of the latest technical trends and to keep a close eye on what others are doing with emerging technologies, discussions about what’s hot and what’s not should be the domain of gamers (who are lining up for Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PS3), not the enterprise world.

Such discussions imply that companies adopt new technologies because it’s the cool thing to do, not because it makes business sense. But in reality, this is all too often the case.

It’s easy to understand how someone can get caught up in the cool factor of new technologies. For many in the industry, it’s part of what drew them into their chosen career. It’s also important for them to stay on top of the latest technologies in order to remain marketable in the workforce.

And sometimes adopting a new technology because of the cool factor does make business sense – especially when the technology is customer facing. At a Chinese takeout place I went to recently, for example, I was taken aback to hear an old-fashioned analogue phone ring. It worked for the place – an organization that had been in the neighbourhood for about 30 years and hadn’t changed much. But for most places, it’s important to keep up with the times. Customers walking into most businesses might raise eyebrows at such archaic technology.

However, adopting a new technology just because it’s the latest thing out there and because there’s a lot of buzz around it rarely makes business sense.

Unused potential

This is especially true when you consider that most enterprise-wide applications go only partly used. For example, the enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management packages that companies shell out big bucks for can usually do much more than most organizations actually tap into.

But before they delve deeper into the applications they’ve already invested so much time and effort into, many companies are off to the next new thing in hopes that it’ll cure all that ails them. They quickly forget that the solutions they implemented a couple of years ago were supposed to do precisely that.

The tech industry is fast-paced, but in their hurry to keep up with the changes, companies might be missing out on the benefits of the applications they’ve already implemented. Instead of hopping from one application to the next, companies should sometimes stop to explore what’s already in place.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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