Technology selection

One size fits none – The need for scale in the IT industry

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There is no question that technology is taking on a central role in modern businesses.  Whether “every company is becoming an IT company” may be debatable, but all it takes is looking around modern businesses to see that IT systems, automation and digital data are everywhere.  It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about a small mom and pop retailer, a services company like your dentist’s office, or a large enterprise – modern businesses are built and thrive on data and technology.

Where does all this technology come from?” Most companies are now sourcing their technology from an industry of suppliers and service providers in the form of off-the-shelf devices, cloud services, applications that you can subscribe to and connectivity through internet service providers.  This makes building and operating their own IT environments almost un-necessary unless it is something that specifically drives competitive advantage for the company.

Assembling an IT environment shouldn’t be this hard

This “assembly model” is great in concept, supported by a large and open marketplace of products and services available from specialized suppliers at relatively low prices. The consuming company just has to select the components they want, put them together and they are up and running. (Okay, that is a drastic oversimplification, but you can get the point).  Unfortunately, the marketplace for IT products and services is getting crowded with both offerings and the marketing messages around them. The technology selection challenge for companies has changed from “finding something that will meet my needs” to “figuring out which of the many options to choose”.

The problem with “one size fits all”

There are many reasons why technology selection is hard, including things like interoperability, product/service quality, cost and specialized features, but the biggest challenge in the marketplace for IT products and services today is lack of a consistent scaling structure to help customers understand what offerings are appropriate for their size business.  We have abandoned “one size fits all” for clothing, for fast food and for automobiles, what makes us think that one size fits all is going to work for IT systems?

Companies come in different sizes from small sole-proprietorships and start-ups to multi-national enterprises with a wide spectrum between.  The technology needs of these companies vary greatly along with the constraints on things like costs, operational management and customizability. A piece of software (or device) that is well suited for a large enterprise, is likely too costly to acquire, too resource intensive to operate, and offers far more features than a small to medium size business needs.  Likewise, a simple, easy to use application or device suitable for a small office context likely won’t scale well to the enterprise environment where integration and management capabilities are necessary.  Stated simply, “One Size Fits None”.

The solution starts with producers

To address this technology selection problem, producers of IT products and services need to better qualify their offerings based on the size and scale of company they are seeking to serve.  While a consistent industry standard scaling structure (like shoe sizes) may be a long way off, there is nothing preventing producers from taking action today.  Not only will it make the situation better for customers seeking to find the right products to meet their needs, clearly defining the target audience for IT products and services can help producers better translate their product development and marketing investments to the needs of a focused audience that is likely to purchase their offerings.

Technology will continue to grow in importance for modern businesses and the market for 3rdparty products and services for use as components in company’s IT environments will continue to expand.  As this happens, the market will need to develop structure as a means of efficiently connecting producers with the consumers in need of their offerings.  It is time to abandon the “one size fits all” technology selection mentality and start qualifying offerings with the scale of company they are intended to support.

You can read about the technology that is enabling the offices of the future here

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Ryan Schmierer

Ryan Schmierer is a recognized industry thought leader in the areas of Digital Transformation, IT Strategy, Service Management and Operations. An accomplished Business and Enterprise Architect, he is presently the Principal Consultant for RS Consulting NW, based in Seattle, WA Ryan is formerly the Business Architect and Director of Business Programs for corporate IT at Microsoft and before that spent 14 years with Cisco Systems as a Business Architect and Project Manager. Ryan is a contributing author of The Open Group IT4IT Reference Architecture industry standard and is a recognized speaker and writer on topics of IT Transformation and Emerging Trends in Service Management.
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