Using the right tool for the right job

For the most part, our lives aren’t that particular complicated. Our decisions don’t always have the impact of a meteorite in our lives or others. But some decisions do tend to follow us, nay, haunt us for a longer period of time than we originally anticipated – namely the choice we made when settling on using a specific tool.

Some years back my wife asked me to build her a veggie garden out back, with a picket fence, gate, paved path, a simple shed and sandstone borders. It was a simple setup until I got to the stage where I needed to build the gate.

Should in passing here mention that my handyman skills are pretty much trial and error or whatever tips and tricks I can locate on the web (read: YouTube, Vimeo et al – I need pictures too for this sort of work).

Rather than simply buying a finished gate, I had to go manly and build a custom one. After all, my skills had recently grown to include the level of a master carpenter, no? The picket fence, veggie garden et al was nearly complete.

After struggling for 8hrs more than was necessary, I finally had the gate finished and needed to mount it. Of course, it didn’t fit so I had to dismember the gate again. This went on for a little while till I finally got it right.

The lesson I took away from this was, at the time (of course), that carpentry wasn’t my main forte so I could be excused for taking a little longer, producing a gate that wasn’t fitted professionally and a small gap existed between the fence and sandstone bricks for the borders.

Looking back, the first mistake was obviously the choice of tool to use – namely myself.

Facing choices in business

Moving along, to an industry where such choices pop up on a near daily basis, the ramifications of making the incorrect choice obviously has a steep impact on profitability and business continuity.

The IT&T industry is ripe with these pitfalls, both from the choice of service provider, the hiring process and down to which framework to adopt for a given project. If you ask a practitioner for advice on what product, client tools or enterprise framework to use, self-interest will always kick in and the answer is what preserves the current status of the practitioner or which will enhance it.

The same would be said for having so-called independent consultants provide you with a recommendation. Said consultancy would naturally focus on an answer which would provide them with the highest percentage chance of continuing the engagement – would that make the answers and recommendations wrong or inaccurate? Of course not, not by those virtues alone.

This is of course what makes it even harder. Why can’t you trust an independent recommendation?

Simply because there are a thousand ways to skin a cat. What is the correct choice today, will likely change in the near future as the business change.

Buying off the rack

Information Technology adoption decisions tend to be made, firstly, by the financial impacts of adoption. For a business, which doesn’t deal with IT but is largely dependent on it, the bottom line will generally be cost and the equation simple.

x => y

Where x = budget and y = cost.

Of course, the relevant departments will have done their due diligence with regards to product choices or service provider. They’d have had a string of sales and technical presales consultants strut their stuff, showing off their product or services in the best light possible.

People far smarter than I have been telling us about this for years already. So why is it, that IT projects have one of the largest failure percentages in the world? Why is it, that budgets are only ever guides, not true costs of adoption? Surely we should have learned enough by now to know how to do this right.

It’s not always simple to make the right choice. Even for subject matter experts who make a living working in a space littered with off the shelf solutions, talented developers, and magicians.

When working through the requirements, we all know that it’s important to engage in depth with stakeholders and business users. Buy-in from the business is mandatory for adoption or project success. Without it, you simply won’t ever be able to complete the project with a positive outcome.

Words of wisdom that has been known for decades to be immutable facts.

Taking on a custom solution

However, for project success, it’s not just about delivering on time and under budget and there are many more factors that have to be weighed before the stamp of approval is given.

This is especially true when the choice comes in to create a custom solution – a solution which suits your business as a deerskin glove…smooth and comfortable.

One of the aspects, which helps define the cost of adoption for software projects, is calculating technical debt.

Ted Theodoropoulos wrote an excellent article, back in 2010, where he goes into the primary points needed in order to identify and calculate technical debt.

I can highly recommend reading his 4 part series on Technical Debt (http://blog.acrowire.com/technical-debt/technical-debt-part-1-definition).

Accurately predicting the future

Obviously, it’s not feasible to accurately predict the future. I’m sure the world would be a very different place right now if that was not the case.

We spend a lot of effort and money on analyzing the operational paths, which could potentially, with some degree of probability come true…maybe… Business Intelligence analysis can show you predictive trend analysis outcomes, Technical Subject Matter Experts could tell you what direction the market is moving in and your staff could give you their opinion based on past experiences.

When the chips are down, the fact is…we just don’t know.

So since we can’t predict the future and haven’t quite mastered time travel yet, what can be done about it?

The most important aspect of any decision is that it cannot be definite. We know the future can change week by week, so why are we so set on ensuring that our decisions are definite?

How often have we seen the following play out after 2 years of product/project implementation?

Director: “Why did you choose x Product/Platform as the solution for our ERP. It has now cost us $X million so far, with no end in sight?”

IT Manager: “it was within our originally estimated budget and covered about 80% of our immediate business requirements 2 years ago, but that was before we expanded our service offering and went international. We didn’t know these changes would happen when the purchasing decision was made.

The predictive nature of business risk calculation always looks to past trends, and if found incorrect the crystal ball is hidden away and we’re stuck with the same moniker that plagues our industry – the 20-20 hindsight.

One size fits all

Off the shelf products (or shrink wrap products) rarely fits all industries, every business within and we generally pride ourselves on “doing it different than all the rest”. So why should a product ever be expected to fit your company processes perfectly? Just because we told the sales rep what we wanted and was told that it could cover all of them?

No, that’s just not a realistic answer or solution. When implementing an existing product, the business has to expect some level of change being needed internally. It might vary all dependent on the size of the implementation – the more areas it impacts on, the higher likelihood there is for it needs to change.

Choosing solutions that end up with more external work being needed, than what it covers, is obviously not a good investment.

An agile business needs agile decisions

The most important aspect of business today is that it needs to move with the needs of its customers and the market it operates in.

This expectation of agility needs to be applied to all facets of the business. Especially when it comes to IT investments and adoption. Being agile in the ways that your information is consumed, orders being processed and tasks completed comes down to how the systems are designed, from the bottom up.

Using cloud services for key integration points could be vital for your IT investments ability to support an expanding business.

Being able to facilitate information sharing across international locations could be essential for business growth, IP discovery, and collaboration. The architecture around systems needs to be built with flexibility in mind – the same goes for the platforms and tools used to build individual components.

That’s why it’s important to use the right tool for the right job…even down to the level where lines of code are written and what framework is being used.

byBrick Development logo

At byBrick Development we are skilled in ascertaining best fit, by applying a methodology to the decision which adheres to the architectural principles you have established;

If your company doesn’t have principles in place then we can certainly also assist in developing those.

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