High-tech’s “products-are-the-solution” syndrome

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High-tech’s “products-are-the-solution” syndrome

I’m a gadget-lover. I firmly believe that my electronic toys (PDA, cell phone, smart phone, cellular modem, etc.) will make me more productive. Best Buy, Circuit City and CompUSA stores are filled with nerds just like me.

No matter how much we grow to depend on these gadgets, the reality is that by themselves they don’t make us more productive. If you are a truly disorganized person, buying the latest scheduling and contact-management tool is not the silver bullet that will make you organized.

The high tech industry also shares a fascination with silver-bullet products. We are always looking for the next killer app to solve our most pressing problems.

Why? It’s easier to blame problems on the lack of the right technology or product than it is to look deeper into the people, political and process issues that are the real barriers keeping us from building the solutions. Until these issues are resolved it doesn’t matter what products we use.

Where it hurts

The most glaring problem with over-relying on products to answer your problems is that you waste resources (budget, people and time) that could actually be used to develop solutions. But there are a couple of underlying issues that are caused by the over reliance product to solve problems:

1.    The first issue arises from setting false expectations as to the end result of purchasing and deploying a product. I don’t know how many business executives have had inflated expectations as to what the business intelligence tool or performance management product would deliver. The BI or CPM salesperson gives a great demo about the ease of use and tremendous capabilities that come with their product. The product can slice and dice data, create a beautiful graphical display of data and provide drill down capabilities to truly analyze business data. BI and CPM products can certainly do that but there is a caveat… you have to have the data in order to generate beautiful looking dashboards and drill into the depths of the data. It should be obvious but there’s also a lot of be shelfware because people thought the products would solve their data problems.

2.    The second major issue triggered by relying on a product as a solution is that by over emphasizing a product you underestimate or even fail to discuss the real issues such as people, politics and process. Just like with any problem, you have to recognize and confront it before you can solve it.

The culprits

There are significant application areas today that I feel are focusing in on products to the exclusion of people, politics and processes. These application areas are Corporate Performance Management (CPM), Master Data Management (MDM), and Customer Data Integration (CDI). All of these areas offer significant business value and companies should be considering them.  However, there appears to be too much product being bought and not enough solutions being built.

Yes, we love our toys, but we have to think about why we need them.

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