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Returning To The Old IT Adage Of “Garbage In, Garbage Out”

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director,
Customer Interaction Solutions

As anyone who has worked in the tech industry for even only a few years knows, the chasm between technology and business management has always been great. I once worked with a manager (many, many years ago) who couldn’t understand why his administrative staff couldn’t simply “press a button” and come up with exactly the information he needed from the computer. In his case, desktop PCs were new and foreign, and he had no understanding of how they worked. If the chasm in those days was wide, the gap between technology goals and abilities and business administration needs nowadays stretches from the board room to Jupiter. With the introduction of ever more advanced technologies to assist companies in doing business, the potential for misunderstanding becomes greater.

The fault is usually not with the technology (and I say that with complete confidence, though I may get some e-mail from tweaked readers). We watched CRM solutions undergo the same confusion and, ultimately, take the blame for their lack of success. Company personnel at all levels were uninformed as to what CRM could and couldn’t do. Many people who splashed out for advanced call center technologies didn’t even know what yardstick to use in measuring the success or failure of the program. It’s a little hard to know if you finished the race ahead when you don’t know where the finish line was located in the first place.

Part of the fault may lie with the media. Mainstream news organizations, desperate to find ways to report on hot technologies while still delivering the news in a sensational, attention-grabbing way, throw around the superlative adjectives promising the benefits of new technologies like tabloids salaciously distributing photos of celebrities leaving rehab clinics. Company directors imagine they can leave the technical and process-related details fully in the hands of their IT departments and don’t educate themselves as to what it is they bought into, what it does, what needs it serves, what it can and cannot do, and what processes need to change to accommodate the new technology.

When results such as ROI and post-implementation analytics drift in, the top-level management of a company often finds itself caught; if the results aren’t what management promised the board, someone needs blaming. Often it’s the IT department or the technology vendor itself. In retrospect, companies will find that the technology they purchased, while of high quality, did not suit the company’s needs in the first place. Technology can’t be bought like designer clothing or cars: “That’s an expensive brand, so it must be good” is a dangerous way to spend money on company technological capital.

More than anything else, managing expectations and understanding company goals must be a step in the tech-buying process that is revisited over and over again throughout the buying and implementation process.

Otherwise, you may find after you buy the Ferrari that what you really needed was a vehicle for offroading.


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