Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Turning business communications inside-out, outside-in to create sustaining value – 2

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on April 20, 2011

This is a second installment on looking at and selecting technology solutions with fresh eyes and an open mind, focusing on information technology and social media capabilities as working examples (see Turning Business Communications Inside-Out, Outside-In to Create Sustaining Value – 1 for part one.)

In part one, I discussed how information technologies, and social media enabling technologies in particular are never limited in their potential to being exclusively outwardly and community facing, or inwardly and organizationally facing. Effective technologies and approaches can be developed for sound, secure, effective use in either or both directions.

I said towards the end of that earlier installment that I would focus on technology decision making and implementation here and I begin with a bottom-line conclusion. Never buy or implement a new technology or technical capability simply because it is new and looks to have exciting features.

• Determine needs, research options and alternatives for meeting them, vet options and solutions that positively stand out and select from that short list, and implement from a sound, reasoned understanding of what this new acquisition is to be used for, and how it would integrate into your existing systems.
• If this means retiring older technologies and approaches, include that in your calculations and both for costs in making the transition to new, and anticipated savings from having the new in place.
• Note that transition and other costs may be shorter term and more up-front, and savings from moving into newer technologies may only develop with time and much more slowly.
• Remember that features that cannot function across your systems are not going to be available where needed and cannot be counted as positives – just negatives for having to pay for them without effectively being able to use them. I have seen this many times with unsupported and incompatible networking functionalities that may reside in some module or component of an overall system but that remain unavailable for real world users because of older, more limited-in-function system components they have to work with. You can easily find yourself working with a lowest common denominator list of features and functionalities that is in fact more limited than would be found in any one connected and interdependent part of your system.
• This type of problem can arise for any technology and certainly for any information technology where new features unsupported by older implementations arise all the time as investment options you could choose from – and this is all about long term infrastructure investment.
• So if you get the component with special new features and functionalities make sure you can use them all. And do a due diligence to know precisely what extra, collateral expenses that may involve if you need to upgrade elsewhere to capture this new functionality as usable resource.

I switched from software-based to a more inclusive hardware-included example when outlining the due diligence of technology selection, but note that most of the basic principles here apply to back-end software, user interfaces and front-ends, and to software platforms too. And front-end software does depend on back-end software and hardware to work at all. But at this point in this discussion I switch more fully back to software per se.

For software upgrades and software infrastructure investments in general, compatibility issues can easily appear when proprietary coding standards and options are followed instead of or along with open standards. Relational database systems are notorious for that with every major commercial database systems provider offering its own proprietary code-laden features rather than strictly adhering to an open standards model SQL.

And if the hardware is compatible and interconnectable, and the software is too to the level of complying with open standards and other code connectivity capabilities then you still need to connect you system supportively to your business processes and to your basic, underlying business model and your implementation of that.

I wrote part one of this series focusing on software and more specifically on social media software and implementations. I pulled back to look at compatibility and connectivity issues for IT systems in general here in part two and for both software and the hardware it runs on. In part three, I am going to move back to software and with a focus on social media capability again, with a focus there on an area of costs and benefits that is usually overlooked – how new technologies can help you limit or even significantly eliminate cost centers that come from how older technologies are used in practice. This is going to be all about developing new and even self-enforcing best practices standards as a route to improved business processes and business performance.

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