After getting in better shape recently, I had to buy some new suits. While it was nice to get some newer, nicer (and smaller) clothes, it got me thinking about making technology investments. I think there are some interesting parallels.
As the title says, one size does NOT fit all. If it did, we’d all use the same software and hardware, deployed the same way, and it would work the same for everyone. Just as I can’t wear the same clothes as my son (nor should I), technology investments should fit like a decent suit.
Notice that I said ‘decent’ suit, not ‘expensive’. Technology investments should reflect your actual needs, not necessarily your ultimate aspirations. Sure, you can go bespoke – when you’re buying a suit, you’ll be sure to get something that fits you extremely well…but at a price. You may end up over buying capability that you’re not going to use (or even need). Just as it doesn’t make sense to buy a custom-tailored, high-end suit if you’re building houses, a small firm with just a few offices may find it difficult to justify a full-blown, internally hosted CRM platform for the value they’d get out of it. You may be able to find something that fits your needs, AND your wallet by getting only what you need.
Ideally, you can buy off-the-rack…and have it fit perfectly. If you are an easy fit, without specialized requirements, going OTR can be a very good choice. The hard part is convincing your users that they’re best served with an off-the-rack solution. Everyone likes to think that they’re unique…but the truth is, most of us have common needs that can be easily met with a COTS-type solution.
If it turns out that you do have a unique technology requirement that can only be served by a custom-tailored solution, then its business requirements should support the level of investment needed. Just as it’s tough to return a custom-tailored suit, custom solutions can become their own never-ending trail of alterations justified by sunk costs, followed by even more alterations…..and STILL not fit quite right. Some times its better to start OTR and let your business needs evolve to where the technology choice becomes a bit clearer.
What if you make a choice that’s not right for your business?
If a suit doesn’t fit, the first option is to return it – if something doesn’t fit, it’s pretty clear right when you buy….so, if it’s not a ‘style’ that fits your business, sometimes its best to ‘un-do’ the decision right away, so that a bad decision doesn’t get entrenched. While you may not be able to ‘return’ software, at least you haven’t over-committed to a solution that isn’t going to fit over the long term.
If it’s close to your size, but not quite there, you can make alterations. A good tailor (or engineer) can add some room here, make a tweak there so that it looks like a custom-fit. As in clothes, this works best when the suit is already close to your size…..if it’s too big or small, there’s only so much you can do with a needle, thread and scissors….and with application functionality.
If you’ve already bought (or inherited) a poorly fitting suit, some times you can’t afford to make alterations or upgrade right away. It’s not the best choice, but it might be the one that gets you to where you can either live with it or make a better choice down the line.
Bottom line is that technology should support your business needs, not the other way around. Taking your time to understand your real business requirements will help you make the best technology investments, and if that suit fits, wear it.