Chuck Yoke: The Zen of technology acquisition

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One of the main tenets of Buddhism is mindfulness – the ability to be totally aware of the moment. Adherents of all branches of Buddhism meditate daily to train their minds to have “clear comprehension” and see things objectively and impartially.

After 20 years of involvement in IT, I can safely say that mindfulness has not been an inherent trait of most IT organizations. Sadly, from many perspectives, it can be said that “mindlessness” has been a better description of IT.

Many costly strategic decisions have been made based totally on technology prejudices, zealous preferences or knee-jerk reactions, without analyzing the true business impact. Many companies have wasted a good deal of time, resources and money on IT projects based solely on technology. Data warehouses have been built that today sit idle with data that hasn’t been updated in years. Costly ATM campus networks have been implemented, only to be ripped out before they are fully depreciated and replaced with gigabit Ethernet. Expensive CRM systems have been implemented that are rarely used because of their complexity and high support costs.

Unfortunately, we haven’t learned from these mistakes. Companies still make knee-jerk IT decisions without analyzing the overall finances, risks and business impact. With the current need for companies to focus on return on investment (ROI), it is even more crucial that IT decisions be made objectively and impartially.

An example is Virtual Private Networks. VPNs can lower network costs for many companies, but they are not a panacea. Being Internet-based, VPNs cannot offer the same availability, redundancy and quality of service that dedicated connections provide.

So while VPNs might be acceptable for small branch offices, they probably are not the best choice for situations requiring mission-critical connectivity – yet companies are rushing to replace their dedicated WAN links with lower-cost VPNs. Instead of being mindful of the business impact in terms of extended mean time to repair, degradation of network performance, lower user productivity and potential lost revenue, they are blinded by the lower cost and make a knee-jerk decision.

Along with avoiding knee-jerk cost-cutting decisions, IT personnel need to guard against making zealous technology-based decisions. It is easy to be blinded by a technology’s technical elegance. IT departments need to be impartial in their analysis to understand where a technology will fit and where it will not. A technology’s only value is in the need it will meet. If the need is not there, the technology – no matter how elegant – has no value.To be viewed as a valued business partner, IT organizations need to make decisions objectively and impartially, be mindful of all risks and business impacts, and ensure that their strategies focus on business value. Now excuse me as I go meditate.

Yoke is a business solutions engineer for a corporate network in Denver. He can be reached at [email protected].

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