In 1964 Abraham Kaplan coined what he called the law of the instrument – “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.” This law, and all of its variations, describe the IT industry, we play the role of the small boy and technology, particularly new technology, fulfills the role of our favorite hammer.
You can see it everywhere. Whether it is in the creation of organisational IT strategies or the many vendor and commentator articles and white papers that come from the perspective of – “here is a technology, it’s really cool, now, let’s identify a problem or series of problems that we might be able to “hit” with this technology”. Oh, we do it in a very sophisticated way (“Four key strategies to leverage [insert technology here]”), but that’s what we do; here is my hammer, it’s awesome, would you like to hit things with it?
While I get the temptation to do this, it is the wrong way to sell technology and is unlikely to deliver any real value. Rather, you need to start by defining the problem, need or opportunity. Having clearly understood the opportunity then you can begin to plan and strategise how to meet that opportunity. Then you can consider which tool or group of tools are relevant to that problem, meets that need or creates the opportunity.
Having identified the need and the relevance of your tool to the need, you can then begin to formulate a plan or strategy to meet that need and consider what tools would be useful to help you do this. Doing this effectively requires that we change our perspective away from technology first into a customer and business first. To be effective at this we need to understand our organisations, what they do and how to create value, as well as we know technology. Ultimately, this requires study, whether that is reading articles, talking to colleagues, spending time in the business, going to industry conferences or all of the above. You need to invest in understanding how your business works and how it makes money. Then think about what technology tools you need to support this.
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