You get to pick two

I want what I want when I want it

Wordcount: 538 Time to read: 3½ minutes

Last month, I wrote this BDF issue would be about balancing responsibility and authority. Sorry, I changed my mind. (sometimes that seems like it could be a wonderful experience, yes?)

This month my attention is drawn to the tidal wave of unrealistic expectations I’m observing. Not from my clients, from the world around me.

When I bought my first computer in 1973 to manage the inventory in our auto parts store, I had limited, expensive options. That experience helped me to understand a rule about technology that has it roots in an old service saying.

A printer once placed on top of his letterhead “Quality. Service. Price. Choose two.”

With technology (and most business decisions), the three controllable factors are price, time, and flexibility.

Price encompasses all costs. Acquisition, implementation, training, maintenance, and replacement.

Time involves all aspects from research to ensure you buy the right system to the time it takes to convert everything into electronic records. The time it takes to train staff, vendors, and customers with your new limitations and operational constraints. And don’t forget the time it takes to process all the transactions you want it to process to the time it takes to back-up your data.

Flexibility is the simple one. I want what I want when I want it. For those who have invested in a custom system, or the customization of a platform system, you know how insidiously complex it can be to figure out exactly what you want before you have it. It’s common to want numerous tweaks for your newest system before it can be productive. In short, you want what you want when you want it.

So. What’s the rule? You get to pick two.

If you want fast and cheap, you’re not going to get much flexibility.

If you want flexible and cheap, it’s going to be slow – time consuming to use, time consuming to produce results.

If you want fast and flexible, it’s going to be expensive, very expensive. While companies with lots of cash or big budgets may like this option, even the perfect computer/application will need to be updated, because everything is changing all the time. Every dollar you invest in technology has a relatively short half-life.

What I’ve found is that most new investments in technology are made without sufficient understanding of need or value of filling that need. Without those two details, you can’t make a meaningful estimate of ROI. Nor can you make a realistic estimate of how much you should spend.

I’ve never heard a technology decision maker say “Yeah, that’s exactly the system we want but the ROI is too low to justify the expense. Don’t spend the money.”

So, I recommend the following strategy.

Get crystal clear on what you need to truly have a positive impact on some aspect of your business that can be objectively measured.

Focus on time and price and use your needs to create the rules for offering a system to you for purchase and stop worrying about flexibility and fads. Not only do you not need the biggest, best, fastest, coolest, most amazing system out there, you don’t want it because it cannot be cost effective. How much is your ego worth?


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