Everyone has an agenda. Understanding this fact is a necessary part of receiving advice for a variety of business decisions. When it comes to technology, it’s usually common to get the opinion of others that possess product, installation and maintenance experience. That said, be aware of the potential bias that each party is likely to have, which is an important part of this process. Technology vendors, consultants, in-house staff and even third-party research organizations can produce relevant information that is vital to making a sound technology decision. The challenge, however, is determining what should be regarded as fact and what should be taken with a grain of salt. Let’s look at each relevant decision-making group and help to define what information should be trusted when making complex technological decisions for your organization.
The people who want to sell you technology are often considered to be the ones to trust the least. After all, it’s their sole responsibility. However, when it comes to specific knowledge of a product or service, there is no better source of truth. In my experience, speaking to your assigned sales engineer along with a product specialist is the best way to understand what a solution can or cannot do. While a sales engineer may insist that a feature or deployment-specific option is possible today, the product specialist will be able to verify that the product/service can indeed do what you want it to do.
Like technology vendors, external consultants’ opinion comparing one product over another should be treated with suspicion as they often benefit from you purchasing a product or service that makes them the most money. That said, consultants provide a wealth of implementation and integration experience from which to help base your decision on. Additionally, understand that if the consulting company is on the hook for the technology integration, they are the ones that should be most trusted in terms of what they are capable of accomplishing -- and what cannot be delivered despite vendor claims.
In-house Administrators and Architects
While it would be great to always rely on the opinion of in-house IT administrators and architects, a lack of experience and bias toward a handful of technologies they’re comfortable with can often cloud judgement from this group. In many cases, their input is less reliable compared to feedback from technology vendors and consultants who are more familiar with what’s out there and what other businesses are buying.
That said, in-house staff will provide the best feedback when it comes to determining the level of effort required to manage and scale a particular technology from a long-term perspective. These are the people that will provide the most accurate prediction of how a new product can and should be integrated, the amount of time that will be required to manage and tune a product, and an approximate annual cost it will take to operate said technology over the course of a three-to-five-year life cycle.
Researchers and Analysts
In many IT shops, technology research and analyst reports are often used to base purchase decisions on. The reports are considered “unbiased” validation coming from a third-party entity that holds no stake in the purchase process. While this thinking may be somewhat true, note that the criteria that these researchers use to rank products may not fit your needs from a business standpoint. Thus, for those that truly value opinion from external researchers and analysts, it’s wise to partner with a research organization that can assist in evaluating various products/services on your behalf and provide a comparison report that is tailored to your specific business needs and goals.