Imagine an ancient plain, 12,000 years ago. You are a hunter-gatherer. Your band is tracking a group of gazelles. There they are, alert, smart, and above all, fast. A gazelle can reach a speed of almost 60 mph and - with a little luck - it can outrun a cheetah, the fastest animal in land. Your speed? If you were the fastest man on Earth that will be 27.8 mph.
Your group has been chasing this herd all day. You need to get the prize or your family, and all the people that depend on you will be hungry. How will you catch it?
The odds are not in your favor, at least not if you only depend on your physical traits; you need something extra to increase your power. Fortunately, you are equipped with the more advanced technology available to the highly motivated hunter-gatherer: the spear. Thanks to this you will be able to ambush the herd, extend the reach of your physical and mental powers, and get the prey. Congratulations, your plate will be full tonight.
Using technology to extend our capability to achieve, we accomplish much more than catching our prey or reaching our targets; we also increase our confidence, our faith in our ability to affect our environment in a positive way, and our belief that we can achieve great things with our team, our partners and colleagues.
But there is a catch.
To effectively leverage technology's power to extend our capabilities, to support our business process, and to make things happen, it is critical to understand technology's role in our business and to solve the right problem, with the right tools, and at the right time.
In the 50’s, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger explained how the essence of any technology is to be "a means to an end," and he was right. Today, living in a world where technology is commonplace we can forget this basic premise: the purpose of all tech is to make things happen, to produce a specific and desirable result and, in doing so, enhance our capacity to achieve positive outcomes. At the intersection between Information Technology and business, this premise has an evident, but sometimes missed, conclusion: in the business of software, technology has one function - to deliver value to our customers. When we provide a product or service that increases the customer ability to do things – to make things happen – our service is valuable, and when that value exceeds the expectations of the clients, we are successful.
To achieve success, reach our specific and desired results, and to deliver them to our customers and shareholders, we need to possess and make use of the necessary expertise to make it happen. The software industry is a knowledge-intensive activity; we need to have – and if we do not, to capture – the necessary knowledge about three key factors:
1. What is the right problem to solve
The first thing is to make sure we are in the right track, as Peter Drucker said, “There is nothing so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.” We should ask ourselves what the company really want to achieve, the real objective, the actual problem to solve - and take this question seriously.
2. What technology apply
When we select the appropriate tool for the job at hand, our performance improves. To that end, we need to: a) complete step one and b) have the required knowledge to select the appropriate tech to fulfill our goal. If we do not, we must ask for help.
3. How to apply the technology
This is the critical step. We identified the problem we want to address, the value we want to create; then we selected the technology that fits our business and the team that will accomplish the needed results. Now the real test is here: how will we execute? Every business –and every person– has his or her approach to execution. It’s one of my favorite topics, and we could discuss a lot about it. My viewpoint: it does not matter how you apply the tech, but do not be a perfectionist; it will kill your team initiative, slow your time to market and we just don’t have time for that. Perfectionism is the enemy of making things happen.
If we master these elements, we will achieve success. If we fail to capture the knowledge required on any of those three steps, we will be creating unnecessary risks in our efforts.
To understand these essential elements, we need the correct approach. For example, you could:
- Analyze company history and background.
- Evaluate the existing technologies already in place in the business.
- Time restrictions. Think about the Hofstadter's Law: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.”
- Select established and emerging technologies that could help you to solve the problem. Digital disruption is here to stay but beware of hype, treat the claims of some new technologies with care.
- Ask: What expertise might the team need to achieve the goal? and
- What resources do we have available?
To use technology in the right way, to make things happen and achieve success doesn't occur from one day to another. It is the result of a carefully planned and executed process. The effect of a positive environment, an encouraging team dynamic, and a burning desire to do things, to create, and to accomplish.
Tech is for doing, but not for doing unproductive and wasteful activities or without planning, thinking things through; tech is about doing and creating valuable things for oneself and others, purposely. That way we create progress, opportunity, and positive outcomes.
Are you using tech in the best way so you can accomplish the appropriate objectives and achieve real success? Are you sharpening your spear?
Tech is for doing... useful things that create value. We shouldn't spend our time and money on paperweights. Neither should we let ourselves be dazzled by unproven promises of new disruptive technologies. We need to invest in the right technology, apply it the right way, and get excellent results. Good luck with your hunt!
About the author and BigMinds:
Marlon E. Mata is an experienced Software Engineer and Co-founder of BigMinds. BigMinds is a Costa Rica-based software outsourcing company. We offer nearshore development, provide dedicated development teams and find solutions to your software needs. If you would like to know more about how BigMinds can help you to increase business scalability and performance, while at the same time reduce your operational costs, please contact us at 1-614-448-2229 (within the United States or Canada), or email us and we will be happy to help you.