Fundamental and practical advice to help you select the right technology
In the business book category there are two types of books. On the one hand you have books that serve a relatively easy solution to a problem everybody knows is way more complex than the book tells us. Usually the author doesn’t have actual experience with the topic he/she is writing about. The book is largely based on interviews and other books. The author pulls these together and provides the reader with an overarching model or list of learnings the reader can apply.
I’m not saying this approach is wrong. I regularly read these kind of books and enjoy doing so. But when I’m done I’m usually left with the feeling that the inspiring story is far away from the real complexity I have to deal with.
On the other hand there are books which are clearly written by authors who have been or still are there. They clearly know what they are writing about, don’t provide easy answers or simple 1-2-3 steps to success approaches. These books try to help in your real situation and provide loads of practical advice from the trenches for people who are in the same trenches.
By the way, the strange thing is that the first category are mostly way more popular than the latter. For some time I’ve been wondering why. Is it because most people (myself included...) like reading books with the easy, 1-2-3 steps to success because it gives us a good feeling that something we know is hard seems easy? Would love to hear what you think of this.
Back to the main topic of this blogpost. I recently was honored to review Tony Byrne and Jarrod Gingras’ book titled ‘The Right Way to Select Technology’. This book clearly fits in the last category. It tells the real story. And that's what their business, The Real Story group, is all about.
This book goes into every detail that you need to know to select the right technology for your business. From crafting a good business case (not one of the wishful thinking ones…) to getting the right team together for the selection process, on to capturing requirements and user stories in a balanced way (no endless requirements document, but requirements that really help you filter the tech market). It also addressed how you should treat vendors, evaluate proposals from vendors, set up demos and proof of concepts that give you answers, wrapping up with making the actual selection and negotiating a good price.
In all the chapters Byrne and Gingras provide an approach that has repeatedly worked for them and share real (positive and negative) experiences with each element of the selection process.
For me some of the highlights of the book are:
- Practical advice on the composition of the selection team. This is a big issue. Don’t we all know of tech that has been selected by IT or some other team in splendid isolation, that became the ‘global standard’ nobody in the organization is using? Reading the book helps you overcome this issue.
- I like how the authors say that when you follow their approach the choice of the technology will be obvious in the end. I know many who would really doubt this. selection processes are usually nightmares ending with some not agreeing with the final choice. For tech selection I used a comparable process to Byrne/Gingras’ and it is my experience as well. Getting to an obvious choice really can be achieved.
- And a final one – there are more, but I’ll keep it to three high-lights. I like how Tony and Jarrod show that aside from requirements and user stories "filtering criteria" are important. They point to criteria such as geography, delivery model, licensing model and tech base. I agree with these. Two other criteria I used and really help you filter are budget (you can look at the complete tech market, but your budget will filter out many options) and total cost of ownership (don’t only focus on license costs! The tool could be a cheap buy, but have huge implementation and/or governance costs).
Congratulations, Tony and Jarrod, with your new book!