Balancing Cool Tech, Usability and TCO

I’m a techie.
I like new, shiny,
cool stuff.

Newest however, usually costs.
And customers usually like cheap.

Users don’t care about either.
They just want a system that
empowers more than it obstructs.

So how do you find the balance between the three? Is it even possible? Or is it just another Project Management Triangle?

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a secret formula to solve the equation.

The secret lies in the ability to keep perspective, and remember for whom we are in this game.

The cool stuff

The first thing to remind myself, is that this isn’t a game.
It’s so easy to get swept away by everything you see on social media and in blogs from both the Microsoft product team and the broader community. Some guy using Hololens 2.5 to help Bruce Willis fix the engine on the wing of an A380 at 39kft, while logging this as an opportunity and also adding a few nuts and bolts to the field service case and scheduling a maintennance slot post landing. And then his divorced wife comes to her senses and wants him back.

I want to do that too. I want to try out all the new cool tech that is being pumped out on a weekly basis.
Implement something that’s never been done just because I can, not really because anyone actually needs it.

There is a proverb, very subjective and equally unknown, that I’ve used far too many times:

Being a consultant would be great,
if it wasn’t for all the customers and users.

Without customers in the way and without demanding users, we could delve into all the new things, we could be first to blog about how we hooked up our Hololens 3 with Spaceman in his Tesla on the next SpaceX launch to Mars and beyond.

But being a partner and a consultant, I guess I am dependent on both customers and users, after all.

From a different aspect of this; even if we acquire the knowhow and we get the budget to take our solution to a technological Next Level, there is no implicit added value to the users “just because” they get the latest and greatest.

Technology !== Improvement

Technology does not inherently improve the system.

The Users

That very personal proverb about customers “being in the way” of adopting new tech has one very valid point though:

We want to know about everything new, we need to know about it, to be able to make informed decisions in those judgment calls about which technology to adopt where, and why.

Anyone who has implemented and rolled out computer systems knows that users come in all shapes, with different needs, expectations, hopes, and patience.

User adoption is a huge topic and I won’t go deeper into that or pretend that I know all about it, but as an architect and developer most desicions I make during the design and development phases affect how the system is recieved by the users.

Losing sight of the usability and user adoption goals can quickly ruin any project, no matter how technologically superior it may seem to us techies.

Technology !== Usability

Technology does not inherently make the system more usable.

Total Cost of Ownership

Another commonly used proverb is simply:

Numbers impede creativity.

This can apply to any kind of numbers; cost, time, performance, you name it. From a “I want to implement something cool” perspective, any kind of number is usually an obstacle on our way to geek heaven.

The customers want Return On Investment. How to calculate the ROI is a science in itself, and many times you tend not to see the whole picture of the cost. You look at license costs, possible hardware, implementations cost, and consulting hours. You lay out a plan for annual licenses, and possibly a roadmap for future improvements.

What you are missing with this common approach is a calculation, or at least estimation, of the value of the technical debt you build into your system.

The newest and coolest usually has less architecture in place around healthy ALM, update paths, and even documentation and support. This is quite natural, when new features are ready to ship or ready for beta, you want them out there ASAP to stay ahead in the technological competition, you want early adopters to find the first bugs to be able to fix them before the broader market adopts the new tech.

But how do you calculate the TCO of “support requests may take 1.8 times longer to solve for the new cool tech than the established tech”? I have no idea.

Technology !== Value

Technology does not inherently add value.

Be the dinosaur?

So this was a very technology hostile post…
I guess we should all just wait for v2.0 of any new features.

Absolutely not.

But make sure you are aware of all aspects of the new tech, not just that tickeling WOW-feeling you get when seeing Mars through Spaceman’s eyes.

And more importantly – as a partner with fingers itching to try the new – do the responsible thing and inform your customers of all these aspects.

We’re in this together.

Hopefully for more than one super cool project with zero ROI.

The post Balancing Cool Tech, Usability and TCO appeared first on The Dynamics 365 Trenches.

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