Image by Nicolas Will, CC license

Behind every idea is a set of assumptions.  These assumptions can be exposed by simply by asking “why”?

When it comes to good technology management, it’s your job to test these assumptions, to kill the losing propositions or to make them more viable as sound investments.  Sometimes these assumptions are wrong – and a lot of them need to be right in order for a project to succeed.

Many people don’t realize the number of assumptions they make when a technology project is launched. Among them:

  • what they saw in the demo or pilot will work in the real world;
  • the software will meet all the business requirements that were specified before the project started;
  • the team won’t have to make any customizations other than what was already identified;
  • users will quickly learn and accept the new system;
  • the project will be completed on the promised date.

In my book I described a hypothetical conversation between a manager and a CIO/CEO.  The manager was explaining that “the new system will give us real-time visibility of our vendor inventories and plant inventories, and instead of waiting for reports we’ll see our inventory positions and planned production and receipts real-time.”

Taken at face value, this statement implies acceptance of the following assumptions:

  1. The way we think of “real-time visibility” of inventories, production and receipts is the same as what the system can provide.
  2. The view of said data will be in a useful format and will provide all the data we need to make better/faster decisions.
  3. These better/faster decisions will enable us to let our customers order within a shorter lead- time window and will reduce our on-hand inventories.
  4. The savings from lower inventories and the additional sales from our late-order customers will more than pay for the cost of this new system.
  5. A change in business process (i.e., how we manage inventories and production) would not produce these same benefits.
  6. Out of all of the possible system solutions this one is the best choice from an IT strategy, cost and ongoing support standpoint.

A pause for a minute to question these six assumptions may well be the most valuable minute ever spent on the proposed project.  All kinds of havoc and wasted money can be avoided just by testing these assumptions.

And as you can see you don’t have to be an IT expert to successfully manage technology.  You just have to use common sense, by testing the logic that if we do X, then we will receive Y benefits.  If you are going to invest in technology, you may as well do it the right way.