With Technology, We’re Never Satisfied
We are a consumer society. We are fascinated by the new. We’re often dazzled by fashion over substance, form over function. We run out to spend money on the latest gadgets, even if the improvements are incremental.
When a company is nearing a new product or service release, there’s usually this funny little dance between product management and the sales organization that is fairly common within technology companies. Microsoft and Apple are both great examples. When the product team needs to share some forward-thinking information on an upcoming release (whether for their board of directors, for analysts, or to the media as a strategy to spark interest), they go to great length to bridle the level of anticipation, wary of giving out too much information before the product is ready to go to market.
Why? Three reasons: First, because it’s a great way to create buzz and consumer interest. Tell people something new is coming out, and then say little to nothing about what will be included. Just stand around, smiling knowingly. Second, they do it to protect intellectual property, and keep as far out ahead as the competition as they can, knowing that as soon as it becomes public, someone will be out there trying to reverse-engineer it. And third, they do it to maximize the sales of existing products and services.
Customers want the latest/greatest, but they also want to understand the roadmap. And if you’ve never worked in or alongside sales, you understand that if you start talking future-state to customers, they want to buy that future state — and not the products or services available today. Understanding all of that, its no wonder my product team is very careful about the timing of our releases, and both internal and external communications.
There is a life lesson here about how we look at our collaboration platforms. How much do we seek after the future state rather than learn to manage what is available to us today? I have a couple sessions I’ve given at various SharePoint Saturdays and SPTechCon where I focus on the previous version – SharePoint 2010. In fact, at the April SPTechCon event in San Francisco, one of my sessions will be a demo-heavy session called 15 Reasons You Should Still Be Using SharePoint 2010. I suspect someone on the SharePoint product team in Redmond will be unhappy to see this one. Someone who is telling people its ok not to upgrade? How dare he! (I’m being overly dramatic, but there are some who are easily bruised)
In the enterprise software space, the consumer buying frenzy is happening around social tools. Enterprise platforms like SharePoint are often criticized for what they lack, and rarely recognized for what they do provide. One of the most-recognized sayings is "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," and that’s exactly what happens with technology. Minutes after a purchase, they’re looking over the fence at what someone else has purchases, what another team or organization has built, questioning the purchase they just made.
Information workers are technology consumers, and as technology advances and the rising generation enters the workforce, an increasing percentage of us are information workers. It’s a rapidly expanding category. I often write about the changing social informatics of the workforce — how technology is driving change around not only the tools we use, but how we consume and share information. Even non-technical roles are slowly adopting technology to help streamline, optimize, and capture data around their work activities. This pervasiveness of technology in our lives only further increases our desire for having the latest, greatest tools and technologies — whether or not they provide quantifiable value to the work we do.
Be careful not to wander away from the business requirements. Don’t get caught up in the flashy marketing presentations around every new product or service. Go back to your core requirements, and be clear on what your business needs. While existing systems may not be new and sexy, they can often provide you with exactly what you need.
That’s my two cents.