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How can you determine whether a new technology is worth the costs and risks and costs of adoption? Start by calculating them. One guideline is the 10X rule: if you can expect a return of 10 times your investment, then it’s worth it.
But to understand how to put this rule into practice, remember that your gains can come from any of several improvements, or a combination of improvements:
Your expected gains must be the sum total of all factors. If adopting a new technology provides an improvement in one factor but at the expense of another factor, it may not be worth adopting the technology. This is a type of Return on Investment (ROI) analysis, which frequently focuses only on financial factors. A better analysis will include non-financial factors, some of which may outweigh the financial factors.
The timeframe for the gains to be realized must also be included in the analysis. Some investments in new technology may require several years to begin to provide full value.
A good example is the convergence and integration of voice, video, and messaging (Unified Communications, or UC) with data networks that so many organizations went through a few years ago. It was expensive at first because they had to replace the old PBX and wiring with new call controllers, new phones, and an IP networking infrastructure. Technology service providers had to learn how to configure and manage these new integrated networks to prevent applications and UC from negatively impacting each other while providing the desired level of functionality.
Managing risk should also be incorporated into your analysis, but remember that you accept a risk whether you adopt a new technology or not. The advantages a new technology provides may not be obvious – until a competitor adopts that technology and makes your competitive disadvantage clear. In those cases, adopting the new technology may simply be a way to nullify that risk. Playing catch-up is never a good business plan.
Developing a plan and working to implement that plan can significantly reduce the risk of adopting new technology. The plan does not necessarily have to be a full-blown deployment. It is valid to have a plan to investigate new technology and how it can be applied to the business.
You can think of it as applied research. What are the positive and negative factors to be considered? What kind of gains may be possible? What are the risks of adopting the new technology or the risk of not adopting it?
There are a number of steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of adopting new technologies.
Do not overlook the soft costs of implementing a new technology. Both organizational and process changes may be required.
Organizational changes may be needed. For example, the convergence of voice and data required that the voice team and the data team begin working more closely together, and eventually merging. The voice team had to learn about packet networks, unreliable packet delivery, and rerouting when failures occurred. The data team had to learn about Mean Opinion Scores, Quality of Service, and how voice and video use the network. These teams have often been merged into one team to improve communications and reduce organizational complexity.
Procedural changes are very common with new technology. The process for provisioning for a telephone changed significantly with the introduction of Voice over IP (VoIP). A similar change is occurring with the adoption of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and with Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). Be prepared to develop changes to previous processes and expect to encounter some resistance to change.
Clear and frequent communications are important for successfully overcoming the organizational and procedural challenges. When the people within your organization understand the reasons for change, they more easily adapt, even if they don’t agree.
New technologies can be intimidating or invigorating to an organization. The risk factors can be controlled with a systematic process. Assembling the right team, establishing clear goals, and providing the necessary resources can allow a project to move very quickly. Move quickly, determine what works and what doesn’t, then make a decision on proceeding.
For a deeper conversation on analyzing and reducing risk associated with new technology adoption, feel free to reach out.
Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.
Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.
John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services. Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.
He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.