The Challenge of Early Tech Decisions

  • Interesting points, Steve. I work for a large state department, which has been around for more than 100 years. Of course the technology we use wasn't there 100 years ago, but it's certainly the case that what we currently use (for databases its a mixture of SQL Server and MySQL) has been around for decades. For me it helped when I was first hired, because it was technologies I was used to using. But as you say, things are very rigid. I doubt we'd ever consider using Redis, or MongoDB.

    But let me play the devil's advocate for a bit. This place uses Microsoft 365 for Business, thus Office is pretty entrenched. Just being honest with you all, I don't have a problem with that. There are lots of Excel spreadsheets around here used for various things. However, there's something of a change going about in our Project Management Office (PMO). There's one guy there who thinks that something called Smartsheets is the cat's meow. He's on a one-man juggernaut to convert the whole department away from Excel to Smartsheets. He's won over the PMO, as they've adopted Smartsheets wholesale. But he's beginning to run into stiff resistance, because all other divisions within the department aren't interested. They've got their Excel spreadsheets, which they've used for decades, that do what they need to get done. Why should they convert just because one guy thinks this is the best thing since sliced bread? And to compound the difficulty, although the PMO have all bought into Smartsheets, no one but this one guy, knows how to develop spreadsheets in Smartsheets. He's going about promising the moon to managers all over and developing Smartsheets app as fast as he can. But he's the only one who knows how to do this, so what happens when he leaves? How long can he keep up his frantic pace developing Smartsheets apps? I predict that eventually he'll burn out, then either leave or stop developing new Smartsheets apps and may even stop supporting those he's written. Without buy-in from other people in an organization, any idea or technology, even if it is superior to what's currently in use at a business, will fail.

    Kindest Regards, Rod Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • My former partner used to say that something had to be 20% better to consider a switch. That has stuck with me a long time as a metric. Is something significantly better?

    I think Bing works fine, but is it 20% better than Google? I'd say no. They're both toaster. They're generics that do a good job. Same for Azure DevOps and TeamCity or Octopus Deploy. Is Azure DevOps that much better that you should switch? Making a change involves training, new habits, loss of productivity, costs, and the advantages aren't that high.

    Often someone gets excited about new technology. Perhaps there's something to see, and maybe it's worth changing. I think containers add a lot of value and are worth moving to, but 20% better? Not after all the efforts to switch how people work. At least today. Over time I think that will change, but for now, most developers (and most clients) can't see the benefit.

    I'd say the same thing about Smart Sheets. I don't know a lot, but it's niche tech, not widely known, and I'd have to see some value that gets lots of people to switch, not one. Getting this installed, getting habits built, that all will cost a lot. Perhaps it's worth it. If the dev time is way lower than something else, it might be worth it. If they can better manage data, perhaps, but until you get to a tipping point, it's not worth switching.

    Early stack/tech decisions aren't always wrong. However, your org has to evaluate them over time and decide as a group, it change is worth the cost.

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