Showing value for new technology implementation

Posted by Jesse | Posted in Higher Education, Management, Technology | Posted on 09-06-2007

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In my industry – higher education – we are often caught by a new, sparkly technology. We (being IT professionals) see the new applications and technology as something that will both forward our “mojo” with the prospective students and give value to the institution. The traditional (and even those considered tech savvy) admission professionals are usually slow to adopt these new ideas, instead relying on tried and true methodologies that have produced the necessary “numbers” for incoming classes.

It’s an odd phenomenon, because the higher education industry could be called a stable job environment, but many directors/deans are unwilling to try new things and fail at achieving their classes. I think the problem that the traditional admission professional can’t get around is not being able to directly correlate a new technology “use” to a prospect – applicant conversion. Take a step back and I’m sure the same can be said in other industries – “How can I be sure that this new product will provide value to my company/institution”? Better yet, how can I quantify that X technology was the actual “thing” that was a part of the conversion? Now I’m trying to convince someone to buy X technology, when X technology will just be another “add-on” entity to aid in our marketing/communications/sales program. Ouch.

I don’t know what your IT environment looks like, but with blogs, chats, email solutions, surveys, etc. our add-ons are getting to be a big mess. You’ve got your work cut out for you, but all is not lost. You have to find that value and be able to communicate it well. Like it or not, that manager asking you to show them value is doing their job. They (directly or indirectly) are causing you to look deeper into X technology objectively to squeeze out all the REAL value you possibly can.

Know thine enemy:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

- Sun Tzu

Be objective in your research of X technology. Put yourself in your management’s position and try to see the technology from their eyes. Think about things like image, cost, implementation, and time spent on X technology. At the same time, ask for a list of clients you can contact that are actively using X technology. Ask your user groups about X technology, hit the forums and gather as much information as you possibly can. Schedule a demo with X company to walk you through the product. Demos are a *great way to get that first glimpse of customer support. Once you understand the technology better and feel comfortable about it fitting in with your existing IT environment, you can begin to organize your data for a presentation.

STOP!!! (At any point did you feel uncomfortable with what you found? What level of risk would this apply to your operations? If you are staring at a growing list, now is probably the time you take your manager out for some coffee and thank them for their brilliant foresight and experience.) If things still look as amazing and shiny as they did when you first discovered X technology, put your presentation together, make sure the right people are in the meeting and knock this one out of the park. This can’t be a long and painful experience; you need to get to the value added part ASAP.

Answer questions before they are asked, anticipate potential wildcard questions, and be prepared to do an ad hoc demo if it’s available. If possible, keep a one page summary sheet with facts bulleted and well organized. If you believe this much in X technology, let it show in your preparation and research.

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