Saturday, September 18, 2021

Putting Technology Acquisitions into Context

In my last column, I talked about the effect politics has on technology

decision making, and I got a lot of responses. Seems everyone relates to

politics and the impact it has on corporate behavior.

This time I’d like to expand the context discussion to include the rest

of the variables that influence the technology acquisition, deployment

and support processes… and, for that matter, all corporate behavior.

Politics is one part of the overall context that decisions are made in.

The others include the culture of the company, the quality and character

of the leadership, the financial condition of the company, and the

overall financial state of the industry, the national and global

economies.

The three most obvious pieces of the puzzle include the pursuit of

collaborative business models, technology integration and

interoperability, and, of course the management best practices around

business technology acquisition, deployment and support. Other pieces,

which round out the context that decisions are made in, include politics,

leadership, the economy and culture.

Let’s run through the variables.

As suggested last time, it’s important to assess the political quotient

of your company. Some companies are almost completely political. A few

people make decisions based only on what they think, who they like (and

dislike), and on what’s good for them personally (which may or may not be

good for the company).

Other companies are obsessive-compulsive about data, evidence and

analysis. In the middle, are most of the companies out there, with some

balance between analysis and politics.

Corporate culture is another key decision-making driver.

Is your culture adventurous? Conservative? Does your company take

calculated risks? Crazy risks? Are you early — or late — technology

adopters? Does your culture reward or punish risk takers? When they tell

you to ”think outside the box”, is that code for ”I dare you to

challenge the status quo”? It’s important to assess your corporate

culture accurately. Technology investments must sync with the culture (as

well as the rest of the variables that comprise the total decision-making

context).

What about corporate leadership? Is it smart? Is it old to the point of

nearing retirement? Is everyone already rich? Is everyone still

struggling to get back to where they were in 1999? Is it embattled? Is

the senior management team mature or adolescent? Is it committed to

everyone’s success or just its own? Is it compassionate or unforgiving?

The key here is the overall leadership ability of the senior management

team. There are some really smart, skilled and honorable management teams

out there and there are some really awful ones, as well. Trying to sell a

long-term technology-based solution to a self-centered team with only

their personal wealth in mind simply won’t work. Trying to sell the same

solution to a team that embraces long-term approaches to the creation of

broad shareholder value usually works very well.

How well is the company really doing? Is it making money? More money than

last year? Is it tightening its belt? Has the CIO received yet another

memorandum about reducing technology costs? Is the company growing

financially? Is there optimism or pessimism about the future?
Is your industry sector doing well? Are you the only defense contractor

losing money? Or is everyone in the same boat? Is the general economy

looking good or are there regional, national or global red flags? What’s

the confidence level for the sector and the economy? Where’s the smart

money going?

It’s essential to position your company within the larger economic forces

that define national and global bear and bull markets.

Be sure to touch all of these bases as you prepare to launch a new

technology effort. While the business case may be strong, there are other

factors that can dramatically influence the outcome of the process. Pay

very close attention to politics, culture, leadership, the company’s

financials and the overall national and global economies.

If the lights are all red, maybe it’s a bad time to propose any changes

or any large technology investments. But if there are some red, but

mostly yellow and green lights, then perhaps it’s time to work the

context to your advantage.

One thing is for sure: Ignoring any of the pieces will jeopardize your

chances of success.

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