“Dad, just because you’re spinning around, it doesn’t mean you’re in a disco.”
It’s the kind of clever off-the-cuff comment I’ve come to expect from my eight-year-old son. We were watching some pretty silly commercials on the cartoon network but from his kid wisdom, he gave us all a great metaphor for a principal of running our businesses.
We’re familiar with “shiny object syndrome” – the attraction to buy the next new thing. But how do we, as business owners, resist the impulse to spend more? Especially when too many I.T. consultants push for it.
Too many I.T. consulting firms have enabled their clients’ shiny object syndromes for too long, wrecking their I.T. budgets. Tech people are notorious for their love of the latest and greatest. They’re comfortable with technological innovation and they’re willing to try new things. It’s a good quality and you want to see your tech advisors be ready to adapt so you’re not stuck with Windows XP or a Unix server. But there’s also danger in it.
There are a thousand new strategies launched every year in books, blueprints and plans. The urge to spend money on the latest app, SaaS (software as a service) or device can be irresistible. Especially when it’s touted as a tool for greater productivity, more savings, or better sales by your I.T. consultant.
Wait. That sounds like me! I’m constantly talking about productivity, using technology to save money and leveraging resources to make more sales. But after twenty years in business, I’ve absolutely learned that just because you’re spinning around – and there may even be flashing lights and smoke and mirrors – it doesn’t mean you’re in a disco. Those shiny toys won’t make you a great dancer.
We’ve all see company owners who are working hard on things that look like business, that look like income-producing activities, that look purposeful, but are actually wasting time and energy and maybe making them look a bit ridiculous. Sometimes you don’t need something new when there’s proven, tested technology either already available or readily adapted from what you’ve already got.
I use Windows Outlook for my email and scheduling. My V.P. of Technology writes his own scripts and DOS is one arrow in his quiver of tools. Our V.P. of Digital Identity sometimes takes notes on paper … with a pen! These are tools which have been tried and tested. They’re simple, robust and they get the job done.
There’s another facet on the polished mirror disco ball of shiny object syndrome. It’s when a business begins piling on new services because of the allure of added revenue … without considering whether it’s a good fit for the clients. Failing restaurants are notorious for this for adding menu items until they’ve got a bewildering array of cuisines and you don’t know what they’re good at any more. No single eatery (except for the buffet at the Rio in Vegas) is going to be able to focus and deliver a quality product with that much variety.
You can tell when an I.T. consulting firm or computer repair guy starts to fall for this. They’ll start adding services simply to add them for their clients (or more likely for their bottom line). I have a clear vision for my business which includes a clear vision of how I can help your business. Nothing gets added, suggested, or recommended without serving an important and necessary purpose for the better, more secure operation of your business. While that may include new services, each one are carefully analyzed for their ability to help us help you solve business problems with technology.
Control the Impulse
Here’s how I control shiny object syndrome impulses for myself and my company.
- We have a clear vision.“We solve business problems with technology.”The focus is on solving problems. Every problem doesn’t need a new gadget, software or service. We look to work with what you’ve got first. And we apply this to ourselves. We’re an I.T. company. That means we’re not a marketing agency, so we don’t do web design. We’re not in software, so we won’t develop apps or software programs. We just make sure that your computers and your network are reliable and run effectively and efficiently.
- New tools must be revenue-generating, time-saving or cost-saving.We won’t use it internally and we won’t recommend it unless we can see a return on investment for your company. It has to solve a problem which can’t be addressed by anything you already own.
- We know we’ll have to give something up. No new tool or service enters into a business vacuum. We don’t have “spare” time. Every hour is filled with vital business activities and services. So if we add something, it’s got to replace something else or it has to make enough sense to be worth the extra effort.
I See Spinning I.T. Consultants
I can tell when a client’s old computer repair guy spent a lot of time twirling around in useless activity. During a recent Network Health Check, I was told about a room where there were a dozen PC boxes lined up against a wall. Their computer guy was doing this to give them remote access. He caused them a huge expense because he didn’t know how to make it work the right way. It made me cringe to see this type of lazy problem-solving applied to a serious business need.
I’ve also seen plenty of businesses which had two or three servers when one would do. I always wondered what their old I.T. firm was thinking. Maybe he couldn’t figure out how to make the old one work right but also couldn’t figure out how to detach it from the system to replace it … so he just added a new one. It’s easy to throw money at a problem when it’s not your own that you’re spending. And when you’re getting paid to spend it.
Some I.T. consulting companies do this to jack up their fees. It makes them feel significant to say that you’re going to have to add a new server. It makes them sound important and adds a big line item to the bill. But what a terrible waste of the client’s time, resources and of their technology budget.
You might genuinely need more than one server if you’ve got a large organization with multiple departments or a high volume of documentation or depend on a network connection. But we’ve saved plenty of new clients a lot of money by removing an unnecessary server or by turning it into a virtual machine.
This Ain’t No Disco
We don’t have the time or energy to spin around. We don’t add hardware when a software solution will do. We don’t add outward activity when going deep into the system will do.
If you ever have questions about whether you really need an upgrade or a new system, I will always take the time to sit down with you, explain the changes and crunch the numbers until we’re both satisfied that “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.”
If your current I.T. consulting firm is constantly spinning shiny objects in front of you, if you feel like they’re padding the bill, if your existing I.T. consultant never seems to offer real solutions, take the first step and reach out to us.
Photos from Flickr, courtesy of (top to bottom): Melissa O’Donohue, Spin, CC BY-ND 2.0, https://www.flickr.com/photos/melle_oh/1526449882
Nick Page, Spinning Fairground Ride, CC BY 2.0, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicksie2008/16456300115