When we broached the topic of a theme for the upcoming annual Member Forum, I wanted to have it be forward looking. The future of technology….hmmm….what in the world does that mean? Given the breadth of the technology we all deal with and the pace of change, it’s a daunting subject. Overlay the vast differences of our membership’s vertical markets (i.e. healthcare, higher-ed, K-12, govt., etc…) and the disparity of implementations within a given segment, it becomes presumptuous on our part to even try and present the future. However, aren’t we all charged with painting that picture at some level? I find strategic planning to be far more nebulous than it used to be but still fundamentally required. In my humble opinion, anyone with a five-year plan in IT these days is fooling themselves, given the pace of change and the volatility of budgets alone. Equipment depreciation schedules, once 10-15 years, now are 3-5! That being said, if we don’t understand macro industry trends and develop some methodology for assessment we will quickly be devoured by either the market itself or the financial death knell of inefficiency. Make a technology mistake and it can be like missing on the third pick in the NBA draft which we pray the Celtics do not do this week. It just as important to grasp an important trend as it is to ignore or skip over the shiny new object. The evolution of optical transport is a classic example. OSHEAN is skipping entire generations of optical technology. We will not implement 40G and may even skip 100G if the 200G price points hit what we need this coming year. In keeping with this example, what is incumbent on OSHEAN engineering is not to be definitive about the 3-5 year milestones, price points and even the technology itself but to continuously evaluate the market and its associated technology evolution. That continuous evaluation and judicious timing can save large sums of money. The challenge that comes with continuous evaluation is the resource drain, discipline and time required, especially with the many technologies we deal with.
I am part of a CEO advisory group called Vistage. We had been discussing the challenge of building strategic discipline into our work weeks as we often felt we were “working in the business instead of on the business”. The solution many of us have found useful is the concept of building a Pain vs. Gain profile into one’s schedule. The idea, popularized by author and entrepreneur Steve McClatchey, recognizes that we technically default to reactionary “have to” Pain tasks which maintain us but don’t necessarily help us move forward. I now have a 2-hour block in my calendar every week for “Gain” time dedicated to strategic activities for OSHEAN. This simple practice can set the stage for building the underlying methodology for assessment that is right for you.
So, this week we will have our annual Member Forum and publish our latest eCurrent, both dedicated to the concept of “future tech”, but my real observation is that we can’t presume to know the answer. We can presume however, that we need to be dedicated to continuous learning.