Managing Technology Change

You can’t assess and mitigate the implementation, vendor, budget, and security risks of “as a Service” solutions alone. You need TechChoice CYaaS™.

No one has ever been fired for selecting “insert Fortune 500 company.” We know–we’ve all heard it before. But, no one has been getting a raise for it of late either. Maybe we are going to get to a point where that old adage is reversed- maybe we are already there. We’re in a world of start-ups, real-time dynamic infrastructure, and companies you’ve never heard of that offer exactly what you want, yet neither of you know it, and you’re tasked with digital transformation.

Welcome to the aaS world.

How are you going to innovate? You can’t look to longtime vendors because they probably aren’t the chief innovator anymore (no matter what “G” says). The Analysts are preaching to you from the point of company investment, not technology adoption, and only reviewing paying participants—how can you trust their data?

In a world where now is too late, how are you going to deliver?

The rate of change in technology today is unprecedented, and even the best, most robust IT teams are having a hard time keeping up. Route planning can be near impossible, especially when the risks are in your blind spot. However, progressive planning can mean the difference between accomplishing your goals and losing your team.

It’s not personal. Teams everywhere are exhausted, burnout is real, and it can become hazardous. Maintaining high-level performance is critical, yet conditions are not always conducive to the expected level of success.

Technology change management has always been a challenge for IT leaders, and now it’s more critical than ever because the landscape of work has changed. The increasing ubiquity of “as a Service” (aaS) solutions can give IT teams a false sense of security, and industry jargon like “plug and play,” “auto-deploy,” and “managed service” can be sales terms massaged into your use case to get a signature.

With heavier workloads and fewer resources, it’s more important than ever to avoid the sales and marketing trap. It takes vision, experience, and focused attention to avoid the risks when designing and delivering an aaS solution.

Let’s talk about what the issues are, and how you can avoid them. But first, let’s look at the positives of aaS.

As a Service solutions are a strong alternative to relying only on the limited time and resources afforded to your team. People everywhere are turning to CCaaS, IaaS, UCaaS and others to help tie up loose ends where they can. It’s a solution that offers a hefty ROI– when something terrible happens, the responsibility to fix it and the stress of doing so are outsourced, along with the solution itself. The feature sets are more robust, and the functionality is more advanced than the alternatives. The OpEx model is beneficial when CapEx is tight. The total cost of ownership is comparable to or cheaper than running on-prem. The aaS providers have invested heavily in securing their networks and applications and employ teams whose job is to keep bad guys out.

But, reaping the benefits of an aaS solution, from efficiency to relief of responsibility, relies on careful design and delivery. Despite the aaS provider keeping their house clean, there are hidden risks associated with making the decision, completing the implementation, and the ripple effect on your IT stack.

Cover Your aaS – talk to TechChoice about reducing the risks of aaS. Let’s talk →

As with any new technology, aaS solutions can be disruptive and create risks. When your reputation, your day-to-day ease, and the total infrastructure of your company are on the line, there’s no room for error. Throwing darts is not your friend here.

I’ll walk you through the major risks of aaS and how to mitigate them.

Desirable outcomes are unique to each client, but risks are everywhere. I bet you don’t have all of the details to build a fully vetted solution. Without all of the information, you may define the right ends but bungle the means. You’re adding miles, burned fuel, and valuable time to the commute, all to get to the same destination. And, you might even get there and realize the address was wrong.

You only know what you know, and you only have enough time in the day, the year, or the project cycle to launch what you think (from those extremely trustworthy and not at-all biased opinions of vendors and peers…) is the best outcome, product, or process. You need to be able to look at the pertinent info NOW: the marketplace, the solutions landscape against your needs, wants, wishes and abilities.

As you’re stacking up on solutions and giving your best effort (and a hefty part of your budget) to new IT endeavors in 2024, the last thing you want is to find out on January 1st, 2025, is that your new technology is already nearing obsoletion. At that point, it won’t matter how much money you poured into set up, resources exhausted, or that you’re under what now feels like an endlessly long contract. It won’t matter that it worked for your buddy who recommended it to you, either. All that matters is that now, you’re starting over, and you’ve got a budget based on the wrong idea of where you’d be by now with your chosen solution.

The above spells major disaster. Lost time, resources, and money can forsake your reputation or even your job. Time is a truly irreplaceable asset. To avoid these consequences, you’ve got to prevent compounding issues before they occur. Carefully research what the solution does, what it runs on, potential issues and their resolutions, and cross-reference it with what your current technology ecosystem looks like. Squeezing the wrong solution into your technology stack can blow your annual maintenance budget, far more costly than choosing the right solution in the first place. Be sure to conduct an effective analysis of your current technology ecosystem against the benefits and shortcomings of the new technology.

That said, it’s hard to execute on this tip unless you have deep knowledge about the technology you’re implementing. TechChoice has done hundreds of implementations of today’s leading technology. That’s how we help our clients navigate choice in technology and reduce the risks of wrong solutions.

Let’s talk →

We assume certain things are included with a vendor: quality communication, proactivity, the maintenance of professional relationships, and an operational understanding of the customer environment, but you know what they say about assumptions.

The SOW doesn’t cover quality communication or timely resolutions, and a vendor’s portfolio is tweaked and twisted to fit the narrative they want you to hear. You can’t always find the missing pieces until it’s too late.

The truth is that vendors offering a wide variety of services and solutions often dabble in technology that’s very new to them, whereas some vendors are experts in this area. Have you ever had a friend who insists they’re a great pool player, and you believe them until you’ve actually got them at the pool table? Now imagine if that scratch cost you half a million dollars.

You won’t get clear transparency in your search for a vendor, simply because you are who you are– their target market. Vendors only know what they’re taught by training courses and engineers, and they’re guided out into the marketplace with blinders on intentionally. Because of this training and method of selling, you have limited options that only seem robust. You could end up with something you think is great today, but is short-sighted. You go from simplifying your ecosystem to complicating it by focusing too hard on one focal point chosen from a shallow pool. You may also think you’re entering a synergistic partnership, only to get completely and totally abandoned or at least underserved. This is especially critical in times of crisis. Choosing a vendor that’s out of alignment with your culture or process can be just as devastating as choosing the wrong technology.

Ultimately, the biggest risk in choosing the wrong vendor is a failed project. Whether they hang you out to dry, fail to deliver on promises, or catch you in a loophole, projects only work when partnerships work.

To mitigate the risk, you can consult with peer networks and people you actually know in real life, but the truth is, they’re set in their own ways and biased just as much as anyone else. You can subscribe to “G”, but be forewarned: the information you gain from paid subscriptions to analysts is part of a pay-for-play scheme. Vendors don’t earn their way in– they buy in. You may opt instead to read reviews, articles, and the likes. But, not every technology works the same for every individual with their own ecosystem. Because desired outcomes are unique to your situation and your foundation is one-of-a-kind, anything laid on top of it could crumble for you while it withstands a hurricane for some random person on the internet. Besides, a glowing review in March could be a very different situation in October if the person leaving it made a poor decision that took a few months to hit the fan. Also worth pointing out– you know people lie, right?

Let me give you an example. You picked the wrong SD-WAN provider (or chose edge over core) based on where you are today. You didn’t really take into account the potential evolution of your app stack and the vendor supported on-ramps. Now, you’re dealing with a sub-optimal or insecure connectivity point within the vendor when a key application moves to the cloud. You didn’t make a decision based on value; you made it based on cost. Without analyzing the future, or the particular nuances between vendors, you’ve got yourself painted into a corner as the rest of your stack evolves. Now John Smith at the company who wrote the review that swayed you doesn’t use that application. This vendor relationship works great for him– but definitely not for you.

The better option is this: try to overanalyze the future of your business and even look at changes you believe are unlikely. This analysis should cover even the least likely disturbances, and you should then plan for all contingencies with your decision today. Go against the grain, don’t get pigeonholed by the words of people who are paid to tell you something specific, and don’t place your trust in other people who listen to pay-for-play reasoning. Analyzing this deeply, without tainted input, takes a lot of time. Prepare yourself to deal with a lot of third parties, a lot of vendors, and a ton of vendor-specific jargon… all while under a strict time limit to meet desired deadlines.

But unless you’ve had a lot of dealings with a broad spectrum of vendors and handled similar implementations several times in the past year, it’s going to be tough to see the signal through the noise. A partner like TechChoice, who is experienced in the vendor ecosystem, is a great tool for mitigating this risk. Let’s talk →

No matter what vendor you choose, knowing how to hold them accountable is imperative. Most companies lack vendor management skills, and when faced with incompatible cultures or processes and unmet expectations, the lack of relationship management and the inability to pinpoint a resolution can lead to disastrous consequences.

Without a good snapshot of your current infrastructure, no benchmark of performance KPI today, nor the right tools, experience, or dedicated resources in-house to track the project, it can be impossible to handle communications and hold vendors accountable.

Before you sign anything, you need to deeply understand the culture and process of your vendor, where their resources can be allocated, and where strengths and weaknesses lie when it comes to your specific engagement. Know this beforehand, and plan around it: ask for a sample project plan. Figure out the vendor’s available bandwidth as part of the evaluation. Pull out key deliverables, timeframes, and implementation schedules on the vendor’s end dictated in your contract, and be honest about your own needs, benchmarks, and shortcomings. Hold everyone accountable to specific time frames, but be realistic and take vendor input on them– the customer isn’t always right and can’t always be right in this scenario.

You can ask for all of this information, but chances are, you won’t get it, and if you do, it’s going to be written in their jargon based on their deliverables in a canned document. The information you’ll receive isn’t realistic to you, as it’s not based on your project or key dependencies. For example, you’ll get a sample project that wraps in 45 days, but for you, it could be a six-month rollout. That creates a very different expectation in your mind at signing. A Trusted Advisor might have real-life experience with the specific vendor working on similar projects and, therefore, has the foresight you may lack. The vendor PM is tasked with delivering the vendor product, not your project, and as good, helpful or intelligent as they may be– they are graded on how quickly they can get their product to install.

Having a project plan and managing the minutiae is challenging unless you have an experienced partner like TechChoice at the helm steering your project. Let’s talk →

When switching to any aaS solution, implementation is like taking your fish out of water. You’re adopting something that lives in a fully controlled environment and taking it out, putting it in the cloud, or otherwise removing it from the environment in which it thrives. This brings about unknown variables and forces you to take everyone’s word for it that their solution is correct and secure. To steal from Donald Rumsfeld, there are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. It’s the latter that will bite you in the aaS.

While cloud migration is essentially unavoidable, there should be an abundance of planning to make the switch a safe and secure one. You may not be taking into account the inherent risks of introducing a new technology to your existing technology ecosystem, allowing risks to go undetected throughout the implementation process. These risks may not be solved down the line, either–simply because you’re unaware of them. But, anytime you remove or add something to your stack, you compromise security, and there can be an extremely high cost to the technologies that close those gaps. Vendors know this and sell around it.

Much like buying a used car, the salespeople are notoriously… well, you know. Instead, you must be selective, analytical, and not too prone to sales tactics.

So, you question your vendor about their security status. Most of the time, you get a sales answer when questioning security as listed below– “We’re not X compliant, but we do Y.” This is the equivalent of, “We can’t guarantee that the transmission won’t blow when you drive off the lot, but the brakes work.”

Here’s the thing: it’s your job to see past the B.S. You need to dig down with the vendor engineering staff to find gaps and weaknesses to define the types of testing that’s regularly conducted and with what frequency. Further than that, learn who the third parties are, what their compliances are, and what those mean to you– and just hope you get all of this information in a timely manner… and that it’s accurate.

There’s work to be done on the inside. You can have a great coach, but without practice, the team falls apart at game time. You shouldn’t endeavor this without flexible, cloud, and aaS-ready security posture in place– it’d be severely unwise to move something off-site without taking all aspects of current spending and security posture into account. Most people check the minimum entry point, looking for the lowest hurdle to jump, and think, “That’ll do it!” Here’s the thing: it probably won’t.

There’s a robust checklist the customer has to be educated on, usually including 1-2 other products or processes added to continue securely. And, when it comes to today’s volatile cybersecurity climate, it’s better to be safe than sorry. And by sorry, I mean exposed.

If you’re not a security expert, or even if you are, there’s a lot of value in working with a partner like TechChoice who has done enough of these aaS implementations that we know the trickle-down effects of aaS implementations and can anticipate and mitigate risks. Let’s talk →

Now, why is this in the risk section? It’s because you’re probably pretty damn good at your job.

I’ll bet you’ve retained a loyal team for decades. They’re happy, fulfilled and masters of their universe. However, they have been living and breathing your environment for as long as they can remember, and now you’re going to ask them to evaluate and design something that they’ve never seen before. New players, new tech, new processes, new risks are introduced, and yet, you expect them to succeed with the same tools they are accustomed to.

It’s not going to work. You could fire and hire, bringing in new talent and current market experience. But how will your company see or accept that, especially when loyalty is a virtue?

You could train the same employees, but that isn’t it either. Technology changes too quickly– you’ll be on a constant training cycle and will never have the subject matter expert that can lead the change, just another drain on resources.

The alternative? You can empower your team by bringing on Techchoice to work side by side with them, strengthening them, educating them in the trenches, and keeping the applicable knowledge set relevant. Most teams make 2 or 3 tech transitions per tenure– we perform that in a month and have insight into hundreds per week. Let’s talk →

You can implement aaS services and solutions on your own. I’ve shared the best practices for this endeavor, and you can feel free to use them. But my best advice you can take from this is– get help from a partner you can trust.

As a Trusted Advisor, TechChoice provides vendor-specific information from our tools and experience to compare what you actually need from a vendor to what they actually offer. We know what questions to ask and how to build the project and communication channels. We do that upfront and will ensure the vendor adheres to and responds to everything with accountability to the customer. This is as crucial to our process as contract and financial negotiations.

Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) describes two distinct modes of thinking. The first mode, System 1, is intuitive and relies on past experiences, memories, and neural connections. It leads to quick but impulsive decisions. The second mode, System 2, is logical and impartial, resulting in black-and-white decision-making. During uncertain times, people tend to rely on their trusted System 1 intuition.

TechChoice is for-hire logical thinking. We have no bias or incentive to promote one specific technology from one specific vendor. The B.S. doesn’t blind us to the truth– we remove sales tactics, the shiny imagery, and the sales-oriented language and give you a full understanding of what you’re purchasing and who you’ll be doing business with, for how long, and at what cost. Part of our process ensures a deep evaluation of the platform before we recommend vendors, so that we can ensure they’ll remain strong in years to come in your environment. Because you’re evaluating a cloud solution, we conduct research in the app marketplace to be able to extend to all major data centers to onboard those apps. We won’t stick you with someone soon to be replaced by an option that’ll tear them apart.

The time and money it’ll take you to evaluate the trifecta of new technology– the solution, the vendor, and operational synergies– is enormous. I’d be willing to bet that almost no internal crew has the bandwidth to get it done on time, especially not without compromising innovation and efficiency for months to come. The process bleeds you out unless it’s all you do– and at TechChoice, it truly is our sole focus.

You may be able to get close on your own, but why try it?

I founded TechChoice because clients deserve better– a transparent engagement and a true partnership.

Decades of discussions and negotiations have broken down trust between vendor and client, and both have played equal parts in the relationship’s demise. Sales reps and management understand how to listen, what to act on, and how to position their products in a way they can justify as a no-lose situation. Meanwhile, customers have learned the vendor’s tactics, and consistently push for tangible results at the negotiating table– a better price AND better service, but how can anyone provide better service with less money to pay people? It’s a race to the bottom. Executives on both sides have set budgets and projections based on the results driven by this broken methodology, and neither the vendor nor the customer can easily overcome broken projects.

This breakdown in transparency has spread to the advocacy and consulting ecosystem. Businesses that were boutique and impactful, providing multiple quotes in short order to facilitate a customer requirement, ran into a brick wall called the Internet.

Many companies are armed with excellent tools. However they must be utilized appropriately to provide clear technical and operational value, most can’t do this. Some can’t even understand the tools while others feel the tools and tech will replace them. Not me, I love them.

A Trusted Advisor must be a master of orchestration, process, and knowledge. A partner that understands your intentions and operational challenges, with a concrete process and the technology to mitigate risk- not just a “yes” man. We are believers in the modern relationship, one founded on outcomes rather than golf. Unfortunately, only a few Trusted Advisors embrace the relationship the way TechChoice does, fortunately, you only need one.

Don’t lose faith- get covered.

Don’t create risk where you can mitigate it instead. Let our experts help you achieve more, safer, and quicker with our aaS solutions. Learn more here.

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