People just get so excited about technology. They’ll get hyped about the intended results: you’ll be able to predict the future with Big Data!! They’ll rave about specific functionality and its implications: you’ll automate X activity and save Y hours and Z thousands of dollars!! They’ll exclaim about the emergence of what they believe to be earth-shattering, market-disrupting, game-changing new possibilities.
But we all know by now that the reality usually falls short of the hype. So how do you read between the lines to figure out if a given technology product, platform or service is as impactful as it claims to be?
Understand that technology claims usually contain a mixture of reality and hype.
Don’t dismiss claims outright. Technology is exciting, and businesses can use technology in creative and innovative ways to achieve desirable outcomes. Cloud computing, mobile technology and Big Data are technologies that have successfully reduced costs and improved outputs for entire industries. If you dismiss everything as hype, you’ll miss some great ways to achieve genuine cost and time savings in your business. But neither should you just credulously believe everything you’re told, or you’ll make some bad investments. Particularly when the claims are primarily coming from marketers and salespeople, take them with a grain of salt.
Deploy your BS meter.
Detect and dismiss any claims that are overly broad or obvious hyperbole. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You should also double-check any suspect or possibly biased statements. For example, some claims depend entirely on how the company frames or defines a concept, and any research performed by a company selling something should be scrutinized closely. Many service providers do produce good surveys and informational reports; just read them carefully.
Find evidence of other trust factors.
Require that claims be backed up with real, documented evidence. Or, if evidence is in short supply, try to credential other aspects of the provider or product. For example, can the company or service produce real-world case studies or customer references? On that note, you might also look for counter-evidence – “stress-testing” the hype – through reviews from users, customers or third-parties.
Think about the technology in terms of risk management.
If you had invested $100 in bitcoin in 2011, when it was a brand new technology, your investment would be worth $482,667 in 2017. But the odds were, frankly, against it. The failure rate of new products is extremely high: greater than 50% of new products fail – and maybe even as much as 80%. Early bitcoin investors took a big risk, so when they won, they won big. That’s great for them! But when we’re talking about business investments, you may not be able to take such big risks. That’s why we advise looking for trust factors, third-party reviews and proven results: those are indicators of reduced risk.
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