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The Value of a Technology Assessment

I know what I know if you know what I mean
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians

We sometimes get pushback when we suggest conducting a Technology Assessment. “I already know where I am, I need you to tell me where to go.” And I get it. You’re really busy and even having an outside resource conduct the assessment will still require time spent by your staff. But you cannot map your way to Point B if you’re unsure of where Point A is. Assessing your technology current state will tell you things you did not know and provide a baseline for the gaps with your technology target state.

The full technology assessment package includes both a current state assessment, target state, gaps between your current state and target state, along with a roadmap to get you to your target. In this post I’m just talking about the current state. This technology current state exercise has three main benefits:

Validates What You Really Have

It can be a little disconcerting to learn that the systems and processes that drive your company are not exactly what you envision them to be, but as your team grows and contexts change, so to will your infrastructure, systems, security and products.

  • People come and go, and knowledge transfer may not be exact.
  • Updates to underlying technology may require changes in operating procedures.
  • Ad hoc processes may be put in place to deal with unforeseen circumstances.
  • Systems that have atrophied in place have costs, financial and risk-based costs.
  • Documentation never catches up and oral history is as good as it gets.

This is not the end of the world, but rather evidence of a team that’s working to keep your technology functioning. The current state technology assessment will bring the picture you have in your head back in sync with reality. It will tell you:

  • The systems still in use and those that are sitting idle
  • The hardware used by all of your systems
  • Who is doing what with each system
  • The data that moves about and how it is transformed and stored
  • Most importantly: how your customers touch the systems and their expectations

This inventory is powerful knowledge.

Imparts a Consistent Vision to the Whole Team

The very act of conducting a current state technology assessment helps get the whole team on the same page. As people flesh out their vision of how your technology currently works, they get the chance to hear from others, and everyone works towards a consensus. The deliverables of the assessment solidify that consensus and acts as a reminder when reality begins again to diverge from that mental picture.

I suggest printing out some of these deliverables in large format and hanging them in a common area. You may find that team members will use them when describing new ideas or fixes to problems. The useful deliverables include:

  • Domain model
  • Context diagram
  • Data flows
  • Process diagrams

It’s a Great Tool for Prioritization

When you understand the target state gaps and align the gaps alongside your key objectives, you have a strong basis for prioritizing work and investment. This will drive not only how you prioritize the work described in the roadmap, but will also drive future prioritization exercises like potential new features and customers to pursue.

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Bill Lenoir
16 Jan, 2018