Owning and using technology is very much like deciding what tools to have in your garage. There are people that will choose to buy the 64-piece wrench set in standard and metric sizes and others that will simply buy one crescent wrench and call it good. Technology has the same choices. You can buy many individual things to meet needs or look to converged technology platforms as an alternative approach.
There is no universal right answer but I believe there is a very specific decision process that should be used when evaluating different solutions. It comes down to three rules.
Rule 1: Assume you will use the simplest, most cost efficient “converged” solution and then see if there are any use cases where it WILL NOT work.
Converged solutions will tend to be “good” at everything and “great” at nothing. In each individual case, there will likely be specialty products that would come out on top. The reason to not buy a specialty solution is generally that they are more costly and complex when you have to have ten different ones (like ten wrenches vs. one).
The best example is your smartphone. In this case, most of us choose to carry one device with us and use it as a phone, camera, GPS, music/video player, and browser. There are definitely better single-function devices in every category yet most of us still prefer the convenience, cost-effectiveness, and simplicity of a single device.
Rule 2: Don’t use a variable cost model.
Let’s say you already own a digital camera and are looking for a new phone. Should you buy a smartphone even though you don’t need that camera? In most cases, the answer is yes because it will offer you an overall improvement for minimal incremental cost. While not strictly essential, it will easily pay for itself over time.
If you use a strict variable cost model, you wind up never innovating and only buying the next point product to meet a single need.
Next week I’ll post Rule 3 and my conclusion. Making these decisions are at the top of the list for many IT professionals this year. Hopefully this will give you some good perspective.