When It Comes to Technology, Don’t Let the Tail Wag the Dog

by Michael Murphy

The takeaway: Technology is a means – not an end. The sweet spot of any new tech solution is the intersection of improved performance, risk mitigation and financial ROI.

For years now at NEF, we’ve jokingly referred to ourselves as the “plumbers” of IT, handling the data transport and data center infrastructure. We get you the data “pipes” that enable you to transmit and receive large amounts of information. Along with the humble role in data transport, we also provide advisement on network architecture, data center environments and naturally, new technologies. And, like every plumber, our occupation often requires us to participate in the inner-workings of the structures we work on.

As a trusted adviser to our clients, we are often asked to sit in on conversations with folks who are specialists and technologists in areas we aren’t. This gives us an interesting front row seat to conversations that organizations are having about new technology.

Without fail, a subject matter expert in technology comes in, and within 13 seconds they are so deep in the technical details that the client’s eyes are glazed over. Or, worse yet, the client has no idea what the tech SME is talking about.

Rarely do these experts spend time exploring with the client what the business plans and goals are. At best, the vendors are so enthralled with their own new technology that they truly feel everyone should have it and are going to make sure this client does too. At worst, they’re just pushing a solution with no regard for the client or the company.

While it is fun and interesting to explore new technologies, vendors and clients alike should know when to stop and ask the important questions. It is easy to get bogged down in the technical babble and lose sight of what really should be driving infrastructure solutions… the organization itself and its business interests.

The latest technology may be an essential component of network performance, and it may improve your progress toward your ultimate business goals. However, it is important to recognize technology for what it is – a tool, a part of the solution being used to optimize your infrastructure. It is in the intersection of improved network performance, risk mitigation and ROI where your solution will always lie, technology or no technology.

Performance improvement

The question of “what will improve my organization’s IT and network performance?” seems as straightforward as they come. However, it also sets the perfect trap for heading off on a technology shopping spree. You have to think about the bigger picture.

For instance, think about cutting waste from your infrastructure first. By relieving it of outdated applications, old contracts and underused circuits, you’ve immediately streamlined your network and salvaged valuable resources to use strategically for any needed enhancements.

Risk mitigation

Proper network planning helps you avoid risk and gaps in your infrastructure, which makes the need to be well-informed and holistically-sighted in your search for the right solutions all the more important.

By shifting your focus away from the individual tools involved in your network’s enhancement and toward your infrastructure’s greater requirements, risk becomes much easier to manage. You then widen the lens of your planning and can better consider things like location of data centers, cost of power and elements of connectivity, which all roll together into your TCO.


When it comes time to finally purchase technology, think ROI. Remember, network planning is about focusing on the big picture and selecting the right tools to fit the solution, like the missing pieces of a puzzle. Taking the time to evaluate if a single solution is worth the investment will allow you to consider it within the greater scheme of your infrastructure. You can also assess the budget considerations and ultimately make a better decision based on ROI.


As the old saying goes, don’t let the tail wag the dog. Technology should support your business requirements and make all the processes easier/more efficient and make the people within the organization more effective. Evolving a company’s technology doesn’t happen overnight, either. Transitions happen over time. Leverage change to make improvements by creating a roadmap that highlights what decisions need to be made and when. A clear view of the field of play will allow for insightful and timely decisions.

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