Value: The ultimate test for new technologies
New technologies, or at least those that are new to you, are emerging all the time. There are all kinds of litmus tests and ideas on how to evaluate these techniques, but where a technology can really be tested on a premise is to look for value. Value in this case should be defined as something concrete, such as time savings, money savings, energy efficiency, or any other measurable outcome.
This value should reflect a real-world use-case that exists today or in the very near future, ideally less than a year later. The claimed broad or vague value or value without a use case to surround it is simply so much hot air. Another aspect of value is ensuring that any new technology that claims to be a replacement for existing systems is measurably better. Claims to be the next great generation of something or to be a new invention must have proven value over existing systems.
Use cases should be value linked
Let’s see what the use case is. For our purposes and simply, a use case is a business process. Successful application of technology to the use case will improve the performance of the use case, making it easier, more efficient, faster, cheaper, etc. The improvement is the value seen after deducting the cost of planning, implementation and ongoing maintenance. New technologies also need to significantly outweigh the negatives for their overall positives, it is not enough to bring value in just one aspect.
Here’s the easiest, top-tier filter to use when someone introduces new technology. Find out what use case(s) it is intended for. These use cases need to be ready today or next year, not some obscure nirvana in the future. If they can’t clearly articulate the value it will bring in less than 30 seconds, or refer to broader philosophical/social concepts as a large part of its value, then the proposed solution is likely to be successful. Not there. It is also important to recognize that the person proposing a technical solution for the use case has skin at play. Their value is in selling you the solution, along with any subscriptions and consultations needed to implement it.
FOMO is not a reliable measure
Understanding the value to you, the value to the person selling the solution, and the value to the last person using the solution is important. Red flags include appealing to the authority, not just the experts backing the technology, but the amount of money being put into a given technology. Very smart and money-savvy people invested in junk housing market bonds in the 2000s filled with bad sub-prime mortgages. Enron was a great investment, as was Peloton, until they were.
Theranos looked extremely promising until proven fraud. Investor interest, often driven by greed and FOMO, is not a reliable measure of value. Finally, if someone proposing a technical solution cannot explain the shortcomings of the solution they are offering, that is a huge red flag. Every solution has drawbacks and the inability to express them in a clear and honest way means the speaker is likely to be lost more in the hype than in articulating the value of a use case. Only a technical solution that can bring value to a use case can show whether a technology has the potential to be successful. Hunt for that value.