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Solution Overload

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I had a chance to attend a demo session with a group of vendors today, and it brought home something I’ve been concerned about for a while – Solution Overload.  I have no idea if I’ve coined that term or not, but what I mean is that there are hundreds if not thousands of possible answers to every problem, and sorting it all out is getting more difficult by the day.  It matches one of my other issues, which is finding a way through the incredible technological jungle out there.  There are so many different tools, gadgets, and techniques out there I feel like a colossal dinosaur.  It’s all but impossible to keep up, which is partly why I retreat sometimes into a book just to get away from it all.

The practical question is how to sort through all the marketing, competition, jargon, and downright garbage that’s out there.  Oddly enough, I was riding herd on a symposium webcast last night where one of the speakers touched on a lot of these concerns.  While her subject was electronic medical records, everything she described as impacting those customers are virtually identical to online video issues.  I don’t think I have a good answer to navigating this universe, but I think there are some clear initial steps to sorting through all of it.

The first and most obvious thing to do is to define the need or problem.  If you can’t explain what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s very difficult to know when you’ve succeeded or failed.  Addressing your workflow is different than managing your digital assets, even if the two are deeply intertwined.  When sitting down with a vendor, this should be the first thing they ask you, and you really ought to have an answer for them.  If you don’t know, you’re not ready to plan a solution; if they don’t ask, they’re more interested in selling you something rather than helping you change what needs to be changed.

The second thing is to set specific, reachable goals.  This is, of course, basic project management, but it often gets lost in the shuffle of trying to get everything done.  What I’m coming to realize about our own needs in the DAM and workflow area is that it will likely have to be an evolutionary process.  Both budget and complexity issues probably mean we can’t get everything done at once, so identifying, prioritizing, and achieving goals in stages is critical to the overall success of our efforts.

Finally, a layered approach may well be necessary.  One product may not do it all, and anyone who tells you differently is probably not listening.  I had an experience like this a while back with an extremely major software company [::cough:: Microsoft ::cough::] where I was told the software was perfect for what we needed and would do what we wanted.  Reality proved that we had to beat the hell out of it to get it where we wanted it, and even to this day I still don’t think it was the best tool for us.  This is why the selection of an integrator is incredibly important – as the general contractor on the project they have to keep the overall goals in mind, and help find the tools to meet those goals and make them all play nicely together.  Pick the wrong one and failure is virtually guaranteed.

At the end of it all you really just have to make a decision on the most important needs for the company, and accept that you’re giving up on some things by choosing one vendor or product over another.  There’s always something better down the road, and you can sit on your hands forever waiting for perfection.  The keys for me are 1) covering as many of the overall goals as you can, and 2) a vendor that is truly partnering with you.  You should know immediately if they’re listening to you, and you should know if they take your concerns seriously.  If they’re not, there’s plenty of competition out there.

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