Book Review: The Right Way to Select Technology

The good thing with summer vacations is that I usually find some time to read books. I mostly read non-fiction books, and one of the most recent books I've read is "The Right Way to Select Technology -
Get the Real Story on Finding the Best Fit
" by Tony Byrne & Jarrod Gingras. I've decided to write and share a review of the book. So, here it comes.

”Successful products don’t emerge from clever feature ideas or sexy screen designs. They come from teams that understand their stakeholders, customers, and users. They come from teams that know how users work today and empathize with their challenges. They come from teams that can imagine a better way for these people to work in the future using the software and technology they’re building. And they come from teams that test their ideas aggressively.”

This paragraph from the foreword by Jeff Patton, author of "User Story Mapping" and founder of Patton & Associates, does a great job at summarizing the approach presented in Tony Byrne's & Jarrod Gingras' book.

I must say was very positively surprised by this book: it’s a no-nonsense and insightful how-to guide to selecting the right technology to achieve a certain business outcome. It’s obvious that the book is based on a wealth of experience from leading and executing technology selection processes. It is stuffed with introductions to useful techniques and real world examples that show you both do’s and don’ts.

Overall, the book questions the traditional top-down driven and technology-centric waterfall approach to technology selection. It presents a more pragmatic and adaptive approach that is sure to work much better. To me, it was a joy to read how the authors recommend using service design tools such as user journeys, personas, and user stories to describe needs, opportunities and wanted business outcomes. The book also balances this iterative and explorative approach to requirements capture with architectural considerations and technical.

I would say that the book complements our upcoming book ”Digital Workplace Strategy & Design” extremely well. While we focus on strategy and design of digital services and the digital workplace as a whole, this book helps you with the technology selection process that needs to take place in order to implement the required capabilities and digital services. Both books speak the same language - a user-centric design approach and design thinking methodology for defining business outcomes, understanding needs and exploring solutions.

There are so many potential pitfalls in a technology selection process. The most common one is to follow a waterfall process, believing that you have perfect information and can simply collect all requirements without any exploration and learning. Another one is not to involve or even speak to the intended end users before you put the technology in their hands. As this is an almost sure path to failure, this is (or should be seen as) as close to a deadly sin you can come when selecting or developing technology solutions. Besides describing an approach that will make you avoid these pitfalls, you will also learn about a lot of common yet smaller pitfalls in each step of the process and how to avoid or navigate around them.

The real value from this book comes from all the practical how-to advice, the do’s and don’ts, the lessons you will learn from real stories, and how it weaves design thinking into the process, putting narratives about how personas are intended to interact with the technology to create value front and center of the approach and process. I decided to take the freedom to share a number of nuggets from the book as I believe they make it obvious why you should buy and read this book if you are involved in technology selection processes:

  • ”We see a growing consensus that the most effective applications result from a truly user-centered design process, with the people who will actually use the system involved from the very beginning to shape the ultimate solution”
  • ”You should be guided by your business case—applying new technology to which personas and journeys most effectively satisfy your business objectives.”
  • ”Recognize that implementation and ongoing enhancements are likely to comprise the lion’s share of your long-term TCO and budget accordingly.”
  • ”Large requirements packages actually provide a false sense of security. Modern digital technology entails real people interacting with screens. Technology selection leaders need to capture those interactive requirements, but also remain realistic at this phase about their inability to fully know what their enterprise. ”really needs and will adopt eventually.”
  • ”The best way to reveal key differences among suppliers is to craft narrative “user stories” with “personas”. Knowing which user journeys and outcomes are more important than others will make it easier to distinguish among vendors...//... Don’t ask the vendor to show “a green submit button in the upper left.” Do describe what you want to happen in general terms and let them prescribe the right approach.”
  • ”How a product’s fundamental scenario fit aligns with your intended use cases should be the primary filter when determining your initial short list of vendors to evaluate.”
  • ”follow a test-based selection process, including a competitive PoC. Challenge assumptions and don’t assume that anything you read is fully accurate until you see it with your own eyes.”
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