Technology Without Purpose is Like a Missile Without a Guidance System

Nobody sets out thinking, I have no purpose for bringing this technology into our company, but I will do this anyway (well a few rare twisted souls might do it – totally driven by a side deal that meets their self-interest). Yet, post-hoc analysis reveals so many IT projects fail due to a variety a reason that one has to ask – what happened to the original purpose. Where did not lose track of that? I have written in detail earlier about why IT projects fail. For example in my book THE 5-STAR BUSINESS NETWORK, I wrote the following:

Many large scale information technology deployments derail!

Data, anecdotes and case histories abound on the misapplication of information technologies for supply networks. Not too many years ago, a very large corporation operating worldwide, made news with the downgrading of their earnings expectations due to supply chain system’s implementation setbacks. The expectation was that the new system would reduce the new production cycle from 1 month to 1 week. Furthermore, it would better match the demand and supply of its products to place the correct products in the right locations and quantities, all at the right time – a very lofty goal. The company spent an enormous amount of money, exceeding US $400 million in order to achieve its aim. However, the software system ‘never worked right’. It caused the factories to crack out too many unpopular products and not enough of the trendier ones in high demand. While making the earning downgrade, the CEO asked the rhetorical question, ‘is this what we get for $400 million?’

The market analysts were not surprised. One respected market analyst [AMR] commented, fiascos like this occur all the time but are usually kept quiet unless they seriously hurt the bottom line.’ Another respected market analyst commented that while the CEO made it sound like it was a surprise for him, if he did not have checkpoints for the projects, he does not have control over his company. A third analyst commented that companies are confused by escalating market hype and too often underestimate the complexity and risks. Another [Forrester Research] commented ‘when the software projects go bad companies are more likely going to scurry up and cover it up because they fear that they are the only ones having trouble. But far from it; our conversation and research reveals this company was not unique or the only one having this kind of trouble‘.

Despite their lofty goals, many of the large information technology deployment projects derail. It takes time for the word to filter out because, in most cases, the executives involved in the process are far too embarrassed to talk about what happened. They do mutter among themselves; after several similar instances the mutterings become more vocal and a trend emerges where a number of people start talking about the shortcomings of the system itself or the implementation process or of the time taken for implementation. Because the cost of this failure is so high – greater than $400 Million in the above case – it is instructive to understand the real root causes of this failure. I am not looking to apportion the fault or apportion the blame in this chapter.

30 years of accumulated wisdom is now available

However, it will be a fallacy not to learn from all the accumulated wisdom of the past. After all, those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat the same mistakes again and again. This will enable us to understand the steps we can take from the very beginning to increase your probability of success. This will also allow you to confidently move forward with Business Network Information Technology system selection, integration and use in order to achieve the results that you set out to achieve.

The supply networks information technology projects have become bigger and bigger over the last 15 years. It is quite customary now to start with an expectation of spending around $ 50 million but end up spending in excess of $200 million on systems renewal projects.

Rough estimates indicate that, even today, about one third of these projects are cancelled without delivering any benefits, after spending more than $100 million. Another third of the projects are not cancelled, but fail to deliver significant parts of what they set out to achieve. Only one third of the projects achieve most of their strategic goals, but many still incur several budget upgrades and time overruns.

Why is this pattern of failure repeated over and over again?

In general, the original purpose is lost somewhere between the scope creep #2 and #3, and thereafter technology becomes an end in itself, and not a means to achieve a business outcome. There is an admirable drive to digitization underway – but does it suit the purpose of all businesses in all locations? You can find comments on Technology Without Purpose is Like a Missile Without a Guidance System on LinkedIn.

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Vivek Sood

I write about "The Supply Chain CEOs", "The 5-STAR Business Networks", and, how to "Unchain Your Corporation". In my work, I help create extraordinary corporate results using several 'unique' supply chain methodologies. Contact me for interesting, high impact projects, or, to get access to my IP for creating transformations using these methodologies.

  • Logan says:

    Outsourcing is the best concept equally important with it’s planning & Implementation which shows in above blog. great expatiation by Author how we should adopt outsourcing in our business.

    • Denkin S clein says:

      Companies may choose to outsource IT services onshore (within their own country), nearshore (to a neighboring country or one in the same time zone), or offshore (to a more distant country). Nearshore and offshore outsourcing have traditionally been pursued to save costs.

  • Rapier SC Manager says:

    The post is good, but I was expecting more illustration on this topic. There is more definitely more example of harmful technology including Facebook, tweeter or other social media. For this, we should not try to solve the problems of the human mind through technology. We can use meditation as a way of bringing the piece to our mind. But, technology is only useful for inanimate objects.

    So what would be an example of a technology that was intended to solve a human problem and is now making the world a worse place?

    • Maxwell says:

      Hey, Rapier you can not directly blame it on all the social platforms only for harmful technology because in today’s modern era these all platforms are very useful for all the peoples as for business persons as well as for entrepreneurs also.

    • Jayesh Chawrey says:

      In general, when technology attempts to solve problems of matter, energy, space, or time, it is successful. When it attempts to solve human problems of the mind, communication, ability, etc. it fails or backfires dangerously.

      For example, the Internet handled a great problem of space—it allowed us to communicate with anybody in the world, instantly. However, it did not make us better communicators. In fact, it took many poor communicators and gave them a massive platform on which they could spread hatred and fear. This isn’t me saying that the Internet is all bad—I’m actually quite fond of it, personally. I’m just giving an example to demonstrate what types of problems technology does and does not solve successfully.

      • Harshvardhan Singh says:

        So what would be an example of a technology that was intended to solve a human problem and is now making the world a worse place?

        • Jayesh Chawrey says:

          Burning fossil fuel, for example, doesn’t it cause pollution and global warming. Dumping chemicals into river pollutes water and kill millions of fish which in turn destroys water ecosystem. Basically, all pollutions are caused by technology (light, sound, water, air, etc.)

          • Nirav Goswami says:

            Great article! My teacher recommended this and I actually got a lot of my answers from here. Many things can be learned from this. I have to do a genius hour project and my question was how technology changed the human body. The purpose of technology is a great subject to study on too. Read this and benefit from it. Thanks.

          • Jayesh Chawrey says:

            You’re welcome, NIrav. I’m so happy to have helped you. 🙂

        • Gaurav Geete says:

          Technology is now in to everything, but there are few things that needs to be left alone. For e.g. Driver-less cars. I enjoy driving and I am in no mood to give up that steering wheel to some damn software codes. My apprehensions are not for the safety, rather the driving pleasure than one will miss. I can see that few years down the line, many manufacturers will jump in to this Driver-less car bandwagon. I hope that day never comes. Just my two cents.

      • Nick Jonwal says:

        The consumer technology being developed today isn’t necessarily always looking to solve big problem as it is trying to create marketable products. There are also just fewer problems to solve! (This is true at least for developed countries where most innovation occurs.) This leads to less “world shattering technology” reaching the market.

        P.S. Great, thoughtful post!

    • Yash Chawla says:

      There can be some seeming counter-examples to this rule. For example, isn’t the purpose of Facebook to connect people? That sounds like a human problem, and Facebook is very successful. But connecting people is not actually what Facebook does. It provides a medium through which people can communicate, but it doesn’t actually create or cause human connection. In fact, most people I know seem to have a sort of uncomfortable feeling of addiction surrounding Facebook—the sense that they are spending more time there than is valuable for them as people. So I’d say that it’s exacerbating certain human problems (like a craving for connection) wherever it focuses on solving those problems. But it’s achieving other purposes (removing space and time from broad communication) excellently. Once again, this isn’t an attack on Facebook, which I think is a well-intentioned company; it’s an attempt to make an objective analysis of what aspects of its purpose are successful using the principle that technology only solves physical problems.

  • simeon sylvester says:

    Great article, but the purpose was not listed to help for more research work.

  • Lewis SC Executive says:

    Yeah, it is very useful for every company owners out there about your 5-star business network topic “Many large-scale information technology deployments derail!”

    In general, when technology attempts to solve problems of matter, energy, space, or time, it is successful. When it attempts to solve human problems of the mind, communication, ability, etc. it fails or backfires dangerously.

    For example, the Internet handled a great problem of space—it allowed us to communicate with anybody in the world, instantly. However, it did not make us better communicators. In fact, it took many poor communicators and gave them a massive platform on which they could spread hatred and fear. This isn’t me saying that the Internet is all bad—I’m actually quite fond of it, personally. I’m just giving an example to demonstrate what types of problems technology does and does not solve successfully…[c]

    • Anjul Shukla says:

      Today’s large-scale IT systems crest on a shaky foundation of ad hoc, opportunistic techniques and technologies, many of which lack an adequate intellectual basis of understanding and rigorous design. There are at least three concrete manifestations of these deficiencies. First, there has been an unacceptably high rate of failure in the development of large-

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