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How to make the right technology choice

Organisations need digital technology, but how do you decide which is the best technology for you? The answer is not to make one big decision, but many small ones. Thinking about technology, behaviour and data will help you find the right answers

Decisions are hard at the best of times, and right now the world seems a little volatile, to say the least. People are asking with increasing frequency: how do you make decisions under these conditions?

I offer a simple solution: don’t make one big decision, make lots of small ones. Apart from being much less scary, these smaller decisions often act as a sense check for the bigger one. In other words, you need a system.

I need to make a lot of decisions. I use a shortcut to help me do this and that shortcut is TBD: technology, behaviour and data. Created over a decade ago, TBD is founded on the simple observation that every issue has a technological, behavioural and data element. Using TBD enables you to explore reach so you can evaluate what you should do in any situation.

Technology, behaviour and data

TBD is a numerical scoring system with the largest score of 30 (10 for each). Once you have crystalised the issue you want to solve, you need to determine outcomes. Outcomes will vary, but you must create a “decision matrix” – a list of outcomes for different TBD scores. For example, what you will do for a score of 20-25 and 25-30.

A top tip is to determine the top and bottom scores first. The tough bit is the middle area. Be tough and honest – what will do you do if the outcome is 16 or 18? The difference could be colossal. Experience tells me three to five good outcomes is usually most useful.

Here are three good examples of top-tier TBD outcome statements:

  1. If the TBD score is 20-25, your company will instigate the agile delivery team within 48 hours. The team then has 10 working days to return a final costing and recommendation for the board to approve within five days (if above £10,000 or equivalent). If the cost of the technology is below £10,000, the team can decide to implement the technology or request further counsel with the senior team.
  2. If the TBD score is below 15, no further action is required, but the technology will be reviewed in six months if the score is between 10 and 15.
  3. Within 24 hours, the senior team will meet and discuss any TBD scores between 20 and 30. At the end of this meeting the group will vote on the next course of action from three options: go ahead and fund test case; approve further research; or deny further action at this time but revisit in three, six or 12 months.

Once you have your matrix set, you can start answering questions related to the technology, behaviour and data.

Technology scoring

The technology part of the TBD framework is the “can they” element to any decision. The question you ask yourself is: Based on the evidence I have in front of me, can the users do what I need them to?

Answering this question may be simple if you have a lot of information already, but often you will have to go and seek out information to answer this. Once you have spent enough time gathering information to form an opinion, it is time to assign a score.

For “T”, a score of 0 means users will not be able to do what you are asking; a score of 10 means the users are already doing what you need them to with the technology. Be ruthless.

Behaviour scoring

The question you have to ask yourself when it comes to behaviour is: Based on the evidence I have in front of me, will the users do what I am asking?

In this area you must know your consumer – or the consumer that is using the technology – and decide whether it immediately overlaps, will it overlap or could it overlap.

The B is based on your understanding of the user – not the idea – the people who will be using it. The user might end up being you – choose carefully and, again, be ruthless.

For B, a 0 score means the user would never use the technology; a score of 10 means the user is already doing what I need them to do.

Data scoring

The final potential 10 points for the TBD score come from the “data section. Here, the question to ask yourself is: “Based on the evidence I have in front of me, will enough of the users do what I am asking?”

In this section, you need to assign a score to this question based on the research you have conducted.

The final decision

Once you have all three scores, you need to combine them to find the total TBD score. Apply the number to your decision matrix to see what you need to do next. The key here is sticking to your decision – make sure you don’t create the decision matrix in a vacuum and you will be fine.

Good luck making better decisions.


Paul Armstrong is the author of Disruptive Technologies, published by Kogan Page. Computer Weekly readers will receive a 20% discount when purchasing from www.koganpage.com using the code COMPUTERWEEKLY20.

This was last published in September 2017

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