We’re Taking Back the Word “Solutions”

Posted on Jun 27, 2018 7:20:00 AM


What does the phrase “technology solution” mean to you? For many vendors, it has become a blanket term for any technology that’s been sold and installed, but let’s think a minute about the actual meaning of the word.

According to Google, the definition of technology is “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes...” and the definition of solution is “a means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation.” We can infer that the combined definition becomes something to the effect of “a means of solving a problem through the application of scientific knowledge.”

There is a very good reason that we’ve decided to unpack basic definitions in this article: that definition is misused daily by technology vendors at a global level. Here’s how you can spot someone using the word solution incorrectly when referring to a technology project or initiative:

This is the “problem” they’re trying to “solve”:

Think fast: What are the problems you attempt to solve with technology? Maybe you’re thinking about organizational objectives, such as campus safety or energy management. Here’s one objective we can almost guarantee you don’t have: closing a vendor’s sale. If you recall, we’ve previously discussed different types of technology solution providers, many of whom just sell you equipment. You make a list, they fill the order, and that’s it. To be clear, this doesn’t make that type of vendor wrong or bad, but it also doesn’t make them solution providers. So, before they (or you) use the word “solution,” take a good look at their end goal. If the engagement is finished when your payment is accepted and the hardware is delivered, the word solution doesn’t apply.

No one’s talking about this:

Maybe rather than an order taker, you have an integrator who assesses your legacy systems, your facilities, and your current technologies, and then designs a solution that fits within those confines. That’s a little bit better than a vendor that delivers a list of “stuff,” but it still overlooks what makes a solution viable: success criteria. Where are the discussions about the problem you’re trying to solve? What measurable success criteria will be referenced throughout the entire project to ensure the solution continues to be effective and produce the desired results? If you don’t define and adhere to these metrics throughout the course of the project, you cannot realistically refer to the project as a true solution.

You may be missing another big consideration:

Let’s assume you actually discuss the organizational objectives and success criteria for a project. Everyone is aligned with those terms, and the technology is designed, configured, and installed. It’s still not considered a solution because it’s not being used yet. True solutions are adopted on a wide scale, maintained effectively, and sustained properly. A SMART Board isn’t going to contribute to student success if it’s never turned on. A security camera isn’t going to help keep students safe if it breaks and isn’t repaired. To achieve the success criteria, a solution must be managed, and proper planning takes a skilled partner with the necessary experience, understanding, and capabilities.

As clearly illustrated, many factors separate the concepts of technology and solution. While many organizations refer to their technology projects as solutions, this isn’t accurate if that technology does not tie back to clearly defined and measurable success criteria. This is just one of the ways we encourage our partners to become relevant IT teams.

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