Mar 142012
 
promises in business technology are often overstated

“We’d like to allow remote band members – say a violinist in the Australian outback – be able to participate in an orchestra as if they were there. We hope the NBN will be able to do this.”

When the band organiser said this at a business roundtable all the technologists, myself included, choked.

There are many things the Australian National Broadband Network will deliver but the ability to teleport a violinist from the outback to downtown Sydney or Melbourne isn’t one of them.

One of the problems with technology is we tend to oversell the immediate effects; as Bill Gates famously said “The impact of all new technologies is overestimated in the short term but under estimated in the long term.”

Because we tend to sell the immediate sizzle, customers are disappointed when our promises don’t eventuate. In the decade it takes to win them back, those initial benefits we didn’t deliver in six months have become commonplace.

This is probably one of the reasons why businesses are reluctant to invest in new technology or online services; they’ve heard the promises before and they don’t trust what they can hear.

In the late 1990s businesses spent tens of thousands – sometimes millions – establishing websites that didn’t work. Those financial scars still hurt when they hear talk, some of them are still paying off those sites. So it’s barely surprising they are reluctant to return to a sector that has now matured.

Perhaps it’s best to underpromise; instead of cloud computer vendors committing themselves to 80% savings and social media experts promising millions of customers from their new viral video, it may be better to be more realistic with the expectations.

Customers have become deaf to wonderful promises, they are expecting us to deliver. Promising the world is no longer a business strategy.

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