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August 1, 2022

Value: The ultimate test for new technologies

New technologies, or at least, ones that are new to you, are popping up all the time. There are all kinds of litmus tests and ideas on how to evaluate these technologies, but where a technology can be really tested at base is to look for value. Value in this case should be defined as something concrete, such as time savings, money savings, energy efficiency or some other measurable result.

This value must be demonstrable in a real world use-case that exists today or in the very near future, ideally under a year. Broad or vague value or value claimed without a use case to surround it is just so much hot air. Another aspect of value is ensuring any new technology claiming to be a replacement for existing systems is measurably better. Claims of being the next big generation of something or a reinvention must be proven to have value over existing systems.

Use cases must be linked to value

Let’s take a look at what a use case is. For our purposes and simplistically, a use case is a business process. The successful application of technology to a use case will improve the execution of the use case, by making it easier, more efficient, quicker, cheaper, etc. The improvements seen minus the costs of planning, implementation and ongoing maintenance, is the value. The new technologies also need for their total positives to substantially outweigh the negatives, its not good enough to simply bring value in only one aspect.

Here’s the easiest, top level filter to use when someone presents a new technology. Find out what use case(s) it is intended for. These use cases need to be ready today or in the next year, not some future nebulous nirvana. If they cannot clearly articulate the value it will bring in under 30 seconds, or references broad philosophical/social concepts as a big part of its value, the solution proposed isn’t likely to succeed. It’s also important to recognize that someone proposing a technology solution for a use case, has skin in the game. Their value is in selling the solution to you, along with any subscriptions and consulting needed to implement it.

FOMO is not a reliable measure

Understanding the value to you, the value to the person selling the solution, and the value to the end person using the solution is key. Red flags include appeals to authority, not only experts who endorse the technology, but the amount of money being poured into a given technology. Very very smart and money-savvy people invested in what turned out to be junk housing market bonds, filled with bad sub-prime mortgages in the 2000s. Enron was a great investment, as was Peloton, until they weren’t.

Theranos looked extremely promising until it was proven to be fraudulent. Investor interest, often driven by greed and FOMO isn’t a reliable measure of value. Lastly, if someone proposing a technology solution cannot articulate the downsides of the solution they are presenting, it’s a huge red flag. Every solution has drawbacks and the inability to articulate them in a clear and honest manner means the speaker is likely more lost in hype than articulating value to a use case. Only the value a technology solution can bring to a use case can show if a technology has the potential to succeed. Hunt for that value.