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The Recipe for Tech Happiness? Stick to your Knitting

In opinion / By Charles Christian / 28 March 2019

There’s an old saying “stick to your knitting” that does have a serious business side to it, but unfortunately is one most people in business tend to ignore. What I mean by sticking to your knitting is staying true to your thing – focusing upon what you are good at or have a sound track record in – and not getting involved in projects outside your comfort zone or about which you know very little.

But, this is not to say you should never ever diversify but rather that you should only diversify into an area where you can play to your strengths.

To set this into a legal industry context; if you are a law firm, then, by all means, move into other areas of legal practice and even expand geographically, but be wary of overplaying your hand. One of the biggest UK law firm crashes in recent years – that of Halliwells – had nothing to do with the quality of the firm’s legal services, it was all down to some ill-advised property dealings.

Problems with Diversifying Tech without Support

So what has this got to do with tech? Well, two incidents/stories recently caught my eye.

The first was a Gartner report on marketing technology revealing that it now accounts for 29% of the total marketing budget. That’s currently the single largest area of marketing investment, greater than talent/HR (24%), paid media – advertising etc (23%), and PR and ad agencies (23%). The marketing technology landscape has also changed dramatically. In 2011 there were just 150 marketing technology solutions (CRM systems etc) available to marketers. In 2018, the total number had increased to over 6,800.

The second example involved a local radio station I work with. Despite only having a network of three PCs, the station’s self-appointed tech expert (another presenter) had installed a Microsoft SQL Server database which constantly kept creating inconsistencies with the “cart” software used to index, retrieve and play music tracks.

As this system was the most important application in the studio – the one all presenters rely on – its performance was a big deal. Unfortunately, the situation became so bad, the whole system had to be rebuilt from scratch. Out went SQL and the original “cart” system – and in came a new application that now everyone has to learn how to use, as it has a totally different user interface. Never mind the cost of replacing the software (and writing off the now redundant old tech), it also meant the station was off the air for ten days!

Now the common feature running through both of these stories is the way tech issues are getting in the way of the “knitting”.

Radio stations should be focusing on playing music their listeners want to hear, not grinding to a halt because they have wonky tech. And, ditto, marketing departments should be focusing on marketing activities, not the acquisition and management of increasingly complex technology stacks. In the latter case, given marketing departments are always the first corporate department to suffer budget cuts in difficult times, just look at how much extra bang for their advertising bucks they’d get if they were not spending nearly 30% of their money on backroom technology.

What should you do with your Technology?

So this is where we get back to sticking to your knitting. Instead of dabbling or diversifying into areas of technology that are outside your comfort zone, hire someone else - a specialist company such as Nasstar – to provide those services.

Of course it is going to cost you money to pay an external contractor to keep the proverbial lights on, but the value proposition is this: “someone else” gets to deal with all the headaches which, because it is their area of specialist expertise, they’ll be able to manage your IT more efficiently, quickly and with less disruption than your in-house dabbler.

In the meantime, you are free to stick to your knitting and focus on doing the stuff you are good at, be it marketing, playing music or delivering legal services.

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Charles Christian

Charles Christian

Charles is a former barrister and Reuters correspondent turned writer and the founder of the Legal IT Insider newsletter, website and resource.

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