With technology continuing to evolve at a rapid pace, it’s sometimes difficult to know when you should dive in and invest in new equipment, and when you should be patient and wait for “Next Big Thing” to arrive on the market. Nothing is more frustrating than spending a large sum of money on IT only to have a sleeker, faster, and cheaper solution come out six months later. On the other hand, there’s almost always an advance on the horizon so you can’t wait forever to get the technology you need to do business today.
Before you play the IT waiting game, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will existing technology allow me to meet my business needs for the next 12 to 24 months?
- Can I upgrade when new features become available or would I have to buy a whole new system?
- Do I know exactly when the Next Big Thing will be available so I can plan my purchase?
These questions become easier if you know precisely what it is you’re waiting for. You might be waiting on a vendor to release a version of a product that’s compatible with certain systems, or has a new feature set that would boost your business performance. If you know when the technology will be available, it might make sense to hold off on expensive tech purchases until the new product is released.
The situation changes if you don’t know exactly when the new product or innovation will emerge. If a vendor talks about a pending release but is fuzzy on the details, you could be waiting for quite a while. So, the question becomes: Is it worth the wait?
That’s the question a number of companies have been asking themselves over the last year as they awaited the release of Microsoft’s new operating system, Vista. Microsoft originally talked about releasing Vista in the second quarter of 2006, then pushed the release back to the fourth quarter of 2006, only to finally release it in January 2007. This moving target of a release date affected legions of companies that wanted to buy new computers with the latest Microsoft OS preloaded. If your company was in the market for new computers at the end of 2005, that may have been a long time to work with aging systems.
In a case like this you need to ask yourself how urgently you need the new technology, and if not having it will disrupt or diminish your business performance.
If the Next Big Thing is not an upgrade but an entirely new technology that could potentially change how business is done, your wait could be even longer. New technologies often take time to develop and test for the business market, and once out, they may need some time to mature. How long should you wait? Should you hold off buying new systems to make sure that your current equipment is compatible with this new technology?
One strategy is to research the likely release and set a purchase deadline. If what you are waiting for is not available in the quarter it was expected, it’s time to start looking at other possible solutions that are already available, even if you have to customize them.
The Next Big Thing may be enticing, but the reality is that your business has to compete in today’s business world. In some cases, you may be able to wait for the transformational technology, but more often than not you’ll have to make the best of what’s currently on the market.
Scarlet Pruitt is a freelance writer and business consultant based in San Francisco. She has covered business and technology for publications in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America.