Part 2: How to Avoid Beta Technology
How to Avoid Beta Technology
By Sean A. Ahrens - September 2008 - Security
For facility executives, it’s important to determine whether new security or other technology qualifies as “bleeding edge” or beta technology. Often, facility executives are introduced to the technology during a presentation involving a salesperson and someone else who is furiously working to set up the product. Here are some questions facility executives should keep in mind during the presentation:
- If the salesperson defers all technology questions to the other individual, does this person offer clear answers or reply with jargon?
- Are all connectivity questions answered by the same standard answer, “It depends on your network”?
- How many questions cannot be answered or require additional phone-in support?
- Does the product being demonstrated function as intended?
- Does the salesperson focus exclusively on the functionality and features of the system, without realizing or inquiring about the facility executive’s real needs?
- Is the software slotted for a new version or release or a patch in the near future?
- Is a product that is actually presented something other than the technology the salesperson was supposed to demonstrate? Be cautious if the technology that is presented is described as being “comparable” to the product that was supposed to be presented.
- Does the newer technology have fewer features than the manufacturer’s previous technology?
This list of questions is far from exhaustive. When evaluating a technology being presented, always remember that a product failure, connectivity or functionality issue will be far worse in a real application than in a demonstration. Also keep in mind that when testing a manufacturer’s cutting-edge technology, it is on their terms, their equipment, their software and in some instances their environment.
How do facility executives ensure that they won’t be “cut” by bleeding-edge technology? First and foremost, consider letting the technology age a bit. The aging process will further competition between other manufacturers’ product offerings, while refining technology and lowering costs as manufacturers seek to capture market share. Other points to consider:
- Ask questions. As the adage goes, the only dumb question is the question that is not asked.
- Investing in technology can be extremely expensive. Consider bringing in a technology/security consultant to assist in identifying goals for the technology. It’s essential to focus on the functionality that will be needed rather than features that might be used.
- Don’t let relationships get in front of the purchasing process. Facility executives should remain unbiased throughout the process. Favoritism towards a vendor or a product manufacturer’s representative may cause you to lose sight of project goals and organizational needs. Keep in mind that the representative may not be there if problems arise with the product.
- Have the technology demonstrated in your office. Make sure the manufacturer can bring in fully working products. Develop internal score cards regarding each of the manufacturer’s presentations and the ability for the manufacturer to meet your needs.
- If at all possible, test the technology in your environment. There is no better way to identify if the product will work as promised at the manufacturer’s expense.
- Involve all important stakeholders in the process, including IT, administrative and executive leadership. They don’t necessarily have to participate, but they should be made aware of the process.
- Ask the salesperson to run the system on your TCP/IP network with your equipment during a manufacturer’s presentation.
Although new technology can bring multiple benefits to an organization, investing in “bleeding-edge” technology can bring change orders, delays, and maintenance or warranty issues. There’s no reason to rush into brand new technology. Instead, facility executives may want to put in place progressive building blocks (infrastructure such as reliable cabling, larger computers or larger storage drives), which will allow them to adopt technology that has matured. The aging period will ensure that it is fully vetted by other unsuspecting end users who were unknowingly beta testers.
Sean A. Ahrens, CPP, CSC, is a senior security consultant with Schirmer Engineering. Ahrens has more than 17 years of experience in the security industry. He sits on a variety of standards-setting panels including those associated with Underwriters Laboratories and the Security Industry Association. He is a member of the commercial real estate council of ASIS International.