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Tough Questions, Should My Organization Use Technology X?

As a technologist, there are many tough questions you’re going to ask, and be asked in your career.  Probably one of the most popular, and common is “Should My Organization Use Technology X??”.  What is Technology X you ask?  Well it really depends on the day of the week and which way the wind is blowing.  It could be anything.  Docker.  OpenStack.  Cloud.  Software Defined Networking.  Any of the hot technology trends that you see plastered across the Internet and in CIO Magazine.
So let’s say you’re having a conversation with someone, perhaps a colleague or friend, perhaps a highly paid consultant, it doesn’t really matter who.  You ask the question.
The answer should never be a simple yes or no.  Chances are you may get the biggest technology joke as an answer, which is “it depends”.  If I had a dollar for every time I answered a question with “it depends”, I’d be writing this from my own private island.  Unfortunately, I do not have an island.
What does it depend on, you ask?  Let’s start with why you’re asking about this technology.  Do you have a use for it?  Do you just want to play with the new and shiny?  I once had someone come up to me and ask me to tell them why they should use OpenStack.  Well, that’s not a question that has canned answer or blanket statement as an answer.  Things such as adopting a new technology really come down to one thing.  What is the core business in your organization, and can this new technology accelerate, improve, or grow it?  I wish it was still about what cool toys the IT people were playing with at the time, but the corporate climate has changed over the last ten years.  There were days when companies were rolling in cash, and hardware was abundant for whatever testing you wanted to do that quarter.  Now you get handed some bubblegum and toothpicks, and are asked to build an internal cloud.  Almost everyone is tasked with doing more with less these days.
So let’s think of something like OpenStack.  I’m a small business that has about 50 employees.  We primarily use off the shelf software, which we pay the vendor to upgrade once every other year.  We sell motorcycle helmets for cats, an we are currently the industry leader.
Should my organization use OpenStack?  No, because it isn’t going to help you with your bottom line.  OpenStack isn’t going to get you anything, you aren’t developing an application, you don’t need to speed up development timelines, and you don’t have a very big IT department.  If anything, chances are using OpenStack would increase the technology overhead in this organization.
Now, let’s say I’m an organization of 500 people, mostly engineers and programmers.  We have an app that plays games with your cat, and we’re always looking for the newest most innovative cat interactions, and updating our app.
Should my organization use OpenStack?  It depends, let’s discuss things further.  We need to find out more about the organizations development process, and the way they do things.  We also need to find out who’s running the infrastructure, who’s developing, and who’s running operations.  Chances are OpenStack, and streamlining development could really give this organization a boost.
Be wary of the response you get when you ask tough questions, no matter who is giving them.  It’s always good to get a few different opinions before diving down a path based on an individual’s response.  Likewise, don’t be offended if someone you’re answering this question for gets a second opinion.  Remember, knowledge is power, and no decision in this area should be made without being armed with knowledge.