The best tech investment I never made: Four CIOs' tales

Sometimes not adopting a hot new technology is the wisest business decision you can make

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In addition, he noted, most smartphones at the time didn't contain the Near Field Communication, or NFC, chips required for Google Wallet to work. "I look back at that, and it was the right use of our resources at the time," he says. "That's not to say that same piece of technology wouldn't be a good fit somewhere down the road, as NFC chips in phones become more common."

In general, CIOs agree, it's probably best not to be a truly early adopter. "A lot of organizations I work with don't want to be on the bleeding edge," says Rachel Dines, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Before there are a lot of positive-use cases to review, there's no good scientific way to sort out the hype from the reality. So while there's a lot of benefit in that approach, there's a huge risk, too."

Kevin Roberts, CIO at Abilene Christian University in Texas, which has about 4,700 students, knows about early adoption risks firsthand. "We made a big run at document imaging," he says. "This was a long time ago, in the late 1990s. We had the whole paperless office mentality. We thought, 'We'll scan everything and sit at our computers and pull up whatever we need.'"

The problem, he says, was tagging documents with metadata that would make them easy to find. "We spent a lot of money on this, and we had to walk away -- we couldn't make it work," Roberts says. Today, he adds, the university has more-robust document scanning and tagging capabilities, so some of that dream of a paperless office is now coming true. But "13 years ago, it wasn't the right time," he says.

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