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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And When to Say Yes

There are many excellent reasons to say no, but doing so too often can hurt you. If you wait too long on a new technology, you might lose competitive advantage or spend too much on old systems. For example, Cohen acknowledges that "we may have waited a bit too long on virtualized storage and wound up investing a little more in hardware than we needed to."

The risks can escalate the longer you wait. "I see a lot of companies that are still highly mainframe-based because they've never gotten away from their core software," Weeks says. "The problem now is finding people to support that environment. I don't think there are a lot of people coming out of college saying, 'I want to support mainframes!'"

"Someone early in my career said to me that part of the role of the CIO is knowing which frogs to kiss," Meilen says. "You have to try out some new things. But if you're not clever about which ones, you're going to waste a lot of time and not get much from it. It can't be chosen at random. It's an important element of what we do that we will take some risks on new technology. That's part of our responsibility within the enterprise. There aren't a lot of functions that own responsibility for taking risks, but IT and the CIO do."

And so, he says, it's imperative to keep trying new things, even if some of them wind up as failures. "By playing it very safe, you're not serving your enterprise as fully as you could be or should be."

Zetlin is a technology writer and co-author of The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive. Contact her at minda@geekgap.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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