Osterman Research Blog

The Critical Importance of Context
August 24, 2012, 6:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of the fundamental problems in having such vast amounts of information available to us is that it’s easy to lose the context of that information – i.e., additional and relevant data that can tell us how good or bad a piece of information might be.  There is often too much contextual information to analyze, and so we cherry pick the results that are easily available to us without digging for other information that can help us make better decisions.

For example, within the past couple of weeks there was a news story that highlighted the large number of fake account Twitter accounts that were following one of the presidential candidates, leading to speculation that his campaign might have purchased fake Twitter followers.  For example, as of the morning of August 24, 2012, 16% of his campaign’s followers are fake, 31% are inactive and 53% are valid.  That sounds like bad news for his campaign – until you look at the stats for his opponent whose campaign, as of this writing, has 31% fake, 39% inactive and 30% valid followers.  Not offering any sort of political commentary here, but just trying to drive home the importance of viewing news in the context of additional relevant information that can provide a point of comparison and contrast.

The same is true in the world of IT.  For example, many organizations are making the decision to migrate from one messaging platform to another on the basis of incomplete information – a single cost of ownership analysis, the sexiness of one platform compared to another, or the persuasion of a compelling senior executive at a leading vendor.  However, it’s important to view any decision like this in the appropriate context by asking a number of questions.  For example:

  • What is the actual TCO for our current solution and what will be the actual TCO for the new one we’re considering?
  • How many applications do we have tied to the current messaging infrastructure that would need to be rewritten, updated or abandoned if we migrated to the new platform?
  • What are the regulatory issues we need to consider about where our email will be stored in a new platform?
  • Will user productivity be improved with a new platform?
  • Are there features or functions in the current platform on which users depend that are not available in the new platform?
  • Have we asked users how important these features and functions are to them?
  • Have we discussed this decision with our system architects to determine all of the ramifications of a migration to a new platform, or was this decision made solely by the CIO?
  • Will the migration costs be offset by improvements in features or functions available in the new platform?
  • What are the intangibles that might be difficult to quantify, but are nonetheless important to consider in the context of end user productivity, platform extensibility or integration with other capabilities?

None of this is meant to dissuade decision makers from migrating to a new messaging or any other platform – in fact, oftentimes a migration is useful and necessary.  However, making such a decision with incomplete information – i.e., not viewing the decision in the context of all other relevant data that could be brought to bear – can result in erroneous conclusions about the direction one should take.

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1 Comment so far
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Thanks for this post. It’s a great reminder to think through all the pros and cons before making a decision.

Comment by SusannaSharpe

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