Rightsizing is artistry. In IT industry, there are literally thousands of companies developing applications and providing services. For customers, it is a big problem to select the appropriate partner, application or services.
Of course, I am not very smart if I write there are two dangers lurking on you when you are choosing what to purchase for your company: undersized and oversized purchases. In my experience, the safest purchasers are big enterprises. They cannot miss a lot – they have to buy state of the art products anyway. Small companies tend to spare too much money, and many times, they buy their main business system from the talented kid from their neighborhood. Nevertheless, a small company simply has to purchase a cheap system. My suggestion is just to check the references of the provider, the number of copies of their system sold, the number of employees of the provider and similar indicators, and they should be quickly on the safe side.
In my experience, medium-sized companies have the most problems with their selections. Some of them evolved from small starters very quickly, and they still keep the mindset of a small company. Thus, they underestimate the problems. For example, as soon as your company is placed in more than one physical location, you have many similar problems as big enterprises. Therefore, you should refrain from the “talented neighbor” approach. Of course, some medium companies lean to the other extremity. As soon as they reach one hundred employees, they think they are an enterprise. I heard so many times claims like “we are something special, so our system has to be special”. Well, typically they are nothing special from the IT perspective, or even more – from the business operations perspective. If I were a little bit mean, I would say maybe they should explain their “specialties” to tax inspectors. The classical mistake of an “I am special” mindset is over sizing. The companies simply spend too much money, resources and time in an IT project, so they have limited possibilities to invest in their core business. There is also another reason for oversized projects. The decision makers sometimes lack knowledge. Just imagine you have to decide what to purchase, and you do not have a clue in the area of purchasing. The best thing you can do is to purchase the most expensive thing. If you have enough money, you cannot miss. In addition, even if you miss, you can always say the problem lies in your company, not in the product you purchased, as it is the best in the market!
So how do you purchase a right sized IT product? Well, you should evaluate different providers from your business perspective. Of course, this can be a long and straining process, but unfortunately it is the only correct approach. I can add just couple of quick advices. The size of the provider among their competitors should be similar to the size of your company among your competitors. From the database point of view, a simple number of tables could be a good indicator. Relational modeling leads to many different correct solutions with different number of tables for a same problem. One of the reasons for this is in different supertype / subtypes approach. For smaller companies, more generalized tables (supertypes only) are more appropriate. For larger companies, more specialized design (supertypes and subtypes) suits better. Why? Simply – inn bigger companies, employees have more specialized duties.
Finally, references are good, but I do not trust to them too much. If you call a company that currently uses the product or service you are about to purchase, you typically get from the reference list a person that was involved in the decision about the purchase. Would this person admit (s)he mad a big mistake? It is very similar to asking your friends about their holidays in order to find a good destination for your family. Holidays should be fun, so I very rarely hear people had bad time during their holidays. However, I am a very sarcastic person; you can see it from my last name, so maybe you should trust to references more than I do. Nevertheless, do not forget that newcomers with possibly very good ideas and innovations cannot have references yet.
Besides projects, I spend about half of the time on training and mentoring. I am the founder of the Slovenian SQL Server and .NET Users Group. and the main author or coauthor of eleven books about databases and SQL Server. I also developed many courses and seminars for SolidQ.
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