Surfing & Technology Budgets

Picking the right time to upgrade your hardware and software feels a lot like surfing in the ocean. If you start paddling too early, by the time the wave catches you, you’re likely to be out of fuel and tired, which isn’t fun. This is similar to what happens to early technology adopters who risk being at the bleeding edge of technology. Ouch! That hurts. You get to find all the unresolved bugs and you pay a high premium for the latest tools/toys. If you wait too long, then you don’t have enough speed to catch the wave properly. In fact, you might miss the wave altogether. That’s not fun either. You have to be moving in the right direction and at the right speed to catch the wave and surf. Otherwise, you risk being left behind by your competitors and the wave.

In my experience, most productivity losses come from lack of organization, experience, knowledge and training, in that order. Then, to a lesser extent, poor tools, whether hard- or soft-ware tools. In the end, the human brain still remains the best design tool for the subtlest design tasks. Some analysis and design tasks like designing a steel or wood beam are clearly better handled using computer methods or a calculator. The tools, whether virtual or real, to document designs are of secondary importance. So in the final analysis, the best investment to make is in your head, where nobody can steal it. Therefore, learning and sharpening your best design tool, your brain, should come first in the list of investments you should make.

This will help you avoid making the mistake we’ve seen many people do: they “pick up” golf, and begin by buying a $3,000 dollar set of clubs that ends up collecting dust in the garage. Or they “take up” guitar, and start by buying a $1,500 acoustic beauty that also ends up collecting dust in a bedroom closet. Those people expect the fine “tools” (toys) they buy to make up for the required learning and practice. When it comes to spending money on computer equipment or programs I like to proceed very carefully because whatever you buy tends to become obsolete very quickly.

So before you worry about your technology budget, make sure you’re taking good care of your body and mind: Mens Sana In Corpore Sano. More practical information about actual technology budget setting to come soon, including what I now consider to be the minimum requirements to work and play.

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