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April 7, 2015

The perils of early adoption

It finally happened. A part of your production pipeline has failed too many times, and everyone is in agreement: you need a hero.

You’ve identified your needs, researched your options, and your best option is something new. It’s on the cutting edge, promises to solve your problems, and supposedly has none of the issues that led to this point in the first place. But is this really the hero that you need? Before turning on the Batsignal, there are a few crucial things you need to take into account when you’re considering becoming an early adopter.


If you’re working with a new software vendor or implementing an upgrade to an existing vendor package, how much can you count on their support? If you run into a problem, there may not be a handy solution, either creating a bottleneck in your pipeline or forcing you to adopt unsavory workarounds. Is there a user community you can reach out to, or are you at the mercy of your vendor’s support?


How does this new process integrate into your current pipeline? You may have procedures in other parts of your pipeline that are specifically there to deal with your old process. You may even need to create entirely new procedures to handle the idiosyncrasies of your new process. Depending on the extent of these procedures, implementation may be significantly more difficult than anticipated, and in a worst case scenario, may be completely infeasible.

Cultural entrenchment

Processes can often ossify, with the result that any level of change can be very painful for an organization. How ready are you to dig out entrenched behaviors or practices that could sabotage the efforts of your new process? I’ve witnessed one instance of switching to a different project management platform where a developer lost hours of productivity because the hours tracking system was different.

No more heroes

A vendor or service can be as innovative and flashy as it likes. If what they offer doesn’t fit with the way you do business, you need to be ready to make hard calls about what you really need as opposed to what you think you need. Whether you’re looking to switch from a waterfall production method to Agile or Kanban, or changing your publishing platform from Word to InDesign, think of your options less as heroes and more as gears that keep your system working smoothly.