Interview: Technology Investments

We interviewed a number of bloggers and asked:

How do you decide if a new technology is worth investing in or whether it is a waste of time? (692)


Here are their answers.  I was impressed with how many people have a framework or set of questions they use to decide if something is really valuable to them or not.

If I’m not sure, I wait.  I’m not an early adopter and I’m pretty frugal with my money, too.  A product has to prove itself before I’ll buy it.

Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar (rss)

If a product doesn’t have a collection of Amazon reviews, I figure it is probably too soon to know how well it works.

I like to evaluate technology before I invest in it. For example, if it is new software, I use an evaluation version and commit to integrating it into my life for a week and then make a decision at the end of that period. With hardware, I tend to take reviews from friends and family very seriously because I often don’t have the ability to test-drive new hardware.

The most challenging part about productivity and organization software is that you have to not only commit to using it but it also has to fit into your personal organization system. The best thing that I have done this year is to separate my organization software from my email program. This forces me to live outside my email, and only use my email as a communication conduit instead of a task list, calendar, etc. all built into one. Most importantly, separating the two has given me the ability to do more, instead of scrolling up and down my email finding my next task to handle.

Sharran Srivatsaa from OwenBloggers

With software, evaluation versions are a great way to go.

I wait. And then I wait some more. I wait because I want to answer three questions:

1. Is the new technology reliable? What, if any, are the complaints?

2. Are others taking it up? A lot of technologies only work well if others are using them.

3. Are others reporting that it enhances their life? Are they shelving it?

Ian Newby-Clark from My Bad Habits (rss)

Another advantage of waiting until other people are using something is that you’ll have a bigger pool of people to go to for support.

This is a timely question as I’ve made some very large technology changes in the past few months. I switched from Windows to Macintosh, and I’ve switched from paper to digital tools for my self-management practice. The biggest question to ask is whether the pay-off is worth the investment of your precious time and resources. Answer honestly, factor in the Gee Whiz factor (but don’t weight it too much), and go ahead only if there’s a significant improvement. Any technology is guaranteed to involve headaches and unexpected problems, so tread lightly!

Matthew Cornell from Matt’s Idea Blog (rss)

It is very easy to overlook how much new technology is going to cost you in terms of time to learn.  Many times that new gadget will cost you more time than it saves by the time you invest the hours necessary to master it.  Most gadgets will eventually need to be replaced.  You have to use something long enough to make up for the time lost in changing to it in the first place.

I do a lot of research online and ask my friends and co-workers. With some of the stuff from Apple… hey I just lined up with everyone else and bought it.

John Richardson from Success Begins Today (rss)

Sometimes buying something just because it is cool is perfectly good reasoning.  You just have to make sure you are fully aware when that is happening and not delude yourself into thinking you are getting it for other reasons.

New technology is almost never worth investing in.

The smart guys wait two or three years. Not only does it then have a proven track record, but it’s a fraction of the cost, as the manufacturers have moved on to selling something newer to rich suckers at a huge markup, just because it’s “the latest thing”.

Technology is worth investing in if it solves a specific need better than existing technologies. Period.

David Robertson from The Church of Chris Martin (rss)

And it is hard to know if it really solves a problem better until a lot of people have tried to use it.

This is a hard one for a life-long geek. I spent far too many years putting too much time into technology that turned out to have a low return on effort. Technology can bankrupt you, not so much financially, but in time spent acquiring and learning. Unlike a large company, you can’t file for chapter 11. These days I take recommendations from trusted friends and keep technology to a minimum. Generally, if you aren’t sure, then it isn’t worth investing in.

Benjamin from WOWNDADI (rss)

I have a friend who purchased and tried to learn how to use a one handed keyboard so he could type faster with his phone.  I don’t think he got much return out of that.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

New technology is very tempting. I’m a Mac user and every time Apple releases a product, I’m usually drooling. But it’s pretty unproductive to dwell on these things, especially when you start convincing yourself you need those upgrades. Why? Because the first thing to go is your productivity.

When you desire new technology, you rationalize that desire by telling yourself that you’ll work better once you’ve gone out and bought it. As a result, you’ll work even slower and less efficiently as you try and prove yourself right.

If you have the cash to go out and get something right away, then by all means; be my guest. But if you’re trying to watch your expenditure and your productivity, steer clear of it. All of it. from Joel Falconer (rss)

I’ve seen a lot of people say they were being efficient with their new-fangled PDA (or whatever), but when you watch what they were actually doing it was insane.

Try it first.  I give it 20 minutes and if I can’t set it up and make it work without reading the manual, I reject it!  I am pretty techy oriented, so unless it is going to save me hundreds of hours, I’m not going to invest my precious time on it.  If it’s not intuitively designed, chances are I won’t like using it anyway.

Ariane Benefit from Neat & Simple Living (rss)

I know there are a lot of things I have that took me well over that time limit to master, but that seems like a pretty good rule in general.  If something is going to take more than 20 minutes, you should probably spend at least 5 minutes deciding if it is really that valuable.

It needs to either solve a problem I have, speed up something I already do, or give me loads of fun!

Lodewijk van den Broek from How to be an Original (rss)

This is a good rule to follow. The problem, of course, is that it can be hard to tell how well it will work until you’ve invested some time in it.

As I explore a new tool, the two questions on my mind are 1) Will it help synchronize my time & communication, and 2) Will it help me gain new knowledge in a short time.  The answer to both needs to be yes for me to dive in with ten fingers.

Mike Sansone from ConverStations (rss)

That is a nice framework for evaluating technology.

I love to collect gadgets. But since consciously deciding to simplify my life, I ask myself if a gadget is going to add to my life significantly, or if it is going to increase my workload (either by having to use it, or by having to work to pay for it).

I also apply this guideline to lifehacks, tweaks to my productivity system, and new software.

LJ from simpleproductivityblog (rss)

Applying this process to other areas and changes is a very good idea.


  1. Stephen says

    Unfortunately, I’ve had to revise the way I do this. I used to wait for the third generation of a product: the first got it to market and cost a fortune; the second fixed the problems and made it work properly, but was still pricey; the thrid generation worked and benefited from proper engineering and larger quantities to reduce cost.

    But I can’t do this anymore. By the third generation, they are considered passe and too low value, and some clown supercedes it with a further integrated or otherwise superior concept.

    Now I’ve had to adopt a new strategy – I barely look at gadgets, software, websites, etc, except to maintain an idea of what is out there, and partly to permit small talk. I only ever look seriously when I’ve identified a need. Only then am I in a position to make a cost/benefit judgement.

  2. says

    Hi Mark!

    GREAT post! picked up some interesting ideas.

    Re: taking 20 minutes …I don’t expect to “MASTER” the software in 20 minutes, just get going with it and do the basics. e.g. I got my Typepad blog going very quickly, then began mastering the naunces, I did the same with Dreamweaver I had a website going in minutes…then evolved into Templates and CSS…all of which I eventually mastered using the online help as needed.

    Same with digital cameras…I get them up and running in minutes…except one time I got a Samsung..and the user interface was so bad, it took over an hour just to get the battery working and get it to take a photo.

    In my corporate past life, I spent a lot of time evaluating software and tehnology, also in designing intuitive user interfaces and helping to minimize the need for any training at all. So I expect a lot. I know what is possible and I don’t settle for clumsy user interfaces.

    p.s. I even got Quickbooks going in less than 30 minutes…then of course I evolved into the deeper capabilities. It helps that I worked for Arthur Andersen many moons ago and was able to set up my own chart of accounts…but besides that, they do have a great user interface…Turbotax does as well. : )

    p.s. did you know that I started a new company call Lotus Bridge? I’m running an online coaching group called “Getting Unstuck” and am now doing coaching only…no more organizing is now only a small subset of my work in helping people who are highly creative, have ADD or depression or other challenges like that, take charge of their lives and businesses. I LOVE it!!

  3. says

    When you need to invest money in new technology it is more than necessary to test and read reviews about it because it’s an important long term investment.

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