For the 1st time in my life after owning three homes I am in the position of having to replace my air conditioning unit. The company I chose to purchase and install the new unit told me the name of the manufacturer for the unit and I set out to read up on customer reviews about that manufacturer. I found one site that had over 1,000 reviews with a high majority of them being negative (highly unsatisfied). As I began to read through the reviews, one thing became readily apparent, those who understand heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) praised the unit while customers sweating their … well you know what … off, were highly disappointed.

Having worked on installing new HVAC systems in both of my prior homes I was able to assess that the positive reviews were most likely correct. Frankly, the key theme that iterated through the reviews was if you select a knowledgeable and qualified installer, the unit will work perfectly an if you select an unqualified installer chances are you will have issues with the unit as soon as a week into use. The reason I agree with the positive reviewers was because I have some understanding of the components and common elements of these systems. They’re not plug-n-play. You cannot just put the new unit in place of the old unit and expect everything to work as expected. For example, most new units use a new type of refrigerant and if you don’t properly evacuate the system the older refrigerant will corrupt the new compressor likety-split.

This led me to think about how many customers are dissatisfied with their IT systems and actualizing the promises of cloud computing. Gartner Group has introduced the world to the “trough of disillusionment”, in which technology doesn’t live up to the promises of vendors, analysts and pundits. Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a perfect example of this trend. I developed a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) for supporting retail and supply-chain industries back in 2005. I leveraged a solid SOA design and the system was incredibly agile and allowed us to develop new business services in weeks instead of months. However, for many, SOA was a complete flop. Here, like with the HVAC units, I blame the installer.

It’s very likely that we will enter the “trough of disillusionment” with regard to cloud computing as well. Many that have jumped on board the public train early are now beginning to see issues with costs and controls and are considering how to move off public cloud to private cloud environments. Others have jumped on the private cloud bandwagon based on promises of lower IT costs only to learn that there is an initial investment that sometimes masks future costs savings. Moreover, those costs savings are now being shown to plateau, which doesn’t answer the need for continually shrinking IT budgets. Once again, with all these disillusionments I blame the installer because I’ve seen multiple customers achieve concrete benefits and goals from cloud computing that met or exceeded their expectations.

So, whether shopping for a new HVAC system, getting your car fixed, or selecting a strategy and direction for your IT organization, keep in mind that you get what you pay for and if you are not happy or the system doesn’t work as planned, it might be a problematic component, but often times, it’s the installer!

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