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With most investments you want to make sure you can change your mind down the road. After all, circumstances change. What you need and want now may not be what you need and want in the future. That’s we get more money when we buy a long-term CD (certificate of deposit, not the disc that are somehow still sold in my local mall). A lack of confidence in our long-term planning abilities is why most people don’t buy long-term CDs! Most people seem very much aware of the fluid nature of the world and plan accordingly.

Yet when a lot of organizations we work with are shopping for software solutions, they don’t think about long-term flexibility, they think about solving the problem that is immediately in front of their faces. That leads to bad decision making and a pattern of weaving between different specialized, uber-focused solutions, rather than choosing generalized tool sets that will work for years.

Let me give you an example with physical stuff.  Imagine you’re the facilities manager at a university and you get a call saying that you have to buy 100 left-handed desks because—as unlikley as it may seem—all the freshman in English 101 are left handed this semester. Sure, buying those left-handed desks would solve your problem. It would also fit with your existing way of doing business—you probably have an order form for left-handed desks you could easily fill out and have approved. Ordering the left-handed desks gets the faculty from the English department to stop bother you and you can move the problem down the road. That’s typical “get them off my back as quickly as possible” thinking.

But wouldn’t it be smarter to move that English class to room with tables, rather than desks? Students and faculty might say you chose a non-specialized solution or that you bought something cheap, but in a few months when the semester is over, you won’t be looking to offload a surplus of desks for lefties.  In fact, you might find that they’re a better solution for the right-handed students as well.  No more worrying about having at least a few lefties in each classroom either—your general solution allows you to simplify your job so you can concentrate on bigger problems.

A table fixes the core problem—students need a work surface in the classroom. Left-handed (and right-handed) desks fix an overly specific problem and cause logistical headaches down the road.

That’s why we push people into the mainstream when it comes to software.  The general solution will still be solving your core problem months or years from now and it’s likely a more elegant solution than the uber-specialized competitor.