Ways to avoid big shiny object syndrome laptop opening with bright colors

As a young child, I remember seeing TV commercials (remember those?!) about a cool new thing: game, toy, or food. I would sit on the floor—eating cereal and watching cartoons, of course—and when the commercials came on, I'd instantly be mesmerized.

I'd watch anxiously as the narrator proclaimed this new item as the latest, greatest, coolest, must-have item. I'd proceed to plead with my parents for it, recounting all of the amazing things it could do. Life was no longer complete without this one item, and securing it would restore balance to the universe.

(A bit dramatic, perhaps, but you get the idea.)

Fast forward to adulthood where I get the same butterflies when I sit in an auditorium (or, these days, join a launch event remotely in my pj's) and hear about the latest, greatest, coolest, must-have item of the digital era.

I feel the same excitement about the new products and features being announced, and I get the same level of anticipation for them as I did when I was young.

(I think that secures my status as a nerd, which is fine; I wear that badge with pride!)

But I noticed something a while back: many of the people I talk to and work with regularly feel the same way. There's often a buzz of excitement about the newest features rolling out, and people clamor to finds ways to use the newest thing on the market.

That got me thinking: how do people and organizations determine if they actually need a new shiny object?

4 Ways to Avoid "Shiny Object Syndrome" at Your Company

After some discussion with my small team, we agreed that we all found it easy to get "sucked in" to the enthusiasm about something new. It's hard to resist when companies spend incredible amounts of money to produce ads and rollout announcements that are polished, slick, and induce feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out).

As a team, we agreed that we needed to set some guidelines that helped "gatekeep" our excitement for things that weren't valuable (even if they looked or sounded cool). In this blog, I want to help you do the same.

Here are four ways you can avoid "shiny object syndrome" (SOS) and invest in the right shiny object for your organization.

1. Assess Organizational Needs

Be laser-focused on the needs of your organization.

  • What is it that you/your team are trying to deliver or improve on?
  • What are your current company goals and objectives?
  • Is this new feature going to support those goals and objectives?
  • Is it going to increase or decrease time to goal?
  • Is the feature going to replace an existing item eventually? (E.g., Power Automate will potentially uproot the existing workflow engine in D365, so adoption is important.)

One of the primary questions to consider before any new investment: what problem does [insert big shiny object] solve in our organization? Looking at new features through this lens will help you identify what fits and what's fluff.

2. Consider Implementation Reality

After clarifying your needs and goals, think about time to lift-off. Consider the realistic path to introducing a new product or feature into your organization:

  • Can whatever the "shiny object" boasts it accomplishes be done internally?
  • Does it require third-party support to get off the ground?
  • If internally, is this going to support or distract from current objectives (noted above)?

3. Refer to Your Budget

Staying within budget should go without saying, but reminders are always helpful.

  • Do you have the budget to cover the required licenses and usage costs, if any?

For example, Power Virtual Agents is a phenomenal tool. However, its initial price point raised a lot of eyebrows and created some sticker shock for folks. People saw value in the tool but couldn't afford to use it, or had to work hard to justify the ROI. 

Refer back to your budget to decide whether a new investment will provide enough of a return to warrant implementing it in your organization.

4. Identify Who Will Be In Charge

Remember, getting a new tool set-up and turned on is just part of the equation.

Your organization needs to have a plan around every tool and people assigned to manage them:

  • Who is responsible?
  • Who is the subject matter expert?
  • Who is training others?
  • Who is documenting the details?

These guidelines helped our team focus our approach to the latest and greatest features announced, and execute it well if we decided to invest.

5 Questions to Ask Before Investing in the Next "Big Shiny"

On our standing team agenda, we added "Big Shiny" as a placeholder for the team to surface any features or products that caught our eye. But we had a strict process around when something could be raised—namely, we had to answer the following questions:

  1. How is this product in-line with current organizational objectives?
  2. Does implementation require third-party support?
  3. What is the estimated implementation cost of this item?
  4. What is the estimated on-going use cost of this item?
  5. Who (department or role, not a specific human because turnover happens) would be ultimately responsible for this?

Anyone who wanted to surface a new product or feature had to come prepared to discuss these five points. It wasn't about stifling innovation, it was about making sure that we dug into the potential of the said shiny object in relation to our organization.

After implementing this approach, our team had instances where we each realized the features and functions we'd been so excited about weren't going to support current work initiatives. The realization didn't mean we'd never consider the exciting shiny object, but it didn't fit our current goals, and that's okay.

Establishing a standard procedure and assessment for potential investments prevents you from going down rabbit holes that don't connect to your mission. Additionally, a pressure test keeps your team focused on core goals and objectives with minimal distractions.

What do you do to temper the excitement of new features and stay focused on the things that align with your current projects? Do you agree with the tactics above? If not, what would you do differently? We'd love to hear your thoughts! Contact C5 Insight online or call us at 704-895-2500.