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Are you asking the right questions…or not?

February 28, 2011

Not long ago I was perusing some internet forums when I encountered a post from a new business owner entitled “Which programming languages are best for a website that may scale from 10k to 100k users?”  I remember thinking “Wow. That is the wrong question to ask.”  And sure enough as I was looking through the responses the first two pages were nothing but people proclaiming why their chosen language was superior to all other programing languages. None of which helped the original poster. You see the problem with the question is that it makes a lot of assumptions about programing languages and gives too little detail about the project to arrive at any meaningful results in regards to what technology to use.  You see programing languages are rarely the bottleneck when it comes to scalability.  Don’t get me wrong each language has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to scalability but the real issue here is architecture.  In other words how the chosen language is used to construct the site and how that language is used to interact with other aspects of the site.  Also things like the database engine/architecture, hardware, and bandwidth will play a large role in scalability as well.

I think the above question is indicative of how a lot of companies approach technology.  Too much emphasis is places on selection rather than application.  You see, choosing the right technologies for your business is often far less important than having those technologies implemented successfully and in a way that meets your goals.

Now I will be honest with you, knowing the right questions to ask is not always easy.  In fact a lot of times it can be almost impossible.  So how do you know what the right questions to ask are?  Easy, don’t ask the questions.  You see it should not always be about choosing the right technology.  Rather it is about knowing what you want to accomplish.  It is about having clear and defined goals.  Then it is about having the right pieces in place to make your goals a reality.  In other words have an IT group and/or an IT consulting firm that understands your business and your goals and has the expertise to take those goals, apply the right technologies, and deliver a final product that exceeds your expectations.

In closing, remember that as long as the end result gets you what you want the technologies used to get you there don’t matter as much as you think they should.


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