There is a concept among technology professionals known as being technology agnostic. This is a valuable trait of providers but is not commonly discussed. It is often avoided because not many providers have this trait. They do not want to highlight a weakness. That prompts a couple of questions right away.
- What does technology agnostic mean?
- Why is it a valuable trait?
I am glad you asked. Let’s set the table with a definition and then look at its value.
Technology Agnostic Is Broad Vs. Deep
One of the significant differences between a provider (company or individual) that is technology-specific or agnostic is that the former focuses on one technology. At the same time, the latter has a broad-based approach. For example, a provider might be a Microsoft .NET shop (focused) or an agnostic solution provider. Before we focus on the broad approach, it is worth mentioning that specialists can also be valuable. These are people or teams that live and breathe a specific technology, platform, or application. Sometimes you know exactly what you want, and you want the best. It is not uncommon for a project to get to that point as it is refined and evolves.
Why A Broad Approach?
When you start on a project, there are very few constraints. You want to be able to leverage that and get a good understanding of your options. Think of building your dream house. You want to be the one that limits price, material, or location, not your real estate agent. That is the same when solving a problem. Thus, you want to be able to examine all the ways it can be solved without someone arbitrarily making that decision. It is not often highlighted. However, the various technology languages, platforms, and applications have strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, when your provider or consultant is narrowly focused, your options will also be limited. That may be a desire to avoid losing business, or it is often just ignorance. They don’t know what they don’t know.
An Open Mind Brings Better Solutions
We all have heard about thinking outside of the box. The best solutions often come when we get out of a box or set of constraints and look at the bigger picture. Technology can be powerful in providing solutions. On the other hand, it can handcuff us and constrain how we approach the problem. Rather than go deep into the weeds, let’s consider standard tools. I will even name names and refer to Microsoft Word and Excel. These are two world-class applications that are used every day. However, they have very different features, strengths, and weaknesses.
It is entirely possible to write a research paper in Excel. Yet, that is not the best approach. Likewise, one can build a budget solution in Word, but Excel is better. These are almost extreme examples. However, I see such obvious forcing of a solution into a technology daily. It is valuable and possibly critical to start crafting a solution without first selecting a technology, whether an application or a stack.
Finding The Right Provider
You might now be asking how you would know what your provider fits into. Are they technology agnostic or a specialist? Fortunately, this is easily solved. You can ask them about their focus, background, and experience in previous projects. A provider constantly referring to one approach or technology will be a specialist. One that lists a large number of technologies is likely agnostic. You can then select them based on whether you know your solution needs their specific talents or you need someone that can guide you to the best technology fit.