In the summer of 2021, I published a short article on social media titled Ethics and Cloud/IT That no one reads at all. I’m not sure if this was the topic or the platform, but my attempt to discuss what people were thinking about technology bias didn’t go quickly.
Technology bias is something that architects, developers, security professionals, public cloud subject matter experts, CIOs, CIOs, CFOs, board members, and even shareholders have to deal with all the time. The basic issue is simple: someone wants to choose strategic technologies based on their specific bias rather than taking a more objective look at what technology is really best for the business. The bias can be caused by something as innocuous as the decision-maker’s brand loyalty to a vendor he has worked with in the past, or the more obvious bias of a department head who received an all-expenses-paid invitation to attend a vendor’s winter “conference” in Hawaii.
This is what I call “implicit bias”. As I wrote in my article, “The resulting implicit biases and ethical concerns are the result of formal and informal relationships between those who choose technology and those who sell technology.”
We don’t have as many problems as we did when tech companies were able to buy leverage with exorbitant trips and gifts. These days, biases are becoming more subtle and may not be recognized or understood by those who hold them. We can be influenced by a personal or business relationship, a formal or informal partnership, a financial investment, or even technology journalism.
Those who have assembled a cloud, either as an architect or as someone involved in selecting and configuring cloud technology, are often biased by one or more of the following situations:
- The company already has a partnership with a cloud service provider or other technology vendor. Someone (maybe you, too) decided to limit the technologies to these specific providers.
- Most of the design and/or development team has experience, training, or certifications with a specific cloud service provider. They fail to consider that new providers may be more suitable or may be used with other providers to create a more improved solution.
- A certain type of technology can be viewed as passive. We saw this “there is no cloud here” situation several years ago change to “the cloud is only here” today.
If these biases lead us to make the wrong choices (as they often do), we will end up with an unoptimized cloud. This could end up incurring the company up to 10 times the cost and value lost to the optimal solution, given the increased operating costs as well as the strategic value to the business being lost.
Even worse, an ineffective solution based on human biases doesn’t enjoy failure. The solutions work to some extent, so many companies continue to run a non-optimal cloud solution without any understanding of the value they are leaving on the table.
You can’t really eliminate all the prejudices that people have because… well, they are human. It is important to keep a close eye on bias when we are tasked with selecting the right cloud technology and the right configuration to arrive at an optimal solution. The best approach to mitigate the problem of bias is to ask probing questions about the proposed solution and its components. Review development terms and operational costs, then challenge each assumption and find evidence.
I’m a “designated idiot” on my clients’ projects. Another approach is to have a second independent team check the solution and get a second opinion. Have them research bias issues and prove that cloud architecture is indeed the best and considers all business and technology requirements. The added cost makes this approach scarce, so “unsolicited” questions from the in-house team are far more important to ask and answer.
At the end of the day, understand that we are not perfect. We all have biases about technology solutions and their providers, whether it’s single cloud versus multicloud networks, databases, security approaches, etc. Some biases are easier to spot than others, but we must learn to recognize and deal with them. The alternative is to leave billions on the table if efficiency and strategic value are lost.
So, the next time you hear the phrase “it works,” ask if it works well. He wondered if you made the right choices for the right reasons.