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Dispelling the Digital Transformation Disinformation
Getting past the jargon and buzzwords to give clients the straight story is among the business technologist’s most important responsibilities.
Twenty years ago, Microsoft announced a new program to their channel partners.
They called the program “BMT,” which I thought was one of the NYC subway lines. It stood for “Business Model Transformation!” Microsoft itself was in the midst of transforming itself from being the world’s foremost software company to being the world’s foremost cloud company. And they wanted their partners to transform right along with them.
Not So Much
Partners didn’t exactly feel the same way. Though they still had many reservations about cloud security, cloud reliability, and more, that wasn’t what was concerning them.
“I’ve run this business in this way for more than 20 years,” was a common response, “so why should I suddenly ‘transform’ everything? Just because Microsoft says to?? My business is working well and continues to grow. Why mess with that? Who does Microsoft think they are?” (Multiple invectives omitted…)
Microsoft employees and partners began describing everything as being “transformative.” Similar to “having an ask” and “dogfooding” it was more obnoxious Microsoft-speak.
How People React to “Transformation”
The Oxford Dictionary defines “transformation” as “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.”
Change. Dramatic change.
People hate change…
Writing on LinkedIn, One-Minute Manager author Ken Blanchard listed 7 Common Reactions to Change:
1) People will feel awkward, ill at ease, and self-conscious.
2) People initially focus on what they have to give up.
3) People will feel alone, even if everyone else is going through the same change.
4) People can handle only so much change.
5) People are at different levels of readiness for change.
6) People will be concerned about having enough resources.
7) People will long to revert to their old behavior.
When you talk to your clients about “Digital Transformation” you’re talking about complete change, “thorough and dramatic” change. So, amplify these seven reactions ten-fold!
When you try to sell someone on transformation, any kind of transformation, you’re pushing a very heavy rock up a very steep hill. So why do it?
“We’re Talking About a Cloud-Based Digital Transformation Powered by Artificial Intelligence with Big Data”
See what can happen when we smack some popular buzzwords together? We can scare the living daylights out of a client!!
What’s It Really All About?
If “Digital Transformation” is upsetting people, you push them over the edge of fear when you mention “Artificial Intelligence.” That’s not coming to change us. It’s coming to replace us. HELLLLLLPPPPPP!!
Let’s drop the jargon and the buzzwords and let the marketing hype take a much-needed breather and focus on what we’re really trying to do for our clients.
A business technologist’s primary job is to identify ways in which technology can be applied to solve operational and other business problems, improve and accelerate business processes, and help people do their work better, faster, and with greater personal satisfaction.
If we changed anything there, it was simply improvement, making things better. Not necessarily different. Perhaps we took a different approach, but it was to get to the same place faster and more accurately. It’s all good.
And this is really the whole point. In fact, it has always been the whole point.
When was the last time you met a new client, sat down to talk about and learn about their business, and when they were finished you told them, “The great news is that we’re going to change everything!!!”
If you have, your great super-power is getting yourself thrown out of people’s offices really quickly!
People have been mis-identifying and mis-defining “digital transformation” since the phrase was first coined by CapGemini in 2011. They defined it as, “the use of technology to radically improve performance or the reach of businesses.” Apparently, they weren’t thinking too much about how people would feel about doing anything ‘radically.”
The only client who would welcome “digital transformation” is one who has decided that they’re doing everything all wrong, and they need to create wholesale change in their organization. That’s just about nobody, at least nobody who isn’t going out of business.
What clients want when they engage a business technologist is improvement. Acceleration. Greater accuracy. More trustworthy results. Faster time-to-value. More value. Increased revenue and decreased costs, more often referred to as greater profits.
“Digital Transformation” may sound sexy to some. “Cloud Computing” can be considered pretty cool too. Throw in some “Artificial Intelligence” and “Machine Learning” and you may sound pretty compelling to some. And “Big Data” is simply a whole lot of data.
But it’s all fairy-dust.
What people want is operational improvement, not digital transformation. They want to let someone else operate the data center they use to run their software, and let that operate own the infrastructure. There is no cloud. There are remote data centers. And, to date, no computer has artificially been rendered intelligent. We’ve developed some intriguing software that delivers what is basically search on steroids and manipulation of many data types, including text, video, audio, telemetry, and more at superhuman speeds. There’s nothing artificial about it, and it is not yet truly intelligence. And no machine is learning anything. We’ve just gotten better at data ingestion.
And none of that is bad news!!
There’s nothing negative in any of that. It’s just being realistic and eliminating all the hyperbole. And you know what? That’s what most clients want. The unvarnished, unmarketed truth. An honest assessment of what you can improve for them that will end up in greater profit, an improved customer experience, and an improved employee experience.
Note that most of that is all about people. Hmmmmmm…..