Digital Transformation. The term almost brings a tear to my eye, if you think of the marketeers working in IT, how much time they must have spent to come up with that one. I think they took the afternoon off afterwards. It’s certainly so new, I can still smell the fresh paint, where us IT Consultants have just painted over the ‘Cyber Security’ signage. Underneath that there may even be a vague trace of a sign for ‘Unified Communications.’
That may leave you with the impression that I’m entirely cynical about the IT industry – which may be right! However, there is a serious point – with all this marketing and re-marketing that goes on in the IT industry we can often loose the point of what we’re doing. We get some very clever graduates in our industry – especially on the marketing side, there’s an initiative each year, all with the aim of increasing sales from giant technology companies. Ultimately, tech has deep pockets – especially in marketing.
What I do now, hasn’t really changed all that much from last year, the year before or even the ten years before that. Whilst the tools to do the work are more sophisticated and there’s many cool new toys – as an IT Consultant, my drive has always to transform a business operation with technology. Ultimately if there’s no tangible benefit to a business for new technology, reduced costs, faster processes, better management information and happier customers – then it simply shouldn’t be done. Digital Transformation, to me is just a term for something that myself, my team and indeed, most IT Consultants have been doing for years.
The various initiatives and marketing drives of the IT industry
A few years ago, I spent a lot of time training on Unified Communications – taking telephony systems and integrating them with IT. Working with technologies from Cisco and 3CX, we changed boring old analogue and proprietary digital telephone systems into modern platforms for communications using internet-based technology. Transformative, huh? Probably not, the phone rings as it always has and the fancy stuff… well I don’t know that many companies who use it apart from us IT Companies!
The fact of the matter is that as much as Unified Communications was marketed as transformative and a game changer, it failed to leap out of the IT Department and capture the imagination of businesses themselves and ultimately remained in the ‘transactional IT’ part of the IT Department.
If you think of a lot of the drives we’ve made as IT companies in recent years. Virtualisation, is another that stands out, we were transforming datacentres (back when we still called them Server Rooms) – reducing power needs, making IT more flexible etc. Like Unified Communications every initiative we’ve had has largely been one that affects the IT department. There may be some end-user benefit, but largely it’s felt by the guys and girls in the IT Crowd.
Cyber Security has been a different drive for us. I always felt it was something that underpins everything else. Security, like safety is something you need to consider in all aspects of your work. As a former IT Manager from the nuclear industry who has experience with the various security requirements there and management systems such as ISO 27001, then perhaps I do just see it as automatic – I don’t particularly see it as transformative. It’s been great that marketing has shown it as important, but many of us were already doing it – we weren’t really making a song and dance about it, though! And, don’t get me started about GDPR!
So, digital transformation. Don’t assume the company using it to sell you something will actually understand it – they’ll use it as a strap line for any IT solution. Ultimately, it’s new and cool and surely an IT supplier should know what it means, right? Sales teams will sell consultancy, probably some hardware and software on the basis that it’s digital and new. You’ll ultimately get the same solutions you’ve always bought, maybe something transactional and not perhaps something transformative. However, it may have a shiny Digital Transformation strap line on it!
I should point out that despite my cynical demeanor – I do wholeheartedly subscribe to the digital transformation ideals. However, for me this is taking things back to first principles – why a lot of us IT Professionals became IT professionals – to make a positive change, make things better, the technology is to transform jobs, lives and the world. Most of us still want to do that too – and spend much of our days striving for those ideals.
There’s also something very cool with technology at the moment. When I started – I remember people going white when I put a PC on their desks. Flat rightly refusing to have email too. Now people come into employment with basic IT literacy at the very least. All have a smartphone in their pockets with lots of other email accounts on it. It would seem more important for IT professionals to worry less about the transactional IT these days – the tools that have become available to us – virtualisation, the cloud, unified communications have actually made our lives easier. We need now to take our skills and evangelise on what we’ve learnt to the organisations we work with/for.
One of our other many marketing drives in IT has been the cloud. Cloud technology seemed to appear after virtualisation and software as a service – all three are sometimes confused. They all build upon each other and are ultimately the driving force behind what real Digital Transformation is.
These changes in IT have enabled end-users to get what they want and bypass IT Departments who tell them what they can’t have (quite rarely, what they can have). In the IT industry we’ve worried about ‘Shadow IT’ where technology is bought on the company card at pennies per month, but the IT Department has no control or visibility of it (ultimately a massive headache) – but it’s causing a positive change. This is actually how businesses like Salesforce became so big – they marketed directly to sales managers, who just used their corporate credit card to pay for their teams subscriptions per month!
Shadow IT has been a form of Digital Transformation – that has pushing IT Departments to become more ‘user friendly’, so many times I hear an us and them attitude. Which is actually making all of us IT Professionals to go back to basics. We’ve focused on the ‘transactional IT’ for far too long – it’s like worrying about the T in IT but forgetting all about the I in it! Times have certainly changed.
For me, the true test – if something is truly a Digital Transformation solution it needs to be simple, make the organisation better or more efficient in some way, and be in the hands of the end-user and not the IT department (democratised).
Enabling the end users in a business, to alter the IT to how they want to run their business processes how they want is really where the Digital Transformation will begin. I won’t surprise anyone by saying Unleashed has the capabilities to help get you on the road to Digital Transformation too! If you’d like a chat about your business problems and discuss whether technology can help transform things – we’ve always been about speaking to people over a cuppa – we’ll bring the biscuits. Just contact us to arrange a chat.