The flagging pace of change

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25 January 2018 | 0

Billy MacInnesHave you ever been transformed? Yes? No? If yes, what was it like? What caused it? Perhaps you haven’t been transformed but you’ve witnessed a transformation. You know, ‘a marked change in form, nature, or appearance’. Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, perhaps? That’s a pretty radical change, alright.

But it doesn’t just happen overnight. The caterpillar has to go into a chrysalis and then wrap itself in a cocoon, spending anywhere from seven days or longer inside before emerging as a glorious butterfly.

We all know about ‘digital transformation’ because there’s been a lot said about it for the past two years or so. And there have been lots of messages put abroad that customers need to embrace digital transformation as a matter of urgency.

Recently, however, there have been suggestions that the digital transformation process is starting to get bogged down. At a Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2017 event in Australia in October last year, senior vice president Val Sribar, said digital transformation was “at the ‘peak of inflated expectations’ and if the Gartner Hype Cycle teaches us anything, a trough is coming. Disillusionment always follows a period of extreme hype”.

Cynics might ask just how we got to that ‘peak of inflated expectations’ and how come it has become such a normal part of the curve that it has its own name. They might also wonder how, if this is such a common occurrence, people keep falling for it? Worse still, why should disillusionment be a part of the process? After all, the only reason someone becomes disillusioned with something is because it doesn’t live up to the hype.

In that context, it’s interesting to note a survey of 750 IT decision makers in Europe by Claranet this month which finds that organisations face “a wide range of organisational, technical and operational barriers to change”. Those barriers are making the promise of digital transformation even harder to live up to and, as a result, threatening to make other parts of the business even more disillusioned with IT.

As UK managing director Michel Robert puts it, while digital transformation “conjures up images of overnight metamorphosis, this research confirms that the picture, especially for mid-market organisations, is much more complicated”. Who’d have thought it? Something IT-related that turns out to be more complicated than people are led to believe!

Robert believes the term digital transformation is “a misnomer” that threatens to widen the gap between IT and the rest of the business. The other parts of the business might have expectations of “overnight change” but IT will struggle to deliver it because it has to contend “with increasing infrastructure complexity, skills shortages and cost-cutting pressures”.

If that’s the case, isn’t the problem of the IT industry’s own making? And does it make sense to continue to hype things up to the skies to the rest of the business only to leave it wallowing in disillusion? Given that hype in the IT industry has become so entrenched over the years for the Gartner Hype Cycle to be established as a recognised measurement of the lifecycle of new technology and trends, perhaps it’s the IT industry that needs to be transformed?

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