Digital Transformation – Today’s CIO Activity Trap

By Jay Valentine

In Circles
RunnIng In Circles

One of the most common, but subtle waste models is the activity trap. Some poor, struggling sales rep does not know what to do, has massive sales pressure on him or her, so they just “do something!”

That something becomes activity like working on an account that will never close but where the prospect will always take a lunch. Activity for the sake of looking like you are doing something – anything!

For much of the Fortune 1,000 today, that is what the CIO is doing with “digital transformation.”

The board and senior management lost all confidence that the IT bureaucracy can ever contain costs. There is never an app delivered on time that thrills the user. Business users regularly bypass IT and go outside. There is nothing the CIO can do with current technology tools to move the needle.

What to do? Do SOMETHING!

A good activity trap has identifiable characteristics. First, it needs to sound promising to management. Next, it should distract from current failure. Another characteristic – it needs to suck up a lot of time and be pretty much non-measurable in the short term.

An activity trap is what a victim, the sales rep or CIO in this story, does when they have incessant pressure and they do not see any way out. Getting fired or quitting is not a good thing for them. There are the kids, the mortgage, the college fund. They do not want to sell that house.

What does one do?

Welcome to digital transformation, the absolute gift activity trap.

Digital transformation sounds promising because everyone is trying it. It distracts from current failure focusing everyone on the shiny object of an agile, fast-moving company of the future. It sucks up lots of time and is totally immeasurable.

Those who are all in on this scam develop five-year plans. Think about it. A five-year plan to become agile. Just the concept sounds preposterous.

Why a 5-year plan? Because these firms plan to digitally transform using the current crop of technologies and vendors who got them into legacy problems in the first place.

Digital transformation using VMware, Oracle, current security products? Transform to the future with the IT consulting firms who inhabit your location to sell more billable bodies?

Is anyone asking the Einstein Question:  How can we get to the future using the same technologies that locked us into the past?”

Digital transformation becomes an activity trap when it has no defined goals different from the present.

Transform means something changes. Actually everything. How about this:

  • Apps run 1,000 to 1 million times faster
  • Storage reduced by 90 percent
  • Eliminate Oracle, VMware and other software licensing costs
  • Eliminate data centers – literally gone
  • Every app delivered in a single quarter or less

Now, that’s real digital transformation.

How are you going to achieve these with current technology? How are you going to get there with IT consultancies compensated by placing bodies? Can you make Oracle or VMware run 1,000 times faster?

One thought is to move to the cloud. Sounds transformational but as most are finding today, apps run pretty much the same on the cloud as they do on your current data center. Even the costs do not change much.

Business executives are beginning to see cloud migration is nothing more than an activity trap. Apps are not delivered significantly faster. There is no “agility.”  Firms just moved their problems and limitations to the cloud.

Let’s go back to Einstein. We cannot get to the future with the same tools that locked us in the past.

Executives, not CIOs, are beginning to deploy new technology stacks using System Oriented Programming to deliver massively transformational results.

Disruptive change begins by using different tools that deliver remarkably different results. These typically come from the business user, not the CIO.

In a conversation with one such business user, we asked him why he had employed System Oriented Programming when his IT department repeatedly told him it was a waste of time.

His comment: “They have too much they need to forget. For me, it just worked.”

Reprinted from Software Executive Magazine, On Line

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