Digital transformation: More transformation, less digital

Enterprises seem to get carried away with the word ‘digital’ when it comes to digital transformation - focusing their efforts firmly on technology and application delivery, forgetting that transformation also demands huge cultural change to succeed.

The consumerization of IT and cloud computing have converged to make it far easier for users to try SaaS software applications. Users know how easy it is to go out and source cloud-based apps for their own personal devices that are intuitive and get the job done. If IT can’t provide what they want, users have no qualms about doing the same at work.

According to a recent survey we carried out with European enterprises, entitled ‘Growing Pains in the Cloud II: The People vs The Ministry of No’, 78 per cent of business decision makers admit that employees in their department are using cloud services without the explicit approval of the IT department; 77 per cent of IT decision makers are aware that this is happening. The latter, it appears, are turning a blind eye to the situation despite the scare stories. How can this situation be improved so that everyone is pulling in the same direction?

Control is still king

Core leadership principles in many IT departments are still centered round command and control. Decisions are made hierarchically. IT departments play the tune and business departments are supposed to dance to it. Top level management and those on the ground are aware that change is essential, but many IT departments have become obsessed with simply ‘keeping the lights on’, keeping things running the same as always. They are weighed down by onerous approval procedures, despite being very aware of shadow IT together with the advantages it can bring to push digital transformation. 80% of IT decision makers in our survey said they expect shadow IT to be a growing trend over the next two years and 77% said eradicating it would limit business functionality. Despite this, things continue to be done as they always have been. IT isn’t paid to make waves, so it is a case of ‘keep calm and carry on’.

But in today’s business world, where agility and creativity are the keys to success, closing down experimentation and innovation so that the IT department can gain control would simply be shooting digital transformation in the foot, leaving business to hobble behind the competition. IT turning a blind eye to shadow is a pragmatic help to the business. Business departments need the freedom to solve their own problems, whilst growing and nurturing ideas. IT should be asking business departments exactly how they can help, instead of business departments continually knocking on the door of IT for approval, often to be told that this cannot be granted or would take too long to achieve, effectively a ‘No’. IT departments need to shed the ‘Ministry of No’ image and be seen as a true enabler to innovation.

Next week I'll wrap this up with a couple of recommendations.