Digital Transformation 3.0, Part 1 of 3: Adapt or Die

Set patterns, incapable of adaptability, of pliability, only offer a better cage. Truth is outside of all patterns.
— Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Disclaimer: Views are My Own, and do not and will not reflect my current employer.

 

One common theme since the advent of the 21st century has been 'Digital Transformation'. The challenge some businesses have in adopting new ways to do business are usually scale concerns, LARGE institutions that have been doing business in various capacities for a very long time. It's a testament if anything to a fantastic business statement and goal. This isn't a new theme in business or commerce however, and whether you ascribe to 'innovation' or 'digital transformation' or 'disruption', there are key distinctions that point to 'business as usual'. It's always seemed objectively simple to me as someone who's career grew through technology in particular; apply tools to business and gain efficiencies and happier customers. This is a case for a compilation, once again, of innovative trends and I believe this ethos to be principal for any successful enterprise; past, present, and future. If anything I hope this set of articles will give you, the reader, a perspective on the core tenants of these trends and perhaps inform you of powerful new methods/processes. What I'm writing is a multi-part theory on what might be "a better way". This is part one, the Need, the History, and the 

 

Need

 30 Rock, NBC

30 Rock, NBC

The burning desire to get ahead is always there however, ambition is a prime motivator; everyone wants to 'do well' or in more admirable cases 'do good'.

The market is a good key to how well a business is perceived to be doing. And currently FANG stock (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google [Alphabet]) are among the highest performing and returning investments, if you have the capital and feel comfortable with the risk. The stigma of the 'tech bubble' is gone and has given way to these companies becoming eponymous in everyday life. This is also a clear example of innovation and adaptability. In the past, opaque silo's were the key to efficiency, thanks Henry Ford. This has held true for decades, it was the status quo. What is also true is that the advent of global technological evolution's gave great opportunities to people willing to take a risk and adapt new products for what people want; prefacing with a new way to serve their customers. These continuing innovations will never stop, it's been proven that innovation is inevitable, true eurekas are few, and there are studies that show most globally-impacting innovations bubble up, they would have happened regardless of the person involved; in many cases almost simultaneously. Everyone is always standing on the shoulder of giants, the correlation of things that could work together to form something new or better is the prime directive of any person striving for ambition and a better way. Copying is not evil, but proving you can do it, is the hard part.

 

Adaptability, Not Transformation

 Love this GIF, found it on Pinterest, no clue the source, but it's fantastic!

Love this GIF, found it on Pinterest, no clue the source, but it's fantastic!

Adaptability is a hallmark of the human race, our rise to power and influence is attributed to our adaptability: Adaptability is Intelligence. Adaptability is dominance. It's no surprise that we see slang and buzzwords cropping up and trending on annual basis: Digital Transformation, Lean, Agile, Business Transformation, Operating Model Transformation, Cloud Migration, etc. These trends are compartments for a singular common purpose: Adaptability. History is a great architectural repository.

A Brief History of Adaptability

Disclaimer, I'm not a historian; something I've learned through Dan Carlin's Hardcore History (the World War 1 series is fantastic, brings a human perspective on huge pivotal moments in recent human history). Dan Carlin would start out his podcast or episode with a disclaimer "I am not a historian", and the meaning behind this disclaimer from his perspective is to show respect to academic historians, people who devote their entire careers and lives to the better understanding of human history.

  Explication de l'Arithmétique Binaire, Table 86

Explication de l'Arithmétique Binaire, Table 86

Given that disclaimer, I do find that the concept of "Digital Transformation" is akin to any sweeping revolution in tools. Examples can start with fire, the wheel, Archimedes screw, the domestication of animals, the steam engine, the cotton gin, electricity, air travel, the advent of the internet. But would you be surprised the concept of "digitization" is over 300 years old? In 1703 Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz explained and envisioned the concept that would be known as "digitalization" in his publication Explication de l'Arithmétique Binaire. The invention of the binary system was born, and what we see today is 300 years of efforts to utilize this new mode of thinking and understanding.

Computerization is a different story, and more present in our current mindset. Putting the binary system into practice and tools has led to an extreme growth in business efficiencies. More importantly, interconnections via the standard protocols of the internet has led us to a global race for efficiencies and emerging markets. This accelerates the need for adaptability for all organizations to remain competitive. 

 

Trends

There are innumerable recipes for 'digital transformation', thanks in part to Jack Welch and Six Sigma we have seen a large variety of business operation and associated IT strategies crop up across the world from every major business think-tank. They range from subsets of a business life-cycle, to delivery efficiencies, to full enterprise transformation. I won't cover them all here, but one thing is certain; there are agendas and biases associated with every system. There are however trends, particularly trimming the fat (efficiencies) and looking at the business holistically; not just in terms of a line of business or a particular department, e.g. I.T. I'll talk more to trends that I've seen working in perpuitity in later sections of this article.

 

The Eponymous Cycle & Don't Believe the Hype

 Late 2017 example of a Gartner "Emerging Technology" hype cycle.

Late 2017 example of a Gartner "Emerging Technology" hype cycle.

More often than not, think tanks and market research like to publish cycles, whether it's 'hype cycles' or similar. It's a marketing version of the Dunning-Kruger Effect; creating an ironic correlation between technology domains, innovation and psychology. But as stated in this whimsical and satirical breakdown of hype-cycles, analysts would rather be part of the potential gains of Mt. Stupid than miss out; and that's the status-quo. Key here is to not just take cycles like this as gospel, research, research, research!

As seen on the right, there are a few technologies that have popped up as trending discussions in mid-2018, particularly "AGI" or Artificial General Intelligence and the discourse on the moral/ethical challenges ahead; because more human AI's are coming, 'right Alexa?". While others are the stuff of dreams and will require hard-scientific breakthroughs such as "Smart Dust" or true Brain to Computer Interfaces. But we wouldn't know that, until we dug deeper than a Dunning-Kruger Effect overlaid with technologies or buzzwords. More important than the 'hype cycle' or the Dunning-Kruger effect is Amara's Law:

We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.
— Amara's Law, Roy Amara founder of Institute of the Future (e.g. RAND 2.0)

In the next article, I'll talk about what I've been seeing and what works. Until next time, thanks for reading!

Jesse Myer