I did not understand importance of technology in business in the late 1990’s in University. I remember sitting in the prefab building that housed the Computer Lab in University College Dublin (UCD). We went there to complete practicals for our 2nd year subject: ‘Computer Applications’. As Business and Legal future high flying executives, most of us regarded this invasion of technology in business as a painful waste of time. And we applied minimal effort to scrape through a pass for our practical exams. Our real focus was to get away to the U.S. for a J1 (Student Visa) summer of fun. I remember struggling through Visual Basic to program an ATM interface. It had to complete a few basic commands. I was feeling frustrated and not understanding the value of what I was learning.
Oh if I could travel back and talk to 18 year old me! I would try to describe living in the 4th Industrial Revolution and plead with her to concentrate. I would tell her to soak up computational theory for the digital disruption to come.
Dinosaurs and business requirement docs
Thankfully these days I am more enlightened. In the Business world there is a disdain for tech. There is a palpable feeling that tech is ‘other’. I have witnessed many senior executives laughing and describing themselves as ‘dinosaurs’. I have struggled to hide my disgust. As I know their attitude stops them making critical transformation decisions. To prevent their organisation or industry from becoming extinct. Orgs are ignoring or devaluing technology in with devastating consequences for the organization. Including leaving the org exposed to tech disruption. Customer dissatisfaction erodes market share. There are many examples in the retail sector.
In many organisations I have witnessed business teams pull together a business requirements doc. Their only interaction being to only hand over this doc to IT and ask for timelines. I could see that the tech team were frustrated. They were doomed to hack out a quick solution. Some would have enough integrity and motivation left to execute a plan by stealth. And make some engineering improvements along with delivering the requirements. The customer was outside the door, down the street and far from anyone’s mind. The business model was from 100 years ago with some tweaks along the way.
Business teams felt no need to collaborate and get to know the capabilities of the technology. And tech teams who were usually battle weary had long given up trying to understand the business vision and customer strategy. It felt like trench warfare with minimal trust. The relationship was reduced to a functional level only. Technology in business was uncomfortable and often a source of bruising confrontation.
Tech is your only future
Why does this trip down memory lane matter? Those old attitudes prevail. Too often, decision makers (who hold the purse strings) find it acceptable to criticise digital transformation plans. Without educating themselves on the capabilities of what tech can deliver.
Take a look a this report from NHS England on their Digital Transformation Plan. The final line of the article says it all:
“It is vital that systems should be interoperable if the NHS digital vision is to be delivered. It calls on NHSX to help by setting standards and advising on the use of the cloud to share images.“
Business is tech and tech is business. Technology in business! Organisations cannot afford to treat tech as if it were as simple as hiring a plumber or electrician:
Just make it work and for the lowest price possible, and I don’t want to know the details.
Business and tech need to work together to break down and often times completely rewrite business models from the ground up. Neither can leave each other behind.