There was a term in the 70s and 80s, and for some smaller businesses a bit behind the time into the 1990s: ‘computerisation’. When the bulky, whirring, blurry screens marched into banks and offices the promise of a paperless workplace free of routine and unnecessary complexities shone like a rising summer sun.
We quickly learnt that computers have as much imagination as a wrench. And they will stay just as idle unless they’re not picked up by the specialist who has imagined an outcome like a sculptor sees a statue inside of a raw block of marble.
We have come a long way since those early embryonic days and technology in businesses today can do much more. But it cannot replace the imagination, drive and leadership of the change champions for whom technology is the allen key they need to transform the business they run.
A digitised business is not merely a computerised business.
A spreadsheet is a monumental step up from conventional ledgers but spreadsheets remain islands of data, dead the moment it’s captured and old the moment it’s counted.
Email would amaze centuries of tired letter-writers. But its only logic is date and author like an old library. The ease of mass dissemination and 24 hour availability, its original marvel, is now its bane. It is diluted by rubbish, distracted by volume, lost by indistinctiveness.
VOIP enables long distance business without the prohibitive cost of conventional communications. But its ease of access dilutes the content spoken over it to a rambling mass, much of which is forgotten and never woven in the fabric of decision making.
These are examples of technologies that work well in and of themselves but are each high-maintenance silos that may help an individual working as an island at his or her desk but do little to bring people to think, understand and work together.
This basic fact cannot be compensated by expensive hardware and flashing lights. Their dramatic effect will be like the promise of the hulking computers marching into banks 4 decades ago brightening excited eyes. But their effectiveness will be just as limited and the novelty will wear out quickly.
Don’t build your digitisation on the narrow issues at your desk. Start it from the vision of the organisation you want. Think of your transformed business where people across departments, from within and around your business are collaborating in a coherent environment they can all feed into and take information out of.
For convenience’s sake you may want to start implementing in a department or a section, or focus on pilot projects. Fair enough. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this can and should be an end in itself. Keep an eye on the big picture.
A digitised business is a transformed business. If not it’s just a business that has spent money on technology. And how is that a good idea?
Keep control of your own transformation. Do not allow hardware providers to sell you trinkets that depend on the hardware for the choices you make. Leave hardware to hardware providers. But make them leave the transformation of your business to you. Your transformation tool should be in your control and should be completely ambivalent to what hardware you’re using it on and unaffected by how your hardware requirements change.
We may be telling you this because we’re biased. Our products are device agnostic and we’re unaffected by choices you have already made or you’ll ever need to make on what hardware you want to use as wrenches and Allen keys for your business.
But if what we recommend is that you take and keep control, how is that not a good idea?
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