Hype vs. Reality. Avoiding Digital Indigestion


I don’t eat much fast food but a recent experience revealed an interesting parallel with digital transformation. If you think about it there’s always a gap between the perceptions of reality a vendor or in this case, a fast food restaurant creates in our minds and the actual product they deliver.

So just like that perfectly mouth-watering photographed burger (apologies vegetarians) you are enticed to buy, what’s actually put in front of you often bears little resemblance to the “idea” you bit into. And to make matters worse, the gap between “idea” and reality grows bigger as you actually eat the burger.

Unfortunately, the gaps between the hype and reality in the digital transformation can be much bigger than with burgers.

Oh boy, does that look good…

When you’re hungry it’s hard not to judge a book by its cover. And the image of that burger is purposely and perfectly orchestrated. Whether it’s the angle of the photograph, the lighting, the use of lines, layers and color to make the burger pop, the goal is the same…to get your mouth watering.

The same is true with the vivid image of your digital future vendors are painting right before your eyes. It’s easy to be seduced by a vendor’s “big logo” speak, slick demos, cheap parlour tricks, competitor bashing and big “digital” claims. With all of the digitally buzzword compliant language the vision painted of your future couldn’t be brighter. The software will deliver everything you ever wanted. Increased productivity. Reduced risk. And of course lower costs. It will be connected with everything else in your IT ecosystem providing you with the equivalent of digital nirvana.

Umm…where’s the beef?

The gap between the vivid image and reality can be soul crushing.  Squaring what’s in front of you on that plastic tray with the image in your mind of what the burger is supposed to look like can be deeply troubling. A rather sad piece of lettuce. A soggy tomato. Cheese with the consistency of rubber. A dry stale bun. And worst of all a small, strangely shaped tasteless, overcooked piece of meat made from pink slime. But…at least it’s delivered quickly.

The equivalent in the digital world can unfortunately be a lot worse. For starters the gap between the hype and reality can be far greater. We’ve all heard it before – “we’ll have it deployed to your organization by the end of the year,” “the software is all there,” “it’s ready to go,” and “you’re going to love it.”

Finally…here it comes…

There are three likely scenarios of how things play out and each can have far reaching implications for your organization.

  • Jackpot! The software delivers the goods

Ambition and intent are delivered (on-time) and all is good. The software works pretty much as advertised and in some cases even better. While your organisation has some change management to work through, digital ROI can be delivered in short order. Tangible benefit is attainable and boy does that burger taste good.

  • Whoa…the emperor has no clothes

Imagine the setting. You’ve gathered all of your stakeholders from far and wide a year after you pulled the trigger and selected your “digital” vendor. Everyone is eager to see how this software is going to specifically help your organisation. But when the time comes to see “your” software…you’re left speechless. The rather sad piece of lettuce and dry, stale bun staring back at you instantly confirms that gnawing feeling in your gut you’ve had for months; your vendor has been “developing” the software while you wait. And to make matters worse…they’re still months and maybe years away, if ever from delivering something vaguely resembling the burger they sold you.

  • That’s it…?

In this case it comes in two scenarios. The first being one of horror and shock. “We spent all of that time waiting for this piece of software?” Its software that’s just recreated your paper processes on glass. There’s nothing “transformative” about it! And the second scenario being where you have been waiting and waiting for what seems like eternity. Eventually the litany of creative excuses and skillful blame shifting wears you down. You compromise and accept whatever is “ready”. You rationalize to yourself that, “It’s a “journey” right?” But while it resembles a burger and tastes more or less like one, that feeling of buyer’s remorse is not going to go away. Ever.

Avoid digital indigestion.

While that burger isn’t likely to sit well, the good news is that in a few hours the uncomfortable rock like feeling in your stomach will pass. And all will be good again.

However, the consequences of your digital choice are more likely to be a seemingly endless bout of digital indigestion. One that never quite delivers real ROI. And more likely, one that is plagued by side effects such as painful upgrade cycles, expensive vendor dependency even for small changes and the sacrificial hoops you will have to jump through for years due to the systems’ lack of flexibility. And to add insult to injury there’s a good chance you’ll actually become less efficient.

Make the better choice. Start with quality ingredients.

Understanding a vendor’s digital vision and critically, their capabilities to deliver it is fundamental. Not doing so is fraught with peril. If a vendor’s digital imagination defaults to delivering a digitized set of narrow business process at a big price tag…run away…fast….even if they purport to have done it with “big logos”. In the digital world, this is an analogue approach. It’s a path of least resistance to an “easy fix” that only benefits the vendor’s bottom line and not yours.

Digital transformation is about where you could go, how better connected you could be and the transformative business results you could have. That’s why it’s critically important to partner with vendors and service organizations who can help you define the “to be” for your organization and actually help you get there.

And if you have that gnawing feeling in your gut that your organization made the wrong choice. You’re not alone. You can call time. Its 2018. We are seeing a number of organisations changing their digital chip and going back out to market. While it’s never an easy decision to “re-open” a decision, it’s better than waiting years to be underwhelmed. And more importantly the opportunity cost for your organisation to cash in on significant digital ROI is huge. The stakes couldn’t be higher. And there’s no reason you should continue down the road of chronic digital indigestion.

So what do you think? Lets continue the conversation.

Scott Lehmann  has strategic responsibility for market and product segmentation, defining and delivering market driven products and solutions. Scott joined Petrotechnics in 2010 with more than twenty years of senior management experience in enterprise software product marketing, product management, strategy development and sales and channel development.

Before he joined us, Scott was Vice-President of Product Management & Marketing (and co-founder) of Nayatek, a VC-backed enterprise storage software start-up; the EMEA Security Products Marketing Manager at Microsoft; and the Director of EMEA Channel at security software vendor Sybari Software (acquired by Microsoft).

Scott’s earlier experience included being the North American Channel & Alliance Manager at TenFour, a security software vendor, and a spell as a sales manager at an IT systems integrator in the Washington, DC area.

Scott has a B.A from Tufts University and an M.A from Georgetown University.

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