3 November 2017
It’s easy to be excited about the promise of all the future tech. I get that. But present tech is rather a mess for users with an incalculable cost to business. The riddled-with-errors + productivity debt = holy sh!t.
In the race to be 1st and coolest, we are tripping over ourselves to hack our way to schlock.
As far as I can see, the ecosystem to develop new tech looks a lot like the ecosystem to develop the present tech – which isn’t doing any of us any favors.
Let’s stop fiddling while Rome burns starting here:
These Two Critical Topics
- Legacy Mountain
- Abysmal State of MarTech
Topic 1: Legacy Mountain is riddled with unseen vulnerabilities.
Forrester estimates that 80% of a CIOs budget is tied up in maintaining what they have. Largely due to the complexities of not knowing what can and cannot be uncoupled; it’s safer to just leave well enough alone. For now. Technology leaders every day face a Sophie’s Choice dilemma of: either risk self-inflicting pain on the organization by starting to detangle the IT landscape or risk some major breach or outage due vulnerabilities that break wide open.
CIOs and their teams didn’t design, architect, or build their infrastructure this way. It’s just happened, over time. With everyone doing the best they could with the information they had at the moment of decision.
In companies that have been around for a while, let’s say the Fortune 1000, IT infrastructure has grown and evolved, in a very complicated manner. Many technology leaders don’t have a clear understanding of their total landscape, and they certainly don’t have a list of the top vulnerabilities that are prioritised to be addressed. Seriously. Ask them.
Why? Why aren’t we in better shape?
- Because stuff is coupled that isn’t easily uncoupled.
- Older systems are riddled with dead code and that’s not easy to find.
- Deep concern about breaking something.
- People, all people, are afraid of losing any data.
- Modernizing, future-proofing, migrating to better means that some data is at risk.
This is actually far more complicated than I’m certified to cover but there are plenty of resources that can help enlighten us (listed below).
Why care? Vulnerabilities & Transformation.
Technology leaders can’t address what they can’t see and vulnerabilities in the current legacy environment are notoriously difficult to see – but it’s also challenging for many CEOs and boards to prioritise. Even when the news highlights breaches and failures that are monumental and scary (Airlines, Equifax, Yahoo, etc), leaders adopt a “likely won’t happen to us” mindset.
How many Fortune 500 companies from 2007 are still in the Fortune 500? If companies don’t transform, they are facing grave odds for continued success.
And transformation is that much more difficult when Tech leaders are forced to spend 80% of their resource on tending this legacy monster. How are they to lead transformation in the current environment?
The path off legacy mountain must be supported by CEOs which means CEOs have to invest in understanding how critical IT infrastructure is to the company hitting their strategic objectives. This isn’t a time to be scaling back resources. It’s absolutely time to size and slay this behemoth to supercharge transformation and a company’s odd for success.
Tech Media, Tech Editors. Here are the folks that can help you understand the complexities and some solutions:
Dion Hinchcliffe, Constellation Research, ZDNet
Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer, Horizon NHS
Joost Visser, CTO Software Improvement Group
Alexander Bockelmann, CDO UNIQA Insurance
PierGiorgio Grossi, CIO Ducati Motors
And here are the questions you should be asking CEOs whenever you get the chance:
- How can CIOs lead digital transformation when so much of their focus is tied up in just keeping the lights on?
- How are you supporting CIOs to address the legacy infrastructure behemoth?
- Do you have a prioritised plan to address all landscape vulnerabilities and start carving down legacy mountain to make room for cool new business technology?
- Does anyone know where all the current vulnerabilities are?
Topic 2: Abysmal State of MarTech
Good chance similiar for SalesTech, HRTech, HealthTech, XTech
The dirty little secret for many companies today is the digital infrastructure for data-driven decisions is often pathetic, at best.
One of the key reasons the MarTech landscape has exploded is a proliferation of bandaid tech to fill the gaps that the foundational tech is missing.
Users have grown so used to tech that doesn’t integrate, and workarounds are just our status quo, that not many of us even acknowledge this isn’t how this is supposed to be. Heck, “Hacks” are even considered sexy.
You know what should be sexy? Efficacious results.
We’re slammed scrambling to deliver results in an environment of bizarre expectations. The hype the MarTech community builds to get funding has permeated every corner of our being. For years.
It’s crazy-making. Trying to solve for these issues, whilst also leading a team, connecting dots, clutching data across moats and keep up with the Jones.
Here are two lads with better, more succinct examples of the nightmare users have to deal with:
Avinash Kaushik on Facebook’s Measurement Errors
Out of all the channels and apps, these are just two examples deconstructed by a couple of the world’s smartest folks in that space. Just. Two. Examples. Marketers deal with these issues everyday. With all the tech. The productivity suck is mind-numbing.
So, if this is the state of current MarTech, why are we pinning our hopes on the new tech?
The same ecosystem is producing it.
For instance, from MIT Tech Review: Biased Algorithms Are Everywhere, and No One Seems to Care
The Polly Pureheart in me wants to believe this is all just new and we simply all need to be more careful in what we develop and none of this is designed to be purposefully misleading – at worst it’s sloppy or lazy structure, development, architecture. Possibly??
Regardless of which it is, though, purposeful or sloppy – we are better than this, y’all. Aren’t we?
How do we get better collectively?
Business can’t afford for their internal teams to be constantly checking the veracity of the tools we are using – especially as the tech stack grows. It’s an impossible task.
As I’m driving my car, do I need to be double-checking if the cars’ systems are properly calculating oil levels, tire pressure, and if the locks actually work? Do I need to drive and hang out the back to see if the brake lights go on while I’m pressing the brakes? Ludicrous suggestions, right?
And yet. This is my state as a marketing leader. My boss expects the car to work as advertised and truly cannot comprehend that it doesn’t. And fair enough. But it doesn’t. (watch this space for a study I’m doing with other marketing peers about all their workarounds for tech that doesn’t work).
And here’s where the free press worldwide can help to hold the newsmakers accountable.
- Talk to users – and not just happy users. Actively solicit user feedback from all users.
- Ask uncomfortable questions.
- Find out what is and isn’t working in the category
- Look behind the UI and the pitch decks
Unfortunately this is a trickier topic to get behind than the Legacy issues. There are plenty of companies who can report on parts or the entire IT landscape.
But in the xTech space. Ugh. You really need to talk to users.
And, Users. We need to talk to each other and stand up and hold these tech companies accountable.
If Present is Prologue, we’re not gonna make it through Act One.