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Five big ideas to avoid doing stupid digital stuff

Steve Hodgkinson | Oct. 30, 2014
It is time for executives to go ‘back to school' to learn how to drive transformation using new digital technologies

US President Barack Obama coined the phrase "Don't do stupid sh*t" to articulate his approach to foreign policy. This has subsequently been sanitised by the Whitehouse PR machine to "Don't do stupid stuff" ... but the intent remains clear. His strategy is to avoid making the same stupid mistakes as his predecessors. Fresh thinking is required.

This mantra can also be applied to IT policy. "Don't do stupid stuff" is a pretty good approach to digital transformation. What, however, is "stupid stuff" in the digital age? 'Stupid stuff' is stuff that perpetuates the failed approaches of the past and which ignores new approaches made possible by new technologies.

Many executives, particularly in the public sector, are in the midst of a crisis of confidence regarding IT. Product and service innovation and organisational productivity are becoming increasingly dependent on IT solutions, but the track record of delivering digitally enabled transformation projects is poor (i.e. too much 'stupid stuff' happens). The gap between the "art of the digital possible" and the IT capabilities of IT departments is wide, and appears to be widening.

Cloud services have emerged at the intersection of web services, cloud computing, smartphones, digital multimedia, social computing, and advanced analytics technologies. The cloud services model is becoming proven in both the consumer and enterprise markets, and there is emerging evidence of successful adoption. Many governments are now adopting "cloud first" strategies to promote cloud services adoption.

Although cloud services are not a panacea for all IT maladies, they are appropriate for many applications, categories of data, and organizational situations. They can and do work. More importantly, they can provide a useful catalyst for getting IT onto a new track and rebuilding executive confidence in the leadership of digitally enabled transformation.

Successful cloud services adoption, however, requires some fresh thinking and new approaches by executives. We believe five big digital leadership ideas will help executives to understand how best to approach cloud services adoption as a catalyst for driving innovation and productivity.

2. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear

Centralisation, consolidation, and standardisation have been dominant strategic themes in IT strategy for the past decade. The "holy grail" was the pursuit of operating efficiencies and better integration of processes and services via operational aggregation of IT activities to create shared services. The implementation of both application consolidation and internal IT shared services, however, has not necessarily created good outcomes — particularly in the public sector. Many billions of dollars and countless person-years of effort have been wasted as governments have failed to implement common systems and shared services well enough to meet the expectations of agency executives.


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