CIOs Want You to Stop Saying ‘Digital Transformation’

Is your change management sufficiently agile to facilitate the digital transformation that the disruptive technologies of 5G and artificial intelligence bring?

That’s just the kind of talk CIOs and other IT leaders wish to banish from all our conversations.

“Buzzwords start out as powerful ideas,” says Matt Seaman, Lockheed Martin’s director and chief data and analytics officer of enterprise. “It’s not until they’re misused and watered down that they become a problem.”

And all the buzzwords we used in the first sentence of this blog post are words so often abused and twisted that CIO magazine listed them among the “10 misused buzzwords in IT.”

Take “digital transformation” for example. It’s a phrase CIO writer Clint Boulton says is one “CIOs love to hate because it’s often pitched as a cure-all for modernizing legacy businesses.”

No matter how much tech is implemented it won’t make a difference if it isn’t accompanied by business transformation, maintains Mark Bilger, CIO of One Call. “Digital solutions do not magically transform the business. A fool with a tool is still a fool.”

OK, but what about change management?

Consider it the twin of digital transformation. Jenny Gray, senior director of application development at Power Home Remodeling, tells CIO the phrase suggests the “antiquated” idea that change should come through major initiatives and strategies. Change, she says, should be happening constantly in businesses.

Change also happens “more slowly than people think,” insists Target CIO Mike McNamara, who is tired of hearing of “disruptive technology.” The notion that there are technologies that will transform an industry overnight is a mistaken one, he says. “There is no disruptive technology out there right now, because the whole point of disruption is that you don’t see it coming.”

What other buzzwords made CIO’s list?

  • Agile – It’s applied indiscriminately, complains Bilger. Most teams are anything but agile, he says.
  • DevOps – It’s used so often and so incorrectly that it has “an identity problem.” Especially by vendors pitching DevOps tools, “The definition gets watered down,” says Brittany Woods, a cloud automation engineer at H&R Block. “People need to stop using DevOps in the wrong context.”
  • Minimal Viable Product — MVP is (wrongly) used to describe a technology proof-of-concept, says Lockheed Martin’s Seaman. “MVP isn’t complete until the enterprise improves the product based on user feedback,” the article explains.
  • Artificial intelligence – There’s nothing “intelligent” about the processes and applications that get labelled AI, says Target’s McNamara. “Machine learning” is his preferred term.
  • Machine Learning – Vendors are to blame for the common misuse of this term. When not erroneously describing smart automation tools as AI, they’re describing them as machine learning. Bilger, of One Call, says ML is a valid description, but only when applied properly.
  • 5G – Because of all the hype, Matt Clair, CIO of Clair Global, complains, “Everyone is talking about 5G, but 90% of them don’t know what they’re talking about.”
  • Extended reality — Virtual reality and augmented reality apparently weren’t enough, so extended reality entered the jargon and now gets misapplied to all sort of computer environments.

Of course, just because these words and phrases get misused and misapplied on a regular basis doesn’t mean we’ll all stop using them – or learn to apply them correctly.

“Reasonable minds differ on what constitutes legitimate or sketchy applications of terminology. Sometimes 5G really means 5G. XR can include a legitimate application of AR or VR.”

Photo by Jason Rosewell

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