Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, William Schmarzo

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, @ThingsExpo, @DevOpsSummit

@CloudExpo: Blog Post

Dispelling Three Flawed Myths of Digital Technology | @CloudExpo #DL #IaaS #Cloud #Blockchain

Nobody agrees on just what constitutes digital technology

Digital transformation. Digital strategy. Digital leadership. Digital enterprise. Digital customer journey.

It seems the list of things that have gone digital is unending and remarkably broad.

Underlying all of these intertwined digital concepts? Unquestionably, some kind of technology.

Digital technology.

Just one problem: nobody agrees on just what constitutes digital technology. And without a grasp on what technologies are digital - or more to the point, what technologies are not digital - we've built our entire digital edifice on a foundation of sand.

Ones and Zeroes
We can all agree that the broadest definition of digital technology would be technology that uses ones and zeroes to represent data. After all, bits - aka binary digits - are where we got the word digital in the first place.

Using this definition, digital technology launched on Valentine's Day in 1946, with the introduction of ENIAC.

Yes, digital technology is 1940s technology. More memory, bigger storage, and faster networks have multiplied the speed and power of ENIAC untold billions of times over - but by this definition of digital technology, there's nothing particularly new or special, just more of the same. Move right along, nothing to see here.

The obvious conclusion from this argument is that we mean something different by digital technology today than we did in the 1940s. Not just more and faster, but intrinsically different somehow. Otherwise digital wouldn't be on the tip of every desperate executive's tongue 71 years later.

Let us not chuck out our venerable bits-based definition of digital so fast, however. During those seven decades, many technologies have navigated the transition from analog to digital - forming periodic digital transformations that may seem quaint today, but were disruptive at the time.

Transistor radios hit the market in the 1950s, but digital radio technology didn't roll out until the 1960s as communication satellites became the disruptive technology of their day.

Digital broadcasting, however, had to wait until the 1990s, thus spurring the rise of digital radio receivers and digital televisions in the 2000s.

Meanwhile, compact disk (CD) technology brought digital audio to the masses in the 1980s, but let us not forget the brief heyday of digital vinyl LPs in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Clearly, digital technology has been causing disruptions all along. Again - nothing particularly new here.

Narrowing Down the Definition
Digital communications satellites, digital broadcasting, digital TVs, and CDs were all disruptive digital technologies of their day - and all essentially represented moving from an analog technology to one dependent on moving bits around.

When we use the phrase digital technology today, however, we're generally not referring to the transition from analog to digital. After all, enterprises have been pushing bits around for most of the seven decades since ENIAC. We're still missing the proper context.

Perhaps the missing context is the customer?

Given today's customer-focused context for digital, many people jump to the opposite extreme from our bit-pushing definition of digital technology. For them, digital technology is technology that end-users directly interact with, including both the hardware and the software.

This definition of digital technology may be narrower than our more general one, but it's still rather broad. In this context, smartphones and their apps are at the eye of the digital technology storm, but the term encompasses any software-based technology with a user interface, from microwave ovens to digital signage.

This definition of digital technology as user-facing, software-based technology is perhaps the most prevalent definition in use today.

A recent Harvard Business Review report, for example, defines digital organizations as "organizations where most of the products depend upon digital technologies." And while the report doesn't specifically define digital technologies, it's clear from the overall context of the report that it is using the narrower definition above.

In fact, you can find examples of people either explicitly or implicitly relying on this definition of digital technology all over the digital landscape.

What do most digital consultancies do? Typically, build web sites and mobile apps. What do most digital initiatives entail? Putting better software-based technology into the hands of users. And so on, ad nauseam.

The Problem with Narrow Definitions
You may be thinking to yourself at this point in the Cortex that this narrower definition of digital technology represents the modern definition. Well, sorry to disappoint - there's a massive problem with this definition: what it excludes.

For example, here is a list of modern, innovative technologies that would fall outside our narrow definition of digital, because none of them are user-facing.

Blockchain. Flash memory. Virtualization. Integration-as-a-Service. And while we're at it, let's throw in an entire category of open source projects, like Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark.

All of these technologies unquestionably involve moving bits around, so they obviously fall under our seven-decade old, broader definition of digital. That's not up for debate.

But none of these technologies are user-facing - at least, without adding some kind of visualization layer to them. And if we do that, the visualization layer - not the underlying technology - would be the digital component.

All of a sudden, we're on shaky ground here. Clearly, blockchain and the rest are all digital technologies! And while we're at it, cognitive computing, deep learning, and dozens of others whose user-facingness is debatable.

Fair enough, we need to widen our definition. Other than the bit-pushing part of the story, then, what do our list of potentially excluded technologies all have in common?

They are innovative. So, is ‘innovative' part of our definition of digital technology?

Frying pan, meet fire. If all we mean by digital technology is innovative technology - and to be sure, many vendors do - then we have just committed the mother of all digital-washing faux pas.

True, much of the innovation in enterprise technology is digital in some fashion, but on the great Venn diagram of technology concepts, digital technology and innovative technology only overlap. Neither one is included in the other.

We have to do better.

The Intellyx Take: Putting the Customer at the Center
The problem with our narrower definition of digital technology isn't simply that it's too narrow. The problem is that user-facing doesn't encompass the true essence of digital.

At Intellyx, we define ‘digital' as customer preferences and behavior drive enterprise technology decisions. The customer comes first, and the only reason technology is involved at all is because customers demand technology-based products and services from the companies they do business with.

Furthermore, the only way traditional, hierarchically-organized enterprises can rise to the customer-centric challenge of digital is via a comprehensive, end-to-end reorganization.

Instead of customer-facing people, processes, and technology living in one silo while back-office people, processes, and technology live in another - with untold numbers of silos in between - digital transformation requires a cross-cutting rethink of the entire organizational model.

Given the observations of Conway's Law, wherever our organizational model goes, so too goes our technology.

Digital technology need not fall exclusively in the category of ‘user-facing.' In fact, any piece of technology, regardless how old it is or where it falls in the enterprise IT environment, is a ‘digital technology' if it aligns with the customer-centric goal of digital.

From mainframes and middleware to cloud computing and the Internet of Things, all enterprise technology might qualify as digital technology.

What, then, about our list of excluded technologies? The answer of course, is that all of these might very well be digital technologies as well - as long as the end-customer is driving the application of the technology.

On the other hand, it's certainly possible for a user-facing piece of technology to fall outside our updated definition of digital technology if it doesn't align properly with the goals of digital.

Yes, the same mobile application, the very same piece of technology, may or may not qualify as digital technology depending upon how a company deploys it.

If this context-sensitive aspect of the definition makes you uncomfortable, then all I have to say to you is: welcome to digital transformation.

After all, there is a bigger picture here - digital as a term is itself inherently vague and dynamic. Furthermore, digital transformation is such a comprehensive, deeply chaotic set of internal and external disruptions that simply labeling all such transformations as digital is a confusing oversimplification.

Compared to digital transformation itself, therefore, digital technology is relatively straightforward - and furthermore, the distinctions among various technology innovations aren't particularly important as long as customers are driving those innovations.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: dailyinvention and public domain.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

@CloudExpo Stories
Cloud promises the agility required by today’s digital businesses. As organizations adopt cloud based infrastructures and services, their IT resources become increasingly dynamic and hybrid in nature. Managing these require modern IT operations and tools. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Raj Sundaram, Senior Principal Product Manager at CA Technologies, will discuss how to modernize your IT operations in order to proactively manage your hybrid cloud and IT environments. He will be sharing bes...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...
As DevOps methodologies expand their reach across the enterprise, organizations face the daunting challenge of adapting related cloud strategies to ensure optimal alignment, from managing complexity to ensuring proper governance. How can culture, automation, legacy apps and even budget be reexamined to enable this ongoing shift within the modern software factory?
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists will examine how DevOps helps to meet th...
Most technology leaders, contemporary and from the hardware era, are reshaping their businesses to do software in the hope of capturing value in IoT. Although IoT is relatively new in the market, it has already gone through many promotional terms such as IoE, IoX, SDX, Edge/Fog, Mist Compute, etc. Ultimately, irrespective of the name, it is about deriving value from independent software assets participating in an ecosystem as one comprehensive solution.
SYS-CON Events announced today that A&I Solutions has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 1999, A&I Solutions is a leading information technology (IT) software and services provider focusing on best-in-class enterprise solutions. By partnering with industry leaders in technology, A&I assures customers high performance levels across all IT environments including: mai...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Systena America will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Systena Group has been in business for various software development and verification in Japan, US, ASEAN, and China by utilizing the knowledge we gained from all types of device development for various industries including smartphones (Android/iOS), wireless communication, security technology and IoT serv...
Every successful software product evolves from an idea to an enterprise system. Notably, the same way is passed by the product owner's company. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Oleg Lola, CEO of MobiDev, will provide a generalized overview of the evolution of a software product, the product owner, the needs that arise at various stages of this process, and the value brought by a software development partner to the product owner as a response to these needs.
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
While some vendors scramble to create and sell you a fancy solution for monitoring your spanking new Amazon Lambdas, hear how you can do it on the cheap using just built-in Java APIs yourself. By exploiting a little-known fact that Lambdas aren’t exactly single threaded, you can effectively identify hot spots in your serverless code. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, David Martin, Principal Product Owner at CA Technologies, will give a live demonstration and code walkthrough, showing how to ov...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outscale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Outscale's technology makes an automated and adaptable Cloud available to businesses, supporting them in the most complex IT projects while controlling their operational aspects. You boost your IT infrastructure's reactivity, with request responses that only take a few seconds.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs ofte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Interoute is the owner operator of Europe's largest network and a global cloud services platform, which encompasses over 70,000 km of lit fiber, 15 data centers, 17 virtual data centers and 33 colocation centers, with connections to 195 additional partner data centers. Our full-service Unifie...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive ad...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus intern...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Twistlock, the leading provider of cloud container security solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Twistlock is the industry's first enterprise security suite for container security. Twistlock's technology addresses risks on the host and within the application of the container, enabling enterprises to consistently enforce security policies, monitor...
This talk centers around how to automate best practices in a multi-/hybrid-cloud world based on our work with customers like GE, Discovery Communications and Fannie Mae. Today’s enterprises are reaping the benefits of cloud computing, but also discovering many risks and challenges. In the age of DevOps and the decentralization of IT, it’s easy to over-provision resources, forget that instances are running, or unintentionally expose vulnerabilities.
Everywhere we turn in our industry we can find strong opinions about the direction, type and nature of cloud’s impact on computing and business. Another word that is used in every context in our industry is “hybrid.” In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Alvaro Gonzalez, Director of Technical, Partner and Field Marketing at Peak 10, will use a combination of a few conceptual props and some research recently commissioned by Peak 10 to offer a real-world consideration of how the various categories of...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...