Three heritages that stand in the way of digitalisation

But hello!! What stone have you lived for the last 25 years?!
It is a question I want to ask the dizzy souls who talk about digitalisation as if it were a new invention.
"Now we need to start digitizing the business!". Well, and what's going on in the last 25 years since the internet became widely available and computer systems became critical of the business?

Is there anything that, all of a sudden, makes it extra relevant to streamline with the support of IT?
Something must be that has led management teams to run in circles, create "action plans" and set up new roles.
Of course, the pace of change, globalisation pressures and the demand for efficiency increase, but it has not happened overnight, but is macro trends that have affected companies for a long time.

Part of the "blame" for the hype surrounding digitalization may be borne by trend reconnaissance companies with Gartner in the lead. In recent years, buzzwords such as digitization, bimodal IT and CDO (Chief Digital Officer) have been drummed up by the country's CIO-er and business leaders. However, the latest version of Gartner's CIO Conference, which took place in early November, cringes to the cross and acknowledges that it was a little overwhelmed when it was suggested that IT organisations should set up the separate role of CDO to drive digitalization. It has been shown that the CIOs were competent enough to understand that digitalisation is important.

Amid all the chaos, the IT organization is in a state of confusion. The role has become unclear. It is the core business or the IT organisation that will run "digitisation". What will be the role of the IT organisation when IT is an integral part of its core business? The boundaries become blurry. It was easier in the past when the IT organization had a clear role as a support function. You'd take care of the technology and make sure it works. There was a department of development, one for operation and one for support. The role of the Development Department was to create support systems for the business. Far from discussions about shadow IT, cloud services and digitalisation.

Somewhat reluctantly, I will, after all, use the word 'digitisation' to name the journey faced by IT organisations. Regardless of choice of words, many traditional IT organizations face concrete challenges. To a large extent, these challenges are linked to inheritance.

The three inheritances

Technology heritage

The technology heritage hardly needs its explanation. Archaic systems that have been linked to a large spaghetti bowl of addictions, integrations and custom interfaces. Breaking apart these monoliths requires patience and time. The key will be to cut the elephant into small, small parts. A new concept to learn is microservices. Microservices are aimed at small software units that have a clearly defined, but limited task. Several microservices are linked together to create a whole. The difference to spaghetti heritage is that microservices have standardized interfaces and that they can be used in the same way as lego pieces in a lego building. To gradually pull out spaghetti straws after spaghetti and replace with microservices called within DevOps for "strangle strategy". The old monolith breaks down, piece by piece, and re-emerges in new guise as lego build.


Cultural heritage

Cultural heritage is what sits in the walls and that characterizes attitudes and working methods. Examples of culture that discourage digitalisation are "stability trumps everything" and "agile methods do not work with us". The challenge is easy to understand but difficult to fix. Here, too, time, patience and long-term ism are required. Culture affected us on several levels. Swedish culture, corporate culture, group culture. Swedish culture we leave there, but the corporate culture and culture within the group can influence. As with so many other things, culture must be driven from above.  Management must be clear about what culture should prevail and, above all, live in accordance – walk the talk.


Staff inheritance

Last but not least, we have the legacy that represents the worst headache for many managers. The personnel heritage. Many years ago I kept a training course on change management and asked the question "what do you do with staff who refuse to accept new ways of working?". The participants screwed up and made comments that "you have to try to convince them..." and "it's a lot about educating...". In the end, a woman raised his hand and says on sounding Finnish --we kick them!' It turned out that the woman was active in Estonia where other labour laws prevail. In Sweden, it's not quite that simple. However, it is not impossible, as several major Swedish companies can testify to. Giants such as Ericsson and Telia have over the years made gigantic shifts of personnel and skills.

staff heritage

The final clip

The organisation that has the courage and ability to address the three heritages has good conditions to succeed. Anyone who doesn't has much to lose. Standing still and hoping that digitalisation "is just a fly" should not be seen as an option.


/Ola Källgården


2016-03 Olingo-80-2-2

Previous blog posts on the same theme:

>>Innovate or die – what does bimodal IT mean?
>>Bimodal IT – the back of the coin
>>DevOps – In the future we are all beginners

>>Other blog posts by Ola and colleagues at Olingo
>>Course on DevOps


Ola Källgården is business development manager and business consultant at Olingo Consulting. You reach him on or via LinkedIn.



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