Yet Another Shiny Toy?!

Have you heard of DARQ? No? Well, I’m not surprised. I hadn’t heard of it either, until just recently. I’ve learnt it stands for Distributed ledger technology, Artificial Intelligence, Extended Reality and Quantum Computing: DARQ. And the article I read made it very clear that businesses should be integrating these technologies as a priority. Stat!

Well, call me sceptical, but this, once more, feels like someone waving shiny baubles in my face and trying to attract me to the newest toy in the toy shop! As an IT Leader, this constant flag waving by vendors with new technologies and telling us how important it is for our business becomes wearing after a while.

It would be wonderful if we, as CIOs or CTOs, had the bandwidth to concentrate on technologies like DARQ, but when most businesses haven’t got round to sorting out their infrastructure let alone delivering a digital agenda, why on earth would it be a good idea to consider implementing anything DARQ! We have far more prosaic things to worry about.

The point here is that there’s always a significant lag between what industry is pushing as the next “big” thing and what gets implemented in the business; Cloud was a big thing in industry for many years before it finally caught on in business itself. And quite rightly most companies will avoid playing at the bleeding edge of technology and one our roles is to manage expectations and ensure the right new technology is implemented.

I spoke to a CEO the other week who said their CIO was focussed on delivering a critical infrastructure project that would make a significant difference to the business. I suspect if that CIO had mentioned DARQ technologies to the CEO with that project not yet put to bed, they might have got short shrift. As a venerable CFO once told me; “Focus on what makes a difference” and it’s a mantra that’s worked well for me. As an example I once worked out that the biggest difference I could make to the business was persuading the board to invest in Microsoft Office skills for all employees. The CEO couldn’t quite believe it, but after a companywide office training programme, productivity was significantly up across the board. Sometimes, it really is the simple stuff that makes a difference.

This is the thing with these new technologies though; it’s easy to get distracted and start banging the drum when our credibility, at least initially, lies in getting the basics right. If there’s a perception that IT is causing disruption within the business, engagement will focus around resolving those issues, not the IT strategy or new opportunities. Here’s the kicker though; any CIO or CTO that only concentrates on operational activities and resolving issues is never going to get credibility at board level.

To this end, I’ve had much success moving operational issues in to a separate reporting “box” extracting it from the significant and strategic and thus separating the conversations. I’ve also found that working directly with the other department leaders ahead of SMT meetings and showing them that their issues are being dealt with ensures general consensus in the SMT that IT Operations is in hand so there’s no need to discuss again in the meeting. This gives you the opportunity to concentrate on the value-add and strategic stuff. Of course if the operational things don’t get fixed then it’s going to come back to the SMT, but that’s what you’ve got a team or an MSP for, right?

Is DARQ important? Maybe. Are other new technologies important too? Possibly. Are they a priority? No, not for most businesses and we need to be confident about that viewpoint and share it with others. They may be aspirational technologies and have a place at the far end of a strategic plan, but they’re usually not for now. The IT landscape and the management and operation of it is complex enough without adding in tech with a dubious pedigree. So, for the sake of your own sanity, leave the shiny toys on the shelves and deliver what’s going to make a difference.