What 'digital transformation' really should mean

Unlike most buzz phrases, “digital transformation” keeps gaining popularity through the years. This is mainly because from the very beginning, it has invited whatever meaning marketers wanted to slather onto it. Today, digital transformation seems to mean that together cloud and social and mobile and big data and AI and IoT and devops (plus whatever other else you want to throw in) yield a tipping point where businesses discover new revenue opportunities and become qualitatively more efficient. Or something like that.

Sure, today’s explosion in enterprise tech is unprecedented, but the promise of transformation almost always disappoints. Part of the reason is that there can be no static endpoint — by the time you assemble perfection, it’s obsolete. The other difficulty is that the same old problems that have persisted through many generations of technology continue to hold us back.

To thrive amid all this glorious new tech and digitally transform, we need to focus on solving the foundational problems first. And if we nailed just this handful that would truly be transformative:

Shabby security. Lack of technology is not the problem here; human behavior is. If companies patched software promptly, successful attacks would decrease by a magnitude. If users were trained to stop doing stupid stuff like getting phished or downloading and installing malware masquerading as anti-malware, we’d see far fewer breaches. Multi-factor authentication and better event monitoring and new ubiquitous encryption schemes can help. But until enterprises make security basics a C-level priority, we’ll be continued to be hobbled by rolling security disasters.