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Is it REALLY a transformation?



This morning, another email landed in my inbox promising to help me to transform my storage environment. There was an email over the weekend that promised to show me how to transform my applications. And at least two last week promising this or that technology transformation would revolutionize the technology implemented by my company and enable us to pull ahead of the competition – or words to that effect.

So, I’m wondering if all of these promised new technologies are really transformational, or what a transformation even looks like? Webster’s Dictionary says that transformation is “a complete or major change in someone’s or something’s appearance, form, etc.” By that definition, to be considered a transformation, the change would need to be something REALLY major.

While I expect that “the transformation is in the eye of the beholder,” updating your storage technology or making your applications more efficient or even moving the entire suite to a new platform is a major change that will bring improvement–these things are probably not by themselves transformative. I also think that history tells us that we can only really tell if we’ve had a transformation by looking in the rearview mirror.

Only a few technologies come to mind over the years that can, by strict definition, truly be considered transformative; however, they didn’t happen in a day and weren’t a single thing.

  • Server technology took us from the days of everything running on a centralized mainframe.
  • The Internet brought readily accessible information and communication to the world.
  • Virtualization gave us more effective use of our servers.
  • The cloud gave us flexibility and freed us from worrying about infrastructure.

Contrary to the marketing material, those things didn’t happen in a single transformative leap, but rather quite incrementally with a lot of missteps along the way.

If we look at the development of IT historically, we transitioned gradually from one technology to the next to the next until we landed where we are today. I would argue that transition can lead to transformation, but is not by itself transformative.

The problem with the overuse of the word transformation is one of expectations. The headline or the ad promises to transform your business, and the expectation is that this will be game-changing. Assuming the product performs as promised in the details that come after the headline, this product will probably:

  • Increase revenue
  • Increase productivity
  • Improve availability
  • Decrease errors, etc.

But if the expectation is a transformation, disappointment and disillusionment can quickly result. If the ad-makers continue to use the word transformation, it will become trite and readers will begin, much like I have, to become jaded to transformation and not recognize it when it happens or, worse yet, completely ignore a tool that could help them.

Is it time then, to find another word to describe the amazing product or service that you can provide? Some synonyms likely to catch the reader’s attention are: turnaround, improvement, modernization, enhancement, upgrade. While these words might not seem to have the impact of transformation, if no one believes it anyway, accuracy might be the best choice.

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