In the 1940s, Thomas J. Watson predicted that the world needed no more than five computers. In 1969, there were over 69,000 mainframe computers in the US. In Germany, there were over 8,000 in 1971. Over forty years ago, personal computers replaced the green host screens. Nowadays applications run in the cloud. We assume that the network runs stable and that all applications are accessible at all times. On October 4th 2021, 9 am PDT, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp went down for six hours. After hours, the world learned that a wrong configuration was the reason for the outage.
No doubt it was a matter of some wrong settings. However, we learn nothing about the reasons behind. The decisive factor is assuming the responsibility. However, there is always room for interpretation – if not for conspiracy theories. Wrong settings have many possible causes.
- Operating errors
There are no man-made things that are error-free. It may be due to the program code or the settings of a server or the adjustments for the Internet. It is often not the original error that appears, but only effects that have to be traced back. Meanwhile, the impacts spread. This results in many failures in a short period of time, which have to be rolled back eventually. In any case, it were wrong settings.
An operating error happens without intention. When someone deliberately causes a breakdown, the malfunction feels initially like an operating error. However, the bad intentions lead to the fact that the saboteurs prepare their acts well in advance and obfuscate them accordingly. It can take some time until the actors are debunked. To what extent the real reasons will ever become known is an open question. In any case, it were wrong settings.
Failures quickly lead to hazardous incidents, which cause outage, which cause interruptions, and so on. Since errors spread at the speed of light, not only does the original defect need to be fixed, but so do all subsequent ones. Once the servers are no longer recognized, it takes hours to restore the original conditions. In any case, it were wrong settings.
- Failed integration
When complex IT systems converge, unforeseen difficulties quickly arise. In order to get rid of them, parameters are readjusted. This can then lead to aftereffects that build up. When systems fail, it takes time to modify the settings and restart the systems. In any case, it were wrong settings.
- Security leaks
Incorrect settings lead to open entry points that are used by hackers. It does not matter whether they pursue private, commercial or political intentions. Every program has a security hole that can be exploited with the right code. The fact that the backdoors are open is only detected by the operators after an incident occurred. However, it is important for us users to know if our data is safe. In any case, it were wrong settings.
Bottom line: Facebook has reacted professionally by taking responsibility. Yet, it remains open what is behind the incorrect configuration. You have to live with simple operating errors, because they are human – even after good training reduces the number. Saboteurs are already hard to find – despite the many log files. Malfunctions are fate, as they result from the complex interaction of IT systems and modules and no one can foresee them. When systems are upgraded to a new version or get harmonized, unpredictable errors occur. Security weaknesses are particularly unpleasant when personal data is stored. The actual reasons are only understood by experts and they remain in the dark to conceal the own weaknesses. The quick announcement that it was a wrong configuration of the provider is the only way to react responsibly – even if we don’t really know, what it was.
When people were torn between the material and ideal world, alchemists were searching for the means of the means, the philosopher’s stone. It was supposed to pull the ignoble out of base metals and diseased creatures through transmutation to create gold or eternal life. However, the alchemists were unable to produce gold even under torture. Until today people are looking for means to improve the world. They are currently focusing on the Digital.
Like the Philosopher’s Stone, hopes are raised among decision-makers, which, above all, offer advantages for the current magicians – the ICT provider and consultants. Yet, despite this, the digital transformation needs dramatic changes in the flow before anything else.
- Delays affect stronger than before
Those who cannot get a hold on repeating unpunctuality will experience additional difficulties with the digital transformation. Procedures that take too long, unprocessed piles of orders growing steadily, and delivery dates that are not fulfilled lead to conflicts with clients faster and faster. As long as parts of the process still occur outside of computers, incalculable burden speeds of manual and automated processing the flow and jam unnecessary additional activities including extensive reworking the reliable handling – even with a high degree of digitization. The maximum shift of the processes into the virtuality ensures their flow and provides those involved with the desired results with minimum delay.
- Error sources create more severe consequences
Today’s complexity offers various sources of error that are difficult to trace back to the root cause. For example, if delivery does not reach its destination because the address is incorrect or the wrong articles are delivered, the customers get frustrated. First of all, their order does not arrive on time, secondly, they feel poorly served, and thirdly, they classify the provider as incompetent. Digitization offers an amelioration by automating simple routines. However, this requires that you know your procedures. With digitization, procedures become even faster and more essential, and thus the launch of ICT harder.
- Shortcomings harm more intense
Particularly unpleasant are the minor flaws that interfere with the procedure, such as a less intuitive user interface, faulty deliverables, and an uncomfortable, time-consuming way to fix deficiencies. In addition, the website’s lousy response times, excessive entry validation, or unclear contact persons spoil the customer for further use. Digitization will increase the share of ICT in value creation and accelerate the transactions. If you do solve these flaws, the clients are gone – forever.
- Foresight does not work anymore
The good news is that in the future potential customers can be found everywhere – globally. All are just one click away, and expect prompt delivery. This changes the entire previous thinking – ten-hour hotlines are no longer enough; many new regulations and laws have to be considered; one or two languages in the user interface and the hotline are too few. The list can be expanded as desired. Digital transformation builds on a new look at customers – How big is the target group? Where are the customers of tomorrow? What time are they active? How fast do we have to deliver? Forward-looking planning becomes impossible, mainly because there is no time left to react.
- Customer loyalty is volatile
In the absence of personal contact, it becomes more challenging to retain customers. As a result, they only remain loyal until the next search delivers a better result. The digital transformation needs a new form of customer intimacy. For instance, completely new attendances can offer customers added value that motivates them to come back regularly. Examples are the lists of previous purchases or personal referrals depending on your buying behavior. Additional deliverables are conceivable, such as access to an exclusive network or the provision of further explanations and articles. Thus, the digital transformation has a fundamental influence on the existing business model.
Bottom line: As in earlier centuries, it turns out that the philosopher’s stone, today the digital, still shimmers. However, today it is possible for everyone to benefit from the digital transformation through resolute preparation. Delays, errors, shortcomings, the lack of foresight, and the crumbling customer loyalty can be wiped out by overhauling the business model. The digital transformation requires a capable ICT and the change of all areas of the company. That way, you use the Lapis Philosophorum of the 21st century.