Fungible.

It isn't a pretty word. In fact, it sounds much more like a key term on your 10th grade organic chemistry test than something you would need here, in the world of business. But hold on to that term, because it's going to be crucial in your efforts to help navigate your business through Digital Transformation.

DX Isn't New, But We Still Haven't Nailed IT


The term Digital Transformation first began making the rounds in the 1990's. It made another appearance in the early 2000's, and is now rocking the enterprise world once again.

Digital Transformation is nothing new. In fact, we had a round of it back in the 1990's, and it made another appearance in the early 2000's. IT professionals like the network administrator and other business leaders often think of Digital Transformation as a specific undertaking: something that is entirely different from implementing new software or migrating from an on-premises data center to an on-prem/cloud hybrid. It isn't.

Digital Transformation is nothing other than your organization's ability to adopt, adapt to, and fully utilize the technologies available today. So, if you're a network administrator who's always hearing (or talking about) how your company needs to embrace the "Digital Transformation," you're kind of missing the point. What your company needs to do is determine which technologies can add value to your business and how best to implement and utilize those technologies for strategic (or operational or technical or financial, etc.) advantages.

Now Back to Our Vocabulary Lesson

Merriam-Webster defines fungible as:

1: being of such a nature that one part or quantity may be replaced by another equal part or quantity in the satisfaction of an obligation [That definition of the word doesn't help much here; it's primarily used in the finance industry to discuss the exchangeability of commodities like oil and grain. Try these instead:]
2: interchangeable
3: flexible

There. Those last two are most relevant to our discussion.

Fungibility is not the capacity to change something, as in, "the network administrator has the fungibility to lead us through Digital Transformation." Rather it is the ability to be changed, as in, "that network administrator works for a company that is fungible enough to be successful at Digital Transformation."

Ah, now we're getting somewhere.

Success at Digital Transformation is directly related to the fungibility of the business. In other words, it isn't about the network administrator or an IT manager or even the top company exec coming in and changing the business to accept Digital Transformation. Instead, it's about the business being intrinsically changeable, and capable of adopting and utilizing the technologies they need to succeed.

The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall Into Change


The larger the business is, the harder it is for them to change. That's why Digital Transformation is so much harder in the enterprise than it is in smaller companies.

Most network administrators didn't go to business school, but you can still study and learn many of the principles of business that will help you guide your organization during the process of Digital Transformation (and, frankly, all the other times, as well).

Business students learn about the stages a company goes through, from conceptualization through the steps of becoming a dominant enterprise. One of the hallmarks of a younger company is its ability to change. To be agile. Not just to embrace change, but to be fundamentally changed. That's fungibility.

As the business grows, however, they gain other qualities. The business becomes more financially sound, and instead of getting loans and getting acquired, they reach the stage of acquiring other companies. But with the size, strength, and solidity that comes with growth, the business loses much, most, or all of its fungibility. It becomes "set in its ways". That, as every network administrator knows, is the antithesis of Digital Transformation.

Is Your Organization Capable of Fundamental Change?

The network administrator is often relegated to merely overseeing the changes of the network as the company tries to navigate Digital Transformation. But the network is actually the backbone of transformation. If it isn't capable of withstanding the load that Digital Transformation brings, there won't be any success with transformation. Cloud-based applications, mobile accessibility, SaaS software, and accessing those bloated data centers filled with big data and analytical tools: all of these aspects of Digital Transformation are dependent on the network administrator's ability to keep the network running at optimal efficiency.

That means that the network administrator needs to take a seat in the cockpit when it comes to helping the business navigate the deep, dark waters of Digital Transformation. Here are some techniques for doing it right:

Results-Based Digital Transformation -- Never adopt new tools or processes until you've identified what the results of adoption are and weighed the potential ROI against the cost and feasibility of implementation. Is there something else you already have, or something easier to adopt, that can do the same thing?
Evaluating New Technologies -- Whether it's a new strategy or process like DevOps, or a new technology like the software-defined network, don't rush to be early adopters. The early bird is often the one who chokes on a worm. Take a wait and see approach. See how other companies (particularly those in your own industry) handle adoption. Let them learn those newbie lessons, and then your business will be primed and ready to adopt when the technology is mature and it's clear what it brings to the enterprise.
Don't Go All-In From the Beginning -- Riding a bike without training wheels is good, but broken arms and knotted noggins are not. Just like a parent protects a child with helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, and such, the network administrator should insist that the IT department keep current systems and processes in place until the newly adopted ones are running smoothly. Sure, in the short term this may mean additional strain on the network. But it avoids costly downtime in the event that the new technology came with some unforeseen problems. Keep those helmets and knee pads on until you're sure of your balance without the training wheels.

Are you prepared to help usher your company into the age of Digital Transformation? We've prepared help for the network administrator. Take advantage of the free download of Digital IT and Transformation: A Global View of Trends and Requirementnow.