When Digitalisation goes Pear-Shaped

In a recent conversation with the General Manager of small construction company, I heard the ultimate nightmare of digitalisation gone pear-shaped.

You have probably heard about last week’s cyber-attack in which hackers are attempting to blackmail businesses by closing down their systems. Well, one of the victims is one of Europe’s largest construction supplies manufacturers. The current construction site is quite small and they order just in time to reduce the risk of theft. Plans and delivery schedules have been with suppliers for many months. The only problem is – they can’t get into the system so can’t supply. I naively asked whether or not they had back-ups. Of course, he replied, but this is also blocked. And they have no access to email. No paper plans? I asked. We’re getting them out now, but still don’t know whether they will be in a position to access and ship materials.

The site is almost at a standstill – a few smaller jobs can be done. Fortunately, the shell is complete so they don’t need any more concrete. « If we did, everyone would have to be sent home – there is none available, » he said.

This week, I’ve read of a chocolate manufacturer as well as a supplier of health products suffering similar problems.

Without a doubt, digital technology can make business work more efficiently … when it works. Without a doubt, it can apparently make processes clearer and save money … when it works.

Are we too quick to embrace new trends? Are we giving enough consideration to the risks involved in placing all our eggs into the digital basket? Are business decisions being taken by technology specialists who do not understand the broader implications of the change in strategy?

The problem is over-reliance on technology. The world is unpredictable – it’s not a machine.

How many organisations are going to re-consider their digitalisation strategy as a result of this latest hack?