Digital Systems Maturity

John W Lewis's picture
Chat Date: 
Thu, Jun 01, 2017

Are digital systems ready for the purposes to which they are being put? Is their capability, including their range of behaviour, their resilience, functionality, performance, security, etc. up to the tasks for which they are being used?

British Airways had a major IT systems failure last week. Many thousands of people were inconvenienced worldwide, and the cost to the airline is likely to be over 100 Million pounds (or dollars, there's not much difference these days!) How did that happen? [Yes, this topic in its many guises is shaping up to be a "hobby horse"on #innochat!

Where were the manual fallback systems? What? They don't have any?!! Is there no way to pick up the telephone and get the information needed to operated flights? Almost certainly not.

Thankfully, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) people who control the operation of flights do have manual fall back systems. They have them because they know that their digital systems can fail and do fail. ATC can fall back on hand-written strips for each flight and older, more reliable, forms of communication, using telephones and radio. Even if all of that fails, the aircraft are still flying and pilots follow their flight plans and people in control towers have equipment for flashing lights or firing flares of different colours which pilots have all been trained to understand.
Even the weather forecasting services for aviation have redundancy designed into the system.
But if the reservation and flight planning systems go down: "Oops, sorry we can't fly"! Well, that's just daft.

While digital systems are a great help, they are not as reliable or as resilient as other technologies. Yet, the conversion of all systems to use digital technology seems to be everyone's goal.

The increased use of digital systems has many enormous advantages, and quite a few disadvantages too. As with the adoption of any different approach, technology, or process, when they are applied in different fields, their disadvantages have consequences which are very different in nature and scale.

See also, this article by Geoffrey Moore: "Digital Systems Maturity Model",


Let's discuss this during #innochat on 1st June 2017 on Twitter starting at 12 noon Esatern time, based on the following questions:

  1. In which crucial areas are digital systems being used without adequate risk migitation?
  2. How suitable are digital systems for the purposes to which they are being applied?
  3. What happens if we try to solve the problems by retreating from digital transformation?
  4. What happens if we try to solve the problems by overcoming the obstacles?
  5. How do we decided on the way forward for the adoption of digital systems?


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