The eighth person hired at Google, and its first vice president of engineering, talked at Collision conference 2015 about how the world's largest Internet company nearly failed. Urs Holzle, who was an associate professor of computer science at U.C. Santa Barbara before becoming the eighth person hired at Google, said the reason the company has done so well in the search market is because it has a better, faster infrastructure.

"I'm amazed we made it this far," he said. "We had plenty of chances to fail and, in a few cases, came pretty close to it. (...) A year after we were founded, the bubble burst and it was impossible to raise any funding (...) We were trying really, really hard to reduce our infrastructure cost and reduce all costs. (...) We made it fine, but I think it was within a year of not working," Holzle added. "Had we taken one more year, it might not have worked out."

Holzle said "That's really a culture question. Fortunately, we've spent a lot of time hiring really good people and they're motivated by accomplishment and not by having an easy life. That's one safety net."

But it is not only rock star companies like Google who are affected by those challenges when integrating new challenging digital technologies. This effects every company. Let me talk in this blog about Digitization

A global survey of CIOs by Gartner (1) showed that many CIOs feel overwhelmed by the prospect of building digital leadership while renovating the core of IT infrastructure and capability for the digital future. The survey found that 51% of CIOs are concerned that the digital torrent is coming faster than they can cope and 42% don’t feel that they have the talent needed to face this future.

In 2012, Apple co-founder and tech icon Steve Wozniak even said he's worried about the "horrendous" problems cloud computing could cause as users yield control of their data to service providers (read more about it in my previous blog entry about cloud computing)

Another study (2) by the Institute for the Future & EMC confirms those results. According to the findings from the Institute of the Future, five key business attributes are critical when integrating new digital technologies: the ability to spot new opportunities, to innovate in an agile way, demonstrate transparency and trust, to deliver a unique and personalized user experience and to operate 24/7 in real time. However, the study also shows that companies do not implement consistently those success factors (the numbers range between 10% and 15%).

When it comes to employees, we see that they are much more keen to adopt digital technologies in the workplace (3). Does this mean that if your are afraid of digitization, you should not be head of IT? Not necessarily, because fear is a good thing and you should keep moving toward fear, not away from it. Some of the reasons are that it keeps you alive, inspires action and is a sign you are doing something awesome.


If you are challenged by projects not resilient enough, processes not yielding the expected results or products and services not getting the necessary acceptance by your customers - don't stop pushing forward with the digitization of your company. Do it right from the start, either with the help from your colleagues or with help from outside your company if you feel you are not yet ready. And keep in mind one of my favorite allegories, saying "life and success is like bicycling: it goes either forward or you fall down, but there is no standstill. If you have to climb a mountain, it goes really hard. But if you feel it goes too easy, then probably you are driving downwards" (L.N.)


(1) "Flipping to Digital Leadership: The 2015 CIO Agenda", Gartner 2015
(2) "The Information Generation: Transforming the Future, Today", EMC 2015
(3) "European Workers Set to Embrace Digital Technologies in the Workplace" , Accenture Research 2015