I’m a huge fan of Tom Fishburne, a.k.a. Marketoonist. Every week, I look forward to his latest cartoon, pulling back the curtain on some absurdity of modern marketing that we all recognize but rarely call out. Tom artfully reveals the de-syncs between the dream and reality, in a way that’s funny and insightful.
You laugh, but he also helps you view marketing through a more pragmatic lens.
The above cartoon on “digital transformation” this past week was one of his best. Crikey, I can’t count how many times I’ve had some variation of that experience — almost always, ironically, in the context of trying to have a conference call about some new state-of-the-art technology. It’s like we’re planning a gourmet meal while still trying to figure out how to make fire.
From the 400+ of you who “liked” my share of his cartoon on Twitter — and the comments in reply — it’s clear that many of you could relate as well.
What I didn’t realize until later was that Tom referenced my post from 2013 on his write-up accompanying the cartoon. (I published an updated version of the post in 2016,
My first reaction was, “whoa, cool” — to be cited by someone whose work I admire so much is a nice surprise. The marketing geek in me enjoyed a moment of giddiness.
But as I thought about it, I also appreciated how brilliantly this cartoon captures the effects of Martec’s Law in the real world. I tend to get a little abstract in my writing — this case in point: technology changes exponentially, organizations change logarithmically — but Tom nailed a concrete example of this disparity.
The barriers that the protagonist in this cartoon is running into aren’t actually technical — they’re managerial. It’s management choices to limit file sizes, standardize on a single web client, block services at the firewall, forbid collaborative cloud apps, etc.
That’s not to say that those choices are completely arbitrary. Actually, you can make a case for each of them for reasons of security and control, reducing IT risk.
But these policies that are established with good intentions to minimize IT risk almost always have the side effect of creating a different kind of risk — business risk that the organization falls behind in its capabilities that new technologies are bringing to the market — and to their competitors and, most of all, to the expectations of their customers.
We need to manage IT risk. But we can’t ignore business risk either.