Picture Scrooge as the CEO of Dickens Mortgage & Loan, who ran the business with long-time friend Jacob Marley, until Marley died. Together, they grew the business and made a lot of money for decades. But the company was struggling in today’s fast-paced business environment and Scrooge became more miserable with each passing day.
Bob Cratchit, as the VP of IT, had told Scrooge that new advancements in digital technology were giving competitors distinct advantages. Without a complete transformation of their business, Dickens M&L would end up as just a memory from a different era.
“Bah! Humbug!” cried Scrooge. “Technology is no more than an overhead cost that invites complexity and chaos. I’m not going to change a business that has been successful for more than 150 years!”
One cold evening, as Scrooge walked home, his frustration grew as he considered Cratchit’s incessant nagging about the need for new digital technology and how it would provide opportunities to engage customers more intimately and reduce the cost of operations. He longed for the good ol’ days when he and Marley could put an ad in the paper and see an immediate uptick in customer calls. It was even more infuriating that unhappy customers could now go online to give your company a poor rating for all to see.
As Scrooge prepared for bed, the room quickly became cold. The lights flickered and the power went out. Suddenly, he heard chains rattling and loud moaning.
Out of nowhere, a ghost appeared!
“Ebenezer Scrooge …” the spirit moaned.
“Who are you?!?” cried Scrooge!
“In life, I was your partner, Jacob Marley. Because of my actions, I forged these chains through my mistreatment of employees and customers. Because of your actions, you’re headed for a fate worse than mine.”
“But you were a brilliant businessman,” exclaimed Scrooge.
Marley interrupted, “I took advantage of customers by not giving them with a chance to communicate with us. I forced employees to do work that could easily have been done using technology. I shunned all the good that technology can bring to a business. You must embrace technology now if you want to escape my fate.”
“But, I don’t know how,” whimpered Scrooge.
“Tonight, to teach you, you will be visited by three spirits – the ghosts of IT past, IT present, and IT future,” Marley explained.
Marley vanished, leaving Scrooge standing cold and alone in his bedroom. Disturbed and confused, he went to bed. He awoke a short time later to hear a young girl call his name.
Startled, Scrooge called out, “Who’s there?!?”
“I am the ghost of IT past. You don’t believe in the value of IT, but you’ve used technology to build success throughout your career.”
“I’ve created my success through grit and determination!”
“You’re romanticizing the past,” the spirit corrected. “I’m going to take you there now to remind you of the truth.”
In an instant, the two are standing in the doorway of Scrooge’s former employer, Mr. Fezziwig. Colleagues admired the man for his ability to grow the business and keep employees happy. One of Scrooge’s first projects at Fezziwig’s was to coordinate the replacement of all typewriters with new word processers and computers. Not only did productivity increase that year, but the money saved on paper and ink was reinvested back into the business. The Christmas party that year was legendary!
“I’d forgotten how proud I was of my contributions,” Scrooge declared. “We were the first to move to computers. That Fezziwig was quite the innovator.”
The spirit interrupted “… but your appreciation for those qualities soon waned. At Dickens M&L, you were so focused on strategy and revenue that you forgot how technology helps produce efficiencies and open new business opportunities.”
“What did you expect?!? It was my job to focus on strategy and revenue.”
“Yes,” the spirit replied. “But there are many managers who appreciate the value that technology delivers, and they leverage IT every day to improve operations and increase profits.”
The spirit waved her hand, and Scrooge was back in bed, alone in the dark. “Bah!” he muttered.
A short while later, Scrooge was awakened by hearty laughing. He went to investigate.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my house?”
“Ha ha ha, I’m the ghost of IT present.” The spirit was enormous and surrounded by a bountiful feast. He took a bite of a large turkey leg and called out to Scrooge “Come in, and know me better, man!”
“I don’t need to know you better, I need to get some sleep!” Scrooge declared.
“I suggest the opposite,” said the spirit. “You need to open your eyes to all the wondrous things technology can do for your business.”
Before Scrooge could protest, the spirit waved his mighty hand, and they were transported to Bob Cratchit’s meager house. It was the night before Christmas and the Cratchit family was preparing for the next day’s festivities. Scrooge and the spirit peered in the window …
“Mother, how long before father returns?” one child asked.
“It should be any minute now, dear. Your father and Tiny Tim went to the homeless shelter to help distribute supplies.”
Seconds later, Cratchit and Tiny Tim came through the door, cold and somewhat frustrated.
Mrs. Cratchit asked “Is everything ok?”
“I wish,” replied Bob. “Some Christmas magic would have been helpful at the shelter. The program director ordered supplies weeks ago, but the vendor’s ordering system hasn’t been updated in over a decade. Demand has grown and they can no longer meet delivery deadlines.”
“What does this mean for the shelter?” asked Mrs. Cratchit.
“The shelter planned for 1,800 people, with some staying overnight, but others simply needing basic supplies for Christmas at home. Because of the outdated order processing and supply-chain systems, only 1,200 people received supplies. 600 people will go without on Christmas.”
Scrooge turned to the spirit. “What will happen to those people if they can’t get their supplies, spirit?”
“Some may be hungry or cold, while others will get sick,” said the spirit. “… and some may die.”
“There must be something we can do. With all your power and wisdom, can’t you help those people?”
“I could ask the same of you, Scrooge. With all your resources and influence, you could have invested in technologies that would allow for innovation, opening up new employment opportunities. You could have put systems in place to ease the burden on existing employees so they could be more productive. You could have freed up budget to reinvest back into the business and made it more profitable so you could create charity programs to help the very people you claim to be so concerned about now.”
Scrooge’s heart sank. From customers to employees to their families, all were affected by Scrooge’s unwillingness to invest in technology and transform the business.
Scrooge turned to ask the spirit what to do next, but the spirit was already gone. Scrooge realized he was alone, on a damp sidewalk on the other side of the city. A fog was rolling in, and he noticed several businesses were shuttered, no longer in operation.
A long shadow cast down on Scrooge. He turned and saw a tall figure.
“Are you the ghost if IT future?” asked Scrooge.
The spirit, shrouded by a hood and cloak, simply nodded.
“Where has everyone gone, spirit?” Scrooge asked, weakly.
The spirit said not a word, but pointed a boney finger across the street where many people were standing, crowded and impatient in a line. Scrooge heard several talking.
“This is not how I envisioned Christmas Eve … in the unemployment line,” said one. “Unemployment benefits provide a great service, but with so many of us burdening the system, I can’t see how it can be sustained.”
“This was a beautiful town, but it all fell apart because Dickens M&L refused to transform their business to meet modern-day needs. With so many of the businesses in town relying on them for loans and money for payroll, the company’s collapse meant that the other businesses went down like dominoes.”
“How are we supposed to survive?”
“A lot of folks are moving to the valley, where they embrace technology. Digital tech is everywhere; everyone and everything is connected, with the customer at the heart of every company’s business model. It’s a utopia for business growth, innovation, and opportunity.”
Then, a man’s modest voice joined the conversation. “It could have been like that here. If my old boss, Ebenezer Scrooge, had mapped out the architecture for the business and IT ecosystems, I’m convinced we could have helped these businesses stay open, and kept this town strong and prosperous.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, Bob,” said a woman. “Regardless of how cold and detached he was from the rest of us, we know you were close to Mr. Scrooge. You always seemed to have hope that he would change.”
“He was a good man at heart,” replied Cratchit. “He didn’t intend for things to go like this, but he just didn’t understand how much good it would do the bank and the town to have new technology. Now he’s dead, and he’ll never know what could have been.”
Scrooge turned to the spirit and begged “Please tell me this isn’t what will be, but instead what might happen if events are changed.” But, the spirit was gone.
Scrooge realized that everyone was gone. The streets were cold and empty. For the first time in a very long time, Scrooge became aware of how his rejection of technology impacted so many people.
He felt his breathing became shallow. As he gasped for air, his surroundings began to spin. As he started to lose consciousness, Scrooge realized there would be no one there to catch him. No one to help him. If only he had done things differently…
Scrooge felt himself fall backwards, and a final, weak breath escaped from his lips.
He awoke to find himself in his bed. He leapt to his feet and threw open the window to find a girl walking on the street below. He called to her, “Hello! Young lady!”
“Can you tell me what day is it?”
“It’s Christmas, of course.”
Scrooge hurriedly thought, “They did it. The spirits did it all in one night. I still have time to change, to work with Bob Cratchit and upgrade the bank’s IT landscape.”
The next day Scrooge called Bob Cratchit into his office.
“Bob, my friend. I hope you and your loved ones enjoyed the holiday.”
“Thank you, Mr. Scrooge. It was quite wonderful.”
“Bob, we’re going to make big changes around here! I’m promoting you to CIO and I want your first priority to be upgrading our IT landscape. I’m going to triple the IT budget for the coming year. What do you think?”
Bob stammered for a moment, caught off guard by this incredible turn of events. “I … I’m grateful. Thank you, Mr. Scrooge.”
“No thanks necessary, Bob. This was long overdue. Do you have any ideas about where we should start?”
“Of course!” Bob declared. “First, we’ll need to purchase enterprise architecture software so we can create visibility into the IT landscape and the entire business ecosystem. We’ll be able to understand where we are now, where we want to go, and how we’re going to get there.”
Scrooge’s enthusiasm grew. “They make software that can do that?!?"
Bob’s enthusiasm matched Scrooge’s. “Yes, it’ll provide analytics about the business and information to support strategic investments for innovation and growth. We can also create customer journey maps to ensure we’re delivering the experience the customer expects at each touchpoint throughout their engagement with Dickens M&L.”
Scrooge put his arm around Bob’s shoulder and said “Bob, I want to grow this business. I want to ensure our employees are well-compensated and have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively, that we deliver what our customers need to finance their lives and achieve their dreams, and that we give back to the community so we can all prosper as family and neighbors.”
Bob was speechless. This is everything he had hoped would happen. It was truly a Christmas miracle.
Merry Christmas to all, from MEGA.