I would like to bring attention to a catchy new term that is suggestive, meaningful, memorable, and reflective of many challenges within the present IT climate. The term invokes a particular, real, tangible business problem -- and perhaps also a metric -- that underscores why technology vision and leadership are so important within our complex and evolving enterprise landscape.

What is Clickflation?

Quite simply, Clickflation is the unfortunate state of a single click doing less, being less effective, less efficient, less powerful and less potent than it could or should otherwise be. It is the enervation, devaluation, and degeneration of our most basic and frequent professional gesticulation, our most mundane, rudimentary, imbecilic – yet quite potentially turbo charged – means of getting work accomplished.

What are its observable symptoms in practice?

There would undoubtedly be too many symptoms of Clickflation to expound them exhaustively in the confines of this short blog. But many of the symptoms can be associated with resource fragmentation: the double entries across multiple systems; the extra trips down the hall to share the same information, repeatedly, with other departments; the additional emails that must be manually sent and recorded; the reports that must be compiled by hand from multiple sources and data sets; the routine phone calls and follow-up notifications that are necessary to check on item status; the alerts and reminders that must be issued; the additional logins; the teams swollen with administrative staff who work diligently all day long while still failing to achieve optimum levels of performance with the available tools.

Why should it be such a concern?

Clickflation may not immediately feel like a serious dilemma. You might think to yourself, “It’s just a click, right? It is innocuous. It’s so minor and fleeting. What does it matter? Who cares if my employees must click a few extra times to make everything work?” But this endemic nonchalance and apathy towards the click is just evidence of the malefaction. Rather, the apathetic attitude is unquestionably the whole point.

The gravity of the problem becomes more apparent as soon as one arrives at a mature appreciation of the prospective diligence of one individual click. It may initially seem like a very small and forgivable matter that a particular task might require something like 10+ clicks. But the cost of those clicks will be felt in starkest terms as soon as the equivalent workload can be accomplished by a competitor with only a single click – a mighty click that thereafter passes prudent information in flawless sequence to several departments, setting in motion an automated workflow, which results in a dozen emails, subsequent reminders, periodic progress reports, and precision performance analytics, all as the result of one seemingly insignificant tap on a mouse or a screen.

When compounded and multiplied across departments and divisions, the incremental implications of unbridled Clickflation could very conceivably have a significant impact, capable even of eroding the competitiveness and long-term viability of an organization. In the neglect and inattention to Clickflation, many businesses will be required to maintain what will gradually become comparatively escalated manpower, overhead, and operating costs. In many situations, the same businesses that neglect Clickflation will also simultaneously find it more difficult to deliver the anticipated standard of immediate, on-demand, fully-transparent customer service.

What causes it?

Clickflation can be caused as easily by organizational culture (when executives underestimate a single click’s value) as by mergers and acquisitions (when entire system architectures collide). It is likewise a frequent consequence of industry trends like BYOD and the proliferation of new and powerful personal productivity applications. It is furthermore what can happen when contemporary users find, adopt, and institutionalize their own fragmented solutions – often without asking – while they are trying to get something done (leaving the IT professionals to cope with yet additional legacy tools and resources).

How can it be avoided?

The capacity of a single contemporary click to be imbued, for the most modest investment, with greater productivity, such that the click might amplify the individual finger twitch to equal the productive power of one or more full time coordinators -- self-administering workflows and all -- is restricted only by the leadership, organizational vision, and planning at an institution.

Deflation of the click, and restoration of its value, is therefore well within the immediate reach of most organizations, even if organizations don’t often realize it. The process starts with nothing more than a simple, yet earnest, executive-level commitment to innovation. The right professionals (i.e., usually the CIO, an IT Manager, or a consultant) must then be given full authority to analyze the existing data flows at an organization, so as to diagnose inefficiencies and identify desirable improvements. Finally, the acumen of the executive thought leader must be coupled with the informed expertise and practical-know how of a qualified, responsible IT team (internal or external) that can bring into existence the envisioned integrations and automations. User frustrations and Clickflation problems solved.

It’s hardly a complex, mysterious, or arcane resolution to the matter. But the unfortunate fact is that most organizations still don’t realize the actual scope of integrations and automations that can truly be achieved, even with their existing legacy products. Nor do most organizations realize how affordable such integrations and automations can really be, especially when the resulting efficiencies are taken into consideration.

As a metric

If we could somehow monitor Clickflation in a practical way, it might be the most concrete evidence that demonstrates why fragmented systems and unregulated adoption of tools is a matter about which we should be somewhat more circumspect. This is a measure that could certainly serve as yet one more convincing justification for serious and substantive IT initiatives and improvements.

Just consider these two scenarios:

  • How meaningful would it be to conclusively demonstrate something like 50% Clickflation across the board (ex. the process that took the Accounting Department 2 clicks to accomplish last month took the same department 9 or 20 clicks this month, because the Department was suddenly required to duplicate data entry within a new “rogue” system that was introduced by another division)?
  • Would it not likewise be an amazing measure of the CIO’s efficacy to be able to claim 95% deflation (i.e., the same processes that took the Accounting Department 40 clicks to accomplish last year, took only 2 to accomplish this year)?

Concluding Thoughts

As a general operating principle, Clickflation brings direct attention to the gap between our industry’s potential software capabilities and the actual application of those capabilities within many organizations. As time passes, the most successful organizations will surely be those that aim to close this gap – and reduce their Clickflation – sooner, rather than later.

Solutions to the challenges of Clickflation are well within reach at most organizations. Well-intentioned aspirations for productive, valuable clicks need not be surrendered so readily. Even when dealing with the most frustrating combination of systems, a very modest investment can often transform operations and achieve a major impact.

In some cases, it might just be a matter of finding the right team or partner that can move a project forward at the appropriate speed. In the quest to curtail Clickflation, it might help to select a partner with an Agile orientation, so that outcomes can be gauged gradually, and priorities adjusted over time.

If you have any thoughts on the ideas in this article, we would really love to hear from you! Are you experiencing Clickflation at your organization, and/or have you ever seen it affect an environment where you were working? Feel free to use the comment section below to respond, or join the conversation by tweeting to #clickflation.