The Patchwork Enterprise

The enterprise of the future looks something like patchwork.  In a good sense.  Patchwork quilts can be beautiful, blending diversity into a coherent whole – and uniquely distinctive. Often it’s collaboration by a group of quilters that creates them. And they’re not just great art. They keep you warm. They deliver.

Outsourcing is becoming ever more pervasive as globalization drives further specialization. In the villages of our forebears, people came to specialize in baking bread, or working with leather, or shodding ploughhorses. It’s the same in our global village. It doesn’t make sense to do in-house what someone else can do better or cheaper.

Outsourcing may once have been confined to ‘non-core’ activities. Now everything – from R&D through manufacturing and supply chain to customer experience analytics – can be outsourced, and increasingly is.

In this patchwork future, successful enterprises will mirror the best quilting groups: a clear vision, creative collaboration and the means to make decisions. In other words, a well-defined operating model and a framework for effective collaboration that brings everyone’s creativity into its execution.

Of course patchwork has another, negative, meaning: ‘a hodge podge’.

I worked with a multinational client once, leveraging Nimbus to bring multiple HR outsourcing contracts into one coherent whole. That end-to-end perspective exposed the multiple gaps between the expectations of the service providers and the retained organization. Non trivial gaps too.  One was an immediate threat to the entire expatriate payroll.

That’s the hodge podge kind of patchwork enterprise, and it has a very limited future. No-one’s going to want to work with, or buy from, a patchwork enterprise where the patterns and colors don’t match, and you can see the stitching – even worse, the gaps.

Some organizations are trying to stitch their multisourced reality together, buying in ‘managed governance services’ and the like from the Big 4.  But ultimately it demands holistic thinking, discipline and a platform to support it. Much like quilting.

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07 Jan 2013    Cloud Without Risk: Pie In The Sky

13 Dec 2012    The Universal Business Language: Process

© Text Michael Gammage 2013

Process Resistance

I see two kinds of resistance to joined-up process thinking. Sometimes it’s a failure of imagination. People who can’t imagine that things could be significantly better. The opposite of visionary.

More often though, there is understanding of the potential – but a wilful decision not to embrace it. Now resistance may be justified in some circumstances. But most often it’s just an aversion to rigour, accountability and a long-term perspective.

I was in a GBS leadership team discussion recently at a Fortune 500 company. The Head of HR heard the pitch, and the mixed responses from around the table, then summed it up perfectly for her colleagues:

“We may not like it necessarily – but this discipline is exactly what we need.”

Moving an entire GBS organization to a new way of working requires significant and sustained effort, and continuing executive sponsorship.

But without this new way of working, this GBS organization cannot safely deliver its ambitious growth targets.  It reconciles the tension between its twin objectives: to expand at pace, delivering substantial savings and sustained service innovations over the next five years, and to ensure compliance in a highly regulated environment.

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10 Jan 2013    Nimbus V9 And The ROI On Engagement

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© Text Michael Gammage 2013

Nimbus V9 And The ROI On Engagement

nimbus-9-landing-page-banner_tcm8-18116In case you missed the trumpet fanfares: TIBCO just announced the long-awaited V9 release of Nimbus.

Personally, I’m squeamish about hype. I can LOL at the inflated claims of others. But I recoil from it myself (no moral high grounding, just a personal quirk). Anyway, I have to admit that my first instinct was to cringe on reading that V9 is a “revolutionary milestone in business process improvement”.  But, actually, on reflection, my marketing colleagues are about right.

In good teams, people are engaged. Each person feels able and empowered to contribute their ideas. Each one feels involved and confident that their input can make a difference. And, just in case you think this is getting all too luvvy, there’s an ROI here as well. Engaged people are happier. And happy teams are far more productive and creative.

So everything points to the crucial value of engagement. But nurturing it is more difficult, by an order of magnitude, in a world where so many of us are now knowledge workers, often collaborating remotely with people we’ve never met, and across complex global organizational landscapes. How do you get engagement in today’s world?

You can see the search for this modern philosopher’s stone going on all around us. It’s been a major theme in the MixFix debates on re-imagining the enterprise.

One of the keys to engagement is simplicity. People can’t or won’t engage if they don’t understand.

Neil Taylor quoted a great example recently. After six months trying to improve “operational excellence”, only one of his client’s teams had actually improved. It turned out that the team leader was holding weekly meetings that she called “Doing everyday things better”. She had made it simple – she turned corporate-speak into down-to-earth language – so her team got engaged.

Against this backdrop and these challenges, Nimbus V9 is a revolutionary milestone.

Nimbus UPN was designed from the outset to create process that is easy on the eye, to engage and support process users. Nimbus already delivered that content as a personalized ‘intelligent operations manual’ to every desktop and mobile device. Nimbus V9 now provides a completely new user interface that is significantly more intuitive.

V9 makes it even easier for people to find the right information, in the right context, at the time that they need it – and delivered in the format that works best for them. Feedback, actions and change requests are simpler too. And all without sacrificing any of the governance capabilities that underpin Nimbus as an enterprise platform for process management and continuous improvement.

Engagement matters more than ever – and simplicity is its essential foundation. V9 pushes us much further up the curve. It’s going to be fascinating to see how clients leverage this. Must stop now, need to go. Marketing colleague at the door. With a baseball bat?

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13 Dec 2012    The Universal Business Language: Process

28 Aug 2012    The ROI On Process Visualization

© Text Michael Gammage 2013

Cloud Without Risk: Pie In The Sky

We know that systems failures are surprisingly common, hugely wasteful and can bring a company to its knees.

Best example last year must be Knight Capital, a market-maker responsible for 10% of US equity trading volumes. In two hours of trading on the afternoon of 1st August, a ‘software glitch’ lost the firm $460m. The subsequent rescue package cost the owners 70% of their equity.

Arguably though there’s no such thing as an IT failure. If all work is ultimately process, then ultimately it’s always a process failure.

At one level, Knight Capital went down because of a flawed implementation of a software upgrade. But it’s probably more true to say that, somewhere along the line (and maybe we’ll find out once the legal battles are done), there was a flawed process, or a good enough process that was poorly executed.

Probably both. And almost certainly – because this is the continual theme – the root cause was ineffective collaboration.  Vital stakeholders were missed out from the consultation. People thought that they had a common understanding of an end-to-end process and missed the gaps. There was no governance framework to ensure that people used the latest document. No-one realised that there were two different versions of the same process…

So McKinsey is right when it warned last week of the new risks in the migration to cloud services, making it clear that this is not simply a technical IT challenge:

“IT organizations must now adopt a business-focused risk-management approach that engages business leaders in making trade-offs between the economic gains that cloud solutions promise and the risks they entail.”

In cloud migrations, as in every other business transformation program, it’s effective collaboration that underpins innovation and sustainable improvement – and ensures that risks are properly managed.

It’s extraordinary therefore that so many organizations flirt with disaster, blithely assuming that they don’t need an enterprise-wide process management platform equipped to enable effective collaboration.

They may say otherwise but in practice they rely on definitions of their business based on process fragments, in multiple formats and tools, often in arcane technical languages, of unclear provenance, scattered across multiple repositories, only tenuously linked with operational realities, and ‘managed’ with the flimsiest of governance.

Amazingly, Gartner’s dramatic prediction, announced two years ago this month, that: “Between now and year-end 2014, overlooked but easily detectable business process defects will topple 10 Global 2000 companies” still looks a safe bet.

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© Text Michael Gammage 2013

Process As The Enterprise Double Helix

Shooting the breeze with a molecular biologist over seasonal turkey, I was stunned to realize that the way our cells work together, to create healthy organisms like you and me, provides a rich, multi-layered model of the way in which healthy organizations should work.

We have around 100 trillion cells in our bodies. Maybe 102 trillion, post festivities.

We have hundreds of types of cell but, gametes aside, every cell in our bodies contains our unique DNA. Set out along its double helix structure, and using just the four letter CAGT alphabet, our nuclear DNA is transcribed via RNA into the proteins which ultimately define and make us function.  Change any aspect of it and you change the person.

The idea that business process represents an organization’s DNA is not new.  But, by and large, it’s been seen as just a vague analog.  Look more closely though and it gets interesting. In every cell, DNA is always written:

within the same format – the double helix structure. It’s always there; we don’t have cells with no double helix. And it’s always complete; we don’t have cells with fragments of partial helix structures.

in the same language.  We don’t have cells using different languages, or subsets of CAGT.  It’s worth noting too that the CAGT language may be ‘simple’ but it’s still capable of communicating to its ‘audiences’ exactly how to code for proteins – and whatever else they need to know.

So the analogy comes to life. A process management platform is the double helix for the enterprise. It’s complete and integrated and present in every cell of the organization.  And its language is standard and capable of engaging and enabling every one of its audiences.

There’s more. Cells also contain mitochondria, the power plants that make possible life as we know it. Without energy from mitochondria, we would be blobs of jelly, unable to move.  Mitochondria are immensely powerful in the cellular world. Comparable in many ways to the role of IT in the enterprise. Most modern enterprises would collapse immediately without systems and automation. IT is to the enterprise what the mitochondrion is to the cell: the essential powerhouse.

It gets better. Mitochondria have their own distinct DNA (which we inherit only through our mothers, but that’s another story). The point is that every cell has two sets of DNA – nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).

The nuclear DNA is much larger and drives change but in many cases depends upon mtDNA input. Nuclear DNA, for instance, controls 99% of what it takes to make more mitochondria (and therefore extra energy) but the 1% of mtDNA input is essential.

So our cells work – and we live – because nuclear DNA (the business) and mtDNA (the IT powerhouse) always work in concert, and share a common language – CAGT.  Nature confirms what we see in the world of organizations: that sustainable improvement always depends upon effective collaboration, facilitated by a common language and within a defined (governance) framework.

One further parallel. As we have evolved, our mtDNA has shrunk significantly. Some mtDNA capabilities have migrated to become embedded within an ever-expanding nuclear DNA.  Which sounds rather like how the IT mindset has, in some ways and over the last two decades, migrated to become embedded within mainstream business thinking.  Not because IT is any less important. In fact, it’s happened because IT is now so important.

Related Posts

13 Dec 2012    The Universal Business Language: Process

11 Dec 2012    Process Management and Google Maps

© Text Michael Gammage 2013