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Logic, Computation and (f*(k?) Meming: On2logi+k,ing

10 Feb

Our human impulses are both sources for an solvers of random behaviour , chaotic order and clean representation. For organisations trying to measure what is happening online is still often unclear, as an individual mix of human and computational logic failures. What is curious about the relationship between organic and circuit based thoughts and actions is that the desire to overcome our own deficiencies and extend our reach leaves us vulnerable to the weaknesses of computing logic.  On a societal level this leaves many questions. For organisational governance it poses the question: should we be trusting our own judgement or should we ‘outsource it to machines’?

The #bigpaper example given in the previous post would to many have seemed a woefully creative and/or academic exercise. Merely to organise rewteeted material, who applauds a workflow which includes?:

  • Scrolling ones own collection of Tweets;
  • Copying a body of tweets into a word document;
  • Printing off that word document;
    • Going to a public environment;
    • Emailing it to the present peer given failure to bring wallet;
    • Printing the document and waiting for it to be printed;
  • Cutting the document into ‘Tweet sized chunks’ to include only image and message (trying to avoid cutting too close);
  • Reading each tweet again, pushing thematically each tweet into an appropriately themed pile;
  • Finding a table and pushing Tweets evenly across 2D plane to try and balance contexts and relationships;
  • Photographing Tweets both as a population, localised and at an angle;
  • Packing away Tweets into representative piles;
  • Examining photos (not nearly enough definition, repeat process with higher resolution);
  • Unpack Tweet piles and rearrange;
  • This time with improved iterative reordering of Tweets;
  • Include token signposting to provide order and visual signposting;
  • Photograph again;
  • Repack again.

Well done having the strength to get past that unexciting workflow!

Why did this need doing, let alone summarizing? Well firstly, when considering BIS, its important to have empathy concerning processes and the people that were/are confined with onerous, repetitive tasks (much in the same way with which a pilgrimage’s value comes from the journey as opposed to the destination). Secondly, it provides direct perspective concerning functions, challenging habits, providing insights and parallels for BIS environments. Thirdly, it provides the hunger for change and direction concerning what priorities and stages a solution should have.

The screencast in the other blog highlighted through photographic analogy informatics weaknesses concerning technology and processes and (seemingly) natural individual and organisational limiting factors (which may still exist as Big Data’s promises start to mature (but which hopefully appropriate BIS approaches would be able to mitigate)).

However, the frustration highlighted above downplays the fact that there were gains from using physical approaches (consideration time, treating information as a durable good and not a disposable resource). To reconcile these seemingly opposable approaches it is best to search for solutions which help to automate functions and logic steps (in a fully digital context, robots tooled with scissors are not quite within commercial reach…).

One of the challenges to implement functionality for ordering my material in a sophisticated way is that machines and computers are only pragmatically capable of operating within the functions trained by them. When arranging Tweets on a surface I had many complex and competing deliberations, which I either made with little effort (because the solution was clear) or considerable thought (because of ambiguities, complexity or too many choices). It is possible for computers to mimic these choices, let alone provide ones resembling (or improving upon!) human decision making was highlighted cleanly by Melanie Mitchell in the book Complexity: A Guided Tour:

Easy Things Are Hard
The other day I said to my eight-year-old son, “Jake, please put your socks on.” He responded by putting them on his head. “See, I put my socks on!” He thought this was hilarious. I, on the other hand, realized that his antics illustrated a deep truth about the difference between humans and computers.

The “socks on head” joke was funny (at least to an eight-year-old) because it violates something we all know is true: even though most statements in human language are, in principle, ambiguous, when you say something to another person, they almost always know what you mean.

Melanie Mitchell compared this human ease for distinction and interpretation with supposedly ‘state of the art spam filters’ which struggle to interpret V!a&®@ as spammer trying to vend. This computational challenge was expressed in terms of a computer being able to observe a pattern and then make the correct inference if the answer was not initially clear. To understand how much better computers can understand and solve analogies Mitchell worked for the AI researcher, Douglas Hofstadter on the “Copycat” program. This involved providing an example letter pattern jump and giving the computer exercises to make inferences. For example logic challenges could include:

“Consider the following problem: if abc changes to abd, what is the analogous change to ijk? Most people describe the change as something
like “Replace the rightmost letter by its alphabetic successor,” and answer ijl. But clearly there are many other possible answers, among them:

• ijd (“Replace the rightmost letter by a d”—similar to Jake putting his socks “on”)

• ijk (“Replace all c’s by d’s; there are no c’s in ijk”), and

• abd (“Replace any string by abd”).

An appropriate mathematical solution was found, involving a slipnet (network of concepts), a workspace (for the letters to reside), codelets (agents which explore possibilities) and temperature (a measure of organisation and control degree of randomness which codelets operated). Like performance management in the real world, the Copycat program had to identify the options, make an informed understanding as to how the decisions would be different and make a commttment.

Mitchell referred to a point earlier in the book, considering the activities of ants (insects which are dumb in isolation but which hold significant levels of intelligence once they reach a certain volume). Whilst ants would normally go for the most obvious food source (the place the other ants were going to or the direction returning ants with food were returning from) there would be a normal deviation involving ants taking new courses. This provides a unconscious balance between the short term expediency for food with longer term opportunities for sustainable food sources.

Screenshot from 2013-02-11 00:39:38

Identifying and implementing logical and mechanical solutions for organising social media paths do take time. However, they can pay dividends if the sheer cost of not automating functions exceeds the cost of either:

  • Outsourcing that functionality,
  • Buying an off the shelf solution,
  • Tinkering/customizing with available solutions,
  • Designing and implementing specific solutions.

To give a practical example, an analysis was taken of a recent Guardian article on the UK’s new spare bedroom tax for those on welfare and its corresponding 100 posts. Using a demo for a keywords text extractor  it was possible to create a breakdown of key terms for the article and each post. Entered into an excel spreadsheet, the exercise became more onerous than the Twitter arrangements. Although technically sifting through appropriate and inappropriate keyword solutions, the comments in isolation created variances that the tool was not going to deal with. The keyword list exceeded the Twitter population in terms of volume and diversity (this is partly because of the lack of a word limit), especially when considering duplicates. Here is one example covering taxes and benefits:

tax 11
tax.It 1
taxes 4
poll tax 2
Poll Tax 1
council tax 6
annual council tax 1
bedroom tax 14
new bedroom tax 1
extra bewdroom tax 1
percent beedroom tax 1
housing tax 1
Negligence Tax 1
window tax 2
tax avoidance schemes 1
tax planning rules 1
income/ benefits 1
pay/benefits 1
benefits 2
benefit 1
tax credits 2
council tax benefit 1
Employment Support Allowance 1
government pay 1
government assistance 1
Work Programme 2
programmes 1
Incapacity Benefit 0
basic benefit 1
Discretionary housing payments 1
Discretionary Housing Payment 1
housing benefit 6
Housing Benefit 2
HB 4
brand new HB 1
ESA 3
PIP 1
PIP conversion 1
decision 1
benefits measure 1
home allowances 1

Aggregating seperate analyses introduced problems in regards to multiple permutations from accidental or deliberate erring from standard explanation, emphasis, plural/singularity or spelling. Given that the process used or the tools analysis does not reconcile this we end up with upper case and lower case keywords being separate and descriptors and terms being welded together. In addition, parent child relationships between terms or titles do not appear strong (perhaps through conservatism of the software that could be tweaked). Terms such as coalition or Liberals are not carried or captured with cultural sensitivity (the UK’s government in this instance).

Copying and then breaking down the keywords into manageable or personalized themes or categories was onerous (although this is partly a lack of tools for reprocessing). Reordering the material takes time on a human level (although ironically resembling the process of disk defragmenting, see image of extracted keywords with markers to post author below after part of the keywords were moved to another excel sheet for clarity).

Screenshot from 2013-02-11 01:34:33

To capture the whole chain of appropriate keywords using this technique although imperfect (it is like considering the world as if it is a grain of sand and then commencing an audit of the universe). It is amazing however examining what keyword extraction is able to offer for just one discussion thread in terms of verbal emphases, especially when related to information, point, emphasis and debate (particularly when sources such as the Guardian offer quantifiable recommend numbers).

The keywords extracted cover the individual topic pretty comprehensively. Once interpreted effectively, especially with terms synthesized and broke down to base meaning and interaction it is capable of providing strong specialised meaning. At a rule base level once that sophistication point is reached scalable and sophisticated analysis, communications and campaigning is possible. As alluding to in my previous post, it is possible to map for solutions problems and issues. In many ways sentiment analysis is already offering this (although is still prone to errors similar to explained above). Getting to a more meanings based level that takes in human and computing errors would provide a clearer understanding regarding the topic (although it would be more consistent using personal judgement for many of the keyword themes in this example, given the cleaning required to counter the volume of computing keywords).

Perhaps it is apt to highlight the work of Joseph Weizenbaum, a member of GE’s team in 1955 to build the first the first computer system dedicated to banking operations and whose technical contributions includes the list processing system SLIP and the natural language understanding program ELIZA, which was an important development in artificial intelligence.

“…Named for the heroine of My Fair Lady, ELIZA was perhaps the first instance of what today is known as a chatterbot program. Specifically, the ELIZA program simulated a conversation between a patient and a psychotherapist by using a person’s responses to shape the computer’s replies. Weizenbaum was shocked to discover that many users were taking his program seriously and were opening their hearts to it. The experience prompted him to think philosophically about the implications of artificial intelligence, and, later, to become a critic of it.

In 1976, he authored Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, in which he displayed ambivalence toward computer technology and warned against giving machines the responsibility for making genuinely human choices. Specifically, Weizenbaum argued that it was not just wrong but dangerous and, in some cases, immoral to assume that computers would be able to do anything given enough processing power and clever programming.

“No other organism, and certainly no computer, can be made to confront genuine human problems in human terms,” he wrote.”

In order to circumnavigate historic failures of intelligent comprehension in computing logic the commercial providers online stuck to using “Recommended by…” algorithms comprising of aggregate or contextual navigation and consumption patterns. Perhaps, rather than reinforcing our human approaches online, perhaps we have become more like the ants?

Although the keyword analysis provided a more simple and one off demonstration, one should not discount the value of more complex and custom built analyses. However, the concerns regarding the processes and stages of a human analysis disappear once the reality of having to automate such functions kick in. There are tradeoffs concerning subtlety. For BIS approaches to performance management it is dangerous to assume that buying a machine solves the problems of the human functionality for some cost. Without knowing what is under the hood or at a bare minimum what are the qwerks then there is a risk that complexity will create unknown risks to organisational governance.

—————–

Other blog posts in the Order From Chaos miniseries include:

  1. Order From Chaos: Performance Management and Social Media Analytics in the Age of Big Data;
  2. Abstraction, Perspective and Complexity: Social Media’s Canon of Proportions;
  3. Logic, Computation and (f*(k?) Meming: On2logi+k,ing;
  4. Transposition, Catalysts and Synthesis: Playing with iMacwells eDemon.

More than just eCoal, eSteam and ePower: The Modernizing Dynamics of Change Series

  1. Introduction;
  2. Economic requirements: Catalyst for Invention, Innovation and Progress
  3. Not Just Invention: Change Through The Desire to Innovate, Reimagine and Expand;
  4. New Tools, New Patterns, New Thoughts: the Great Dialogue;
  5. Nobody Will Notice The Slow Death of Dissmeination, They Will Be Too Busy Listening;
  6. The frictions of competition and cooperation to strategic thinking;
  7. The Hot and Cold Wars: Relationships and conflicts between big and small, propriety and open source.

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If you have any suggestions, relevant links or questions to add flavour to this series then please join the dialogue below or contact me via Twitter:

Abstraction, Perspective and Complexity: Social Media’s Canon of Proportions

10 Feb

One of the great failures of the Web 2.0 era is that its architects have built cathedrals centered around the self, the hooking of other entities that encourage aggregate as opposed to selective or contextual information and the informatic prioritisation of time over meaning. This often results in:

  • misalignment of priorities, as a result of individual or wider overvaluing of totems such as ‘followers’ quantities;
  • too much energy being dissipated by users running on a hamsters wheel, sifting through in time messages and updates;
  • cursory acknowledgement of information or signposts but not enough time to understand or revisit.

In many instance this can be unproductive, particularly as even obeying norms of usage is working within the inefficiencies of the ecosystems. Whilst it would be interesting to speculate on the economic and cultural reasoning as to why this outcome would emerge and ways of rectifying it in spite of economic drivers (such as the network effect) tethering many online actors and entities to inefficient processes and communities, it is perhaps better instead to highlight on failures of the current orthodoxy. This is done not only to highlight productivity and organisational failures of modern messaging tools, highlight clear and practical advice for current users but also provide positive direction for iterate improvements and destructive alternatives.

Screenshot from 2013-02-11 01:46:26

To provide an analogy covering challenges regarding information and communications a body of tweets collected from the Social+Informed Twitter account (used for earlier blog posts featured on sopinion8ed). It was created to highlight the need for organic approaches to categorization to manage complexity, as well as navigate tradeoffs that large data flows create. In particular it deals with the challenges regarding complex systems’ structures and approach to looking at bodies of information as if they are interlocking organs.

In this instance, the population evolved to exist into four main categories:

  • Strategic level Tweets (red);
  • Managerial level Tweets (green);
  • Processing level Tweets (blue);
  • Informatics components level Tweets (yellow).

Naturally this solution was not elegant for Tweets containing a message covering more than one of these main categories. In such instances a parent category was chosen but a coloured token for the second choice category was given to signify association. Additionally, given that one of the guiding themes of the Social+Informed account was for social social business generated important information on open source technologies and social entrepreneurship extra tokens were additionally created (white and brown). Similarly, to highlight GIS and visualisations coins were used and for cloud computing buttons.

Within mini clusters of similar themed tweets an effort was made to coordinate twinned Tweets in the closest directions. As intentioned and improved with each ordering iteration the mini clusters became more homogenous and neighbouring clusters more complementary to each other. For example, category borders would be similar in themes and corporate/organisational activities were at the borders whilst more general themes tended to be closer to the core. Perhaps naturally, information systems themes Tweets resided closer to the very centre, given the general nature of the themes and the mix of technology, process and peoples that such messages would cover.

The consequence of this synthesis is not only to create an archive of old material in a now more accessible format than what date the Tweets were created or what a common ‘find’ search query can offer. It helped offer:

  • A clarification of overriding themes that have already been explored and how they interrelate or are dissimilar;
  • An overview of themes and experts for this sample;
  • A framework for mapping out and quantifying/qualifying based around context and parameters future initiatives;

Whilst of value, such explorations emphasize the inefficient nature of Twitter as basic tool needing more sophisticated interpretations than the following/follower dynamic. As a simple method of mitigating this (for internal efficiency or external efficiency (ie, less ‘white noise’ for followers)) it is advisable to be operating multiple accounts dealing with specialist themes (which can be managed by either multiples browsers with multiple Twitter accounts running or an excel sheet to ‘bank’ into differing category themes Tweet urls of interesting messages until those user accounts are activated again. Here are some examples:

metr1c1de, covering benchmarking

secureitie, covering security

datam1n1ng, covering data and statistics

managechangeit, covering management, change and IT

[Screencast to come. For now, please use right click images below for satiation to see definition, using ctrl+ to zoom in and understand detail]

01 - DSCN6994

‘Database’ of Tweets

03 - DSCN6998

Tweets laid out into starting categories

04 - DSCN6988

First attempt at positioning Tweets into spread thematic plane. The camera quality results in too poor an image level for legibility

07 - DSCN7002

Second attempt at positioning Tweets into spread thematic plane. The lighting, camera quality and higher abstraction level as a result of further spaced out Tweets renders the messages unreadable.

08 - L1130338

Third attempt at positioning Tweets into spread thematic plane. Notice how the tradeoff for an aggregate view makes legibility of Tweets too difficult

09 - C-B - L1130343

Third attempt: Close up on management related Tweets. On closer inspection notice sunlight’s effect on readability of Tweets

09- C-R - L1130344

Third attempt: Close up on strategic related Tweets

09 - C-B -  L1130361-2mb

Third attempt: Close up on analytic related Tweets

10 - A-G - L1130349-flower

Third attempt: ‘Specialists’ viewpoint

————————-

Other blog posts in the Order From Chaos miniseries include:

  1. Order From Chaos: Performance Management and Social Media Analytics in the Age of Big Data;
  2. Abstraction, Perspective and Complexity: Social Media’s Canon of Proportions;
  3. Logic, Computation and (f*(k?) Meming: On2logi+k,ing;
  4. Transposition, Catalysts and Synthesis: Playing with iMacwells eDemon.

More than just eCoal, eSteam and ePower: The Modernizing Dynamics of Change Series

  1. Introduction;
  2. Economic requirements: Catalyst for Invention, Innovation and Progress
  3. Not Just Invention: Change Through The Desire to Innovate, Reimagine and Expand;
  4. New Tools, New Patterns, New Thoughts: the Great Dialogue;
  5. Nobody Will Notice The Slow Death of Dissmeination, They Will Be Too Busy Listening;
  6. The frictions of competition and cooperation to strategic thinking;
  7. The Hot and Cold Wars: Relationships and conflicts between big and small, propriety and open source.

—————————

If you have any suggestions, relevant links or questions to add flavour to this series then please join the dialogue below or contact me via Twitter:

Delivering BPaaS from the Cloud

30 Nov

In this post I will look to further build on my more recent posts which have been centered around this idea of combining BPM and the cloud and illustrating the obvious benefits that come from such a marriage. To spice things up a bit, I think that some more practical examples are needed to clearly demonstrate this power.

For example, I read a blog post which used some interesting diagrams, two of which I have explored below. These can be found at: http://thoughtsoncloud.com/index.php/2011/12/business-process-as-a-service-bpaas-delivered-from-the-cloud/ [1]

Looking at the BPaaS in Figure 1, it sits above the software as a service (SaaS) layer.  BPaaS is about intelligently consuming services from the SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS layer.

figure 1

Figure 1:  Common Cloud Management Platform Reference Architecture

 A key benefit going forward is that users can try out various services before integrating in their larger business process or replace an existing service rapidly. Services are now available in the market place that line-of-business executives can search, use for testing, and then decide to buy or keep looking for something else.

figure 2

In Figure 2, the services consumed by the business process can be sourced from internal private cloud, partners cloud, or some public cloud

IBM ‘Blueworks Live’ is one example where an entire organization can collaborate and make decisions using a third-party business service. Social networking meets BPM in Blueworks Live. Built-in communication features, such as instant messaging, live news feeds and the ability to leave comments enables users to immediately react to process changes that affect their projects. By consolidating all of their process knowledge in one place, an organization can ensure that the right people are informed of the right changes at the right time.

In summary, I think it’s fair to say that BPaaS marks a new shift in the industry that not only affects IT executives but also line-of-business executives. Biren Ghandi concludes [1] by saying that  “BPaas offers a chance to transform a business processes and create an enterprise architecture that is both agile and flexible to rapidly changing business environments and opportunities arising out of globalization.”

Process Reengineering at Arsenal Football Club

30 Nov

Over the last eight weeks I have written blogs on process management and reengineering mainly with my economists and business glasses on. Today for my final blog I wanted to discuss reengineering about something which is a little closer to my heart. Arsenal football club is a passion of mine as I was born into an Arsenal family in which my father is a proud season ticket holder. I have a massive interest in the business behind the beautiful game but on the pitch Arsenal have been undergoing a reengineering process.

Arsenal has gone almost eight years without winning a single trophy (A personal cross to bear for every fan) but despite this drought of silverware many football fans would agree that Arsenal have been the best team in England to watch during that time. Arsenal’s process or philosophy was quick slick passing, offensive game. However due to competing in a billionaires game Arsenal have been forced to sell their most promising players. As these players (Cesc Fabergas, Robin van Persie etc.) left the Emirates so did Arsenal’s process.

To compete with the likes of Manchester United/City and Chelsea’s money Arsenal have been forced to engage in a reengineering process. This process began in June with the acquisition of Olivier Giroud from Montpellier. The 6’4” powerful central forward is a drastic change from the Arsenal of the Thierry Henry era. Arsenal have gone from a on the ground quick possession team to a lump it and head it team. The most common pass in the team is now from Arsenal’s number one Wojciech Szczęsny to the big number 12 in the box.  It’s too early to tell if this process will bode fruit but there is one complaint from the fans. Arsenal fans pay more than any other team on the planet to watch their team and they demand to watch attractive football.

A proud Gooner!

http://www.optasportspro.com/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2012/nov/22/olivier-giroud-indispensable-arsenal-attack

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOLTe6zoLkw

Olivier_Giroud_2394711b

It’s not the End, only the Beginning…

29 Nov

In my final blog on BPM, I would like to say I fully understand BPM initiatives and that I would have no issues listing the pros and cons of them, however I have to admit that this is not the case!

The multitude of definitions for BPM & the rhetoric surrounding it makes it quite a difficult topic to pin down for a novice like myself, however if you have look at the video below which I found on Youtube in my quest to find the answer to the illusive question ‘ What is BPM?’ you will see that people in the industry don’t seem too sure either. Oddly enough I think this video was being used to market a BPM software tool, I have to say I wouldn’t be convinced after seeing this!

Is this a bad note to end on? Not at all, a clear definition might not be that easy to find but as my previous blog has demonstrated an organisation should first decide on what it wants to achieve and then decide on the BPM tools that they require & reach a BPM definition of their own!

BPM & Management by Maxims

29 Nov

When an organisation enlists a BPM initiative it is doing so in the hope that it will lead to… What?  What is the end of that sentence?

In an article I’ve read on a BPM blog  http://www.bpmleader.com/2012/01/25/the-problem-of-bpm-definition/, it highlights the need for management to understand what exactly the end of that sentence is within the context of their own firm, it illustrates that an organisation must know what it wants BPM to improve, automate or eliminate before it decides to implement it!

But isn’t that obvious? Is it really the case that it is necessary to drive that point home? If we consider the definition of BPM the author of that article uses : “BPM is the entirety of the way work is done in an enterprise” then perhaps determining the tangible results expected from BPM is very necessary.

There was one particular part of the blog, which reminded me of a discussion I was involved in recently, while debating the relevance of the paper Management By Maxim (Broadbent & Weill), a paper written in 1997, it was mentioned that the framework produced in the paper was too simplistic & that the emphasis that was placed on the importance of clear communication of a firms strategy and the effect that strategy could have on determining its’ IT infrastructure was resoundingly obvious!

However here in a blog written in 2012, a similar premise is being advocated, that CEO’S, CTO’S etc. must determine first what it is their strategy is, is it cutting costs, automating processes or customer retention and only when that decision is reached is it sensible to focus on what BPM tools will be employed to achieve that strategy!
Could it be that the Management by Maxim framework is alive & well?!

Nobody Will Notice The Slow Death of Dissemination, They Will Be Too Busy Listening

29 Nov

Organisations no longer need to focus on disseminating information, it is too shallow a primary goal. Either at public private or discrete operative contexts, social enterprises are more comfortable operating as curators. They are experts at providing the contexts, stimulus and governance to bring out the best of their key stakeholders, whether internally or externally. Employees, suppliers, distributors, customers are no longer groups to be coerced and manipulated. They are groups to be listened to, influenced by and directed by. Old top down and chamber orientated techniques which advanced individual and collective self orientations will increasingly be outmanoeuvred by new and re-plasticised businesses who know how to respond and reciprocate through sharing and constructive dialogues.

Considerable amounts of information is getting lost all the time or its dissapating as a result of ever deacreasing attention cycles. Often the strains placed on people researching and writing pieces combined with other onerous tasks can result in the acquired knowledge being underexposed. For instance, articles may not be uploaded onto the Internet after having been forwarded onto publication editors. Reports may be delayed and only done in infrequent batches. Other organisations with a mutual interest in the results may not be even informed at all. Without already receiving public attention organisations are merely dropping research and information will be unproductive. Modern information and communications bombardment and white noise result in less and less of the population accessing information without proactive effort or specialist interest. Even basic two way approaches will begin to look dated compared to more collaborative infrastructure and community frameworks as attention clusters around dynamic automation and choruses of support and:or criticism.

One key aspect which increasingly is becoming a key distinction for value creation is whether communal and communications clusters operate within highly narrow and specialised ‘silos’ or whether they strive to either in aggregate or through representatives work pro actively with other communities. There is nothing wrong with groups working, thinking and advancing within a very narrow band. Through the Internet and our global age the advantage of the long tail in terms of distribution of ideas and commerce rewards this behaviour and even makes it economically viable. However, from an business perspective the motivating factor is to motivate expansive, competitive and sustainable organisational change. Without integrating the specialist information and knowledge in an integrated manner with other stakeholder groups and chambers there is a significant loss.

To create a successful vision and productive strategies it is important to involve all stakeholders and ensure that all leaders are participating in the decision making process. Hopefully there is a committment to cooperating and relaying decisions to all appropriate areas of their organisation. Regular meetings between policymakers help to acknowledge and deal with any strains created as a result of difficult reforms and identify and widen openings for positive and consensual improvements. Practically, project websites, where project can be shared and ideas explored in a supportiive is highly recommended to aid decision making and focus on key strategic cores and public relations activity.

A classic historical example of the value of connecting disarate groups and ideas is the legacy of Desiderius Erasmus, author of In Praise of Folly. One of the great stabilising forces in Europe during the 15th and 16th Century, he helped carry Europe intellectually of the dark ages and provided enough oxygen not only for the Renaissance but for the carrying and synthesis of post Roman ideas and explorations (which is why Europe’s scheme for EU students learning abroad is an aptly named initiative) and the re-acceptance of stigmatised and forgotten classical texts. Through serving as an interlocutor, he channelled ideas from academics and key figures to the time, meshing disperse geographical and scholastic ideas into a discussion which not only fed into how Reformation and Counter Reformqtion developed in Europe but also the context with which these warring ideas could interact and reach dialogue once the embers of conflict within Europe died down.

Returning to contemporary business requirements, organisations need to have an understanding regarding how their value to other groups functions not only on a profit level but in an age powered by informatics on a communications level. Doing this effectively necessitates identifying relative values and returns of both internal and external forums, mediators, champions and detractors. Executives who suggest social entrepreneurship status but who are unable to do so are likely to be misaligning the business models or strategies through poor goals or benchmarking. Otherwise they are misrepresenting themselves.

It is highly important that the risks of any project to introduce and improve social entrepreneurship are laid out in advance so that they can be effectively addressed should the project run into difficulties. A framework for assessment should be used to evaluate the efficiency of any work. This can include qualitative as well as quantitative results. As mentioned, in a previous post covering technology, invention and competition, it is common for organisations to engage in lateral assaults on rival’s business revenue streams using aggressive (or even zero-cost) pricing schemes. It is conceivable for business models to support similar competitive advantages concerning dialogues and even open innovation approaches to undermine competition and enlarge the outer core sphere of an organisations competencies, to cross subsidise core strategic areas.

————–

More than just eCoal, eSteam and ePower: The Modernizing Dynamics of Change also includes:

  1. Introduction
  2. Economic requirements: Catalyst for Invention, Innovation and Progress
  3. Not Just Invention: Change Through The Desire to Innovate, Re-imagine and Expand
  4. New Tools, New Patterns, New Thoughts: the Great Dialogue

————–

Other sections of Dialogue, Governance and Reform in the Web 2.0 Age series includes:

  • Nobody Will Notice The Slow Death of Dissmeination, They Will Be Too Busy Listening
  • The frictions of competition and cooperation to strategic thinking;
  • The Hot and Cold Wars: Relationships and conflicts between big and small, propriety and open source.

————————–

Other blog posts in the Order From Chaos miniseries include:

  1. Order From Chaos: Performance Management and Social Media Analytics in the Age of Big Data;
  2. Abstraction, Perspective and Complexity: Social Media’s Canon of Proportions;
  3. Logic, Computation and (f*(k?) Meming: On2logi+k,ing;
  4. Transposition, Catalysts and Synthesis: Playing with iMacwells eDemon.

—————————

If you have any suggestions, relevant links or questions to add flavour to this series then please join the dialogue below or contact me via Twitter:

 

The Future of Business Process Management: Mobile BPM

28 Nov

After researching the topic of Business Process Management (BPM) I began to wonder about its relevance going forward. The future of BPM seems to revolve around the ideas of social, cloud, and mobile. The technology research and advisory company, Gartner believes that worldwide spending on BPMS is expected to reach $2.6 billion this year, up 6.9% compared to 2011. Interestingly, global industry analysts’ research suggests that the global BPM market will reach $5.3 billion by 2017.

As we have already established from previous posts on this topic, the main driver for the adoption of BPM is operational efficiency. When implemented correctly, BPM can minimise waste within operations. Given the volatility of the marketplace today, that continues to drive cost-cutting measures, BPM initiatives are a viable solution. It helps organisations reduce costs by creating smarter processes that increase operational efficiencies.

The cloud, social and mobile technologies present unique opportunities for business. In the case of mobile, increasing the productivity and connectedness of employees on the go is attractive, however the costs may prove challenging. According to Forrester Research, designing and deploying mobilised versions of enterprise applications costs $20,000 for a basic application to $150,000 for something sophisticated.

Mobile BPM allows employees to stay connected, informed and empowered to make important business decisions regardless of where they are. It also extends BPM participation beyond pre-defined process participants to include all levels of the organisation. Mobile BPM can allow executives to see and engage with the business event information they need to make better, faster decisions in guiding the organisation. Suppliers, distributors and field staff can be linked in real-time to corporate processes and data. Additionally, it enables customers to check account details, request information or see the status of a service request (Appian, 2011).

Perhaps going a little bit off the point but Facebook is a good example to analyse. The social networking site’s achilles’ heel is mobile. They realise that alot of its users are accessing the site through a mobile device rather than personal computer and as a result Facebook is losing out on advertisement revenue. This has prompted Facebook to use the majority of its IPO cash to invest in mobile start-ups that will improve Facebook’s own mobile operations (Escofet, 2012)

An interesting statement to keep in mind from Medhat Galal is “if BPM is going to do for process what Google did for information, BPM must be mobile and always on”.

(Appian Mobile BPM)

Sources:

http://www.telecoms.com/44521/mobile-is-both-facebook%E2%80%99s-achilles-heel-and-future/

www.appian.com/bpm-resources/papers_reports/paper_tempo.pdf

http://www.ebizq.net/topics/bpm/features/12482.html

New Tools, New Patterns, New Thoughts: the Great Dialogue

28 Nov

Part 4 of More than just eCoal, eSteam and ePower: The Modernizing Dynamics of Change

The growth of the Internet has allowed individuals and businesses easy access to vast amounts of data and information. In an age where customers and suppliers have a more accurate understanding of their purchasing and vending values a business model needs to yield value propositions that are compelling to customers, achieves advantageous cost and risk structures and enables significant value.

Production, enterprise, consumption and economic growth operates in virtuous loops, with each socio-technological cycle advancing this trend. Understanding why social business is important today requires understanding the tools and their functions. However, it is nothing without new and improved ideas, value sets and priorities to govern more efficient and effective organisational behaviour.

Similar to how technology and tools often emerge where economic need or opportunity is greatest, there is often a complimenting widening and expansion of the possibilities and applications regarding how societies and organisations conduct themselves. This is reinforced by the clustering nature of human nature, with areas experiencing technological and process advancements, golden ages even. Especially if wider discourse provides intellectual scale. Examining the greats of political economy this correlation becomes clearer.

Returning to the Industrial Age, The Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th Century provided an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments. Building on the nascent ideas of utilitarianism sparked by Thomas Hobbes mechanistic view of human beings and passions, in 1776 Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, crystallizing how the industrial revolution would irrevocably transform processes and actions. Such was the shift in thought, Smith was describing emerging functions prior to terms like economics or capitalism being in use, where the term corporation carried a regulating terminology and significantly whilst Europe was still dominated by feudalism. Although this impact clusters, two key Smith quotes highlight accelerating socio-technological dynamics, which still dominate executives’ thoughts regarding business models and strategy:

  • The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greatest part of skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is any where directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour.”1
  • The establishment of any new manufacture, of any new branch of commerce, or any new practice in agriculture, is always a speculation, from which the projector promises himself extraordinary profits. These profits sometimes are very great, and sometimes, more frequently, perhaps, they are quite otherwise; but in general they bear no regular proportion to those of other older trades in the neighbourhood. If the project succeeds, they are commonly at first very high. When the trade or practice becomes thoroughly established and well known, the competition reduces them to the level of other trades.”2

Just like technology and process splintering into numerous strategies, 20th century analysis has evolved to become more specialised, both towards business, department and workflow areas. Porter argued that profitability in any industry is determined by five forces, including competition among existing players, the threat of new entrants, the power of supplier, the power of customers and the availability of substitute products. A company’s success was not determined by quality, innovation or products but by the logic of its strategy. At the same time organisations are faced with a groundswell of new improvements that raise not only their capacities but also rivals given the reducing time distance between a new innovation being used by earlier adopters and more successful/favoured tools becoming commonplace.Considering Smith’s second quote, it intriguing considering whether Nicholas Carr was blind to this quote when he penned his infamous essay Does IT Matter3, which proposed the decline of competitive advantage that IT provides organisations.

In terms of what is taking place with the massive explosion in volume and interconnectivity of desktop, laptop and mobile communications, organisations are unable to escape these economic laws. Just as the economic moved away as a norm from artisan modes of production and more generalist statuses of professionals to deal with local restrictions of their creation and distribution of activity, we should similarly expect a greater distinction between those who are generalists (who will be in decline as communications volumes increase in scale) and a growing body of actors performing specialised functions (to reflect the productive gains that understanding a craft, complementing it with at hand specialist tools and with a localised understanding of value networks).

For Brad Power, managers must speed the flow of information so that decisions can be made faster at all levels, from top to bottom:

For example, the executive team of Think Finance, a developer of financial products and one of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies, gets together every day to review performance. CEO Ken Rees wrote to me that, “in an environment that’s changing as quickly as ours, there are so many things to be worried about. The daily huddles and daily executive team review of the dashboards help us make sure we are raising and resolving any issues quickly while giving me comfort that everything is going smoothly and that I don’t need to intervene. There are a host of other things that we do with the goal of breaking down hierarchy and improving communication (both up and down) to start to get people used to constant change as a standard practice rather than an upsetting occurrence.”

This would appear to highlight a significant internal organisation social trend that middle managers may be an area of reduced ROI in workplaces in the future. It will be curious to see how such a trend creates differing impacts on already hierarchical and egalitarian framed organisations.

For department roles, aspects that were a source of effort will be replaced by automation. For example, analytics will remove a lot of guesswork and more strategy in marketing. By rewarding curiosity, building confidence, and ensuring accountability, analytics encourages innovation and makes a marketing program more creative and powerful.

If you consider these two traits in terms of the mass volumes, either within countries or between them for both physical and digital goods it increases the risk of failure for organisations irrespective of static successes for business models and/or strategies. Globalisation as a process for creating common worldwide and free market trading conditions represents one of the key features of modern enterprises. New global trading opportunities help drive surges in business model innovation. Today traditional balances between customers and suppliers have altered, following new informational, physical, digital, communal and psychological patterns and lower cost provision of information and customer solutions. Correspondingly business models have recalibrated significantly, with strategy taking new forms to deal with more complex parameters.

A fundamental aspect of these technologies is that it is no longer just the direct stakeholders who have access to significant amounts of data and knowledge, social technologies a democratising. For example, not only did the Democratic and Republican parties invest time and resources in pulling together and analysis data, anybody could with free tools. For businesses, irrespective of motivation, reason or logic certain individuals and groups may very conceivably know more about core or critical aspects of the organisation than its front line staff, managers or executives. For industries where customer relations are important or where feedback could become important there increasingly need to be policies put in place to cover not only specific affairs but provide rules of thumb for unknowns. Potentially worse, the accessibility of technology and app development means that even hobbyists can reverse engineer your processes to provide tools that may undermine your competitive advantage, turning a lost opportunity into a threat. Perhaps this i why Gartner are expecting the biggest Big Data investments to be social network analysis and content analytics, with 45% of new spending each year.

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1An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith, 1776, Book I, Chapter I, pg.7

2An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith, 1776, Book I, Chapter X, Part I, pg.136

3IT Doesn’t Matter – Nicholas Carr – Harvard Business School – 2003

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More than just eCoal, eSteam and ePower: The Modernizing Dynamics of Change also includes:

  1. Introduction
  2. Economic requirements: Catalyst for Invention, Innovation and Progress
  3. Not Just Invention: Change Through The Desire to Innovate, Re-imagine and Expand
  4. New Tools, New Patterns, New Thoughts: the Great Dialogue

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Other sections of Dialogue, Governance and Reform in the Web 2.0 Age series includes:

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Other blog posts in the Order From Chaos miniseries include:

  1. Order From Chaos: Performance Management and Social Media Analytics in the Age of Big Data;
  2. Abstraction, Perspective and Complexity: Social Media’s Canon of Proportions;
  3. Logic, Computation and (f*(k?) Meming: On2logi+k,ing;
  4. Transposition, Catalysts and Synthesis: Playing with iMacwells eDemon.

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If you have any suggestions, relevant links or questions to add flavour to this series then please join the dialogue below or contact me via Twitter:

Not Just Invention: Change Through the Desire to Innovate, Reimagine and Expand

28 Nov

Part 3 of More than just eCoal, eSteam and ePower: The Modernizing Dynamics of Change

Scaling and Building

Innovators’ value should never be underestimated, given their application of new tools and concepts often for fantastic ends. To understand today’s informatics capacities better it is best to focus on the contribution of architects and engineers to the world around us. For instance, recognising the contribution of columns and then later arches to engineering and architecture is huge. Its difficult to imagine today the benefits load bearing properties have provided civilizations, from the most humble of bridges and houses to the awe inspiring cathedrals, temples and aqueducts each age’s antiquities highlight the values, utilities and design of this benefit.

The Industrial Age is no different. The geologic properties of materials and the newly available compounds such as steel were waiting for great minds such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel to awaken the potential of new scales of engineering, demonstrated in projects originally laughed down as unsound follies. Fortunately the zeal of Victorian enterprise was able to ignore naysayers, particularly as the reward from new transport arteries was too significant. The great scales of the technology created modern forums, including the rail terminal, St Pancras (then the largest single spanning roof in the world) and Crystal Palace, the site of the Great Exhibition. Today, London Bridge’s rail terminal contains a significant and inspiring modernist work, The Shard. With its advanced use of steel and glass properties, it reminds us not only of the recurring importance of proximity of structures to human flows and the inheritances of older material advances but also more expansive applications made possible through the extension of scientific and artistic understanding.


Thinking in terms of information opportunities, much has been said in regards to big data. Whilst betraying the ecosystem of opportunities it provides business through overly simplified terminology, it does provide the construct for presenting the values of volume, velocity and volatility. Gartner’s Doug Laney coined the term Infonomics to describe the concept of data as a formal business asset. Knowing that data has value that may not be apparent, there’s a new emphasis on saving what you have on the chance that it will reveal a meaningful pattern later or will be valuable to a partner or ‘data customer’. In terms of social opportunities this data not only needs to be collected, it needs to be increasingly embedded into business model and strategic thinking.

Mobile technology stands to change the nature of sentiment analysis through the ability to request and receive feedback from exactly where and when a thought is occurring. Like with other social concepts, mobile significantly ups the ante for volume of information, location and time. Mobile gives an organization the chance to intervene while the customer is still unhappy and even still in the store or website.

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Capabilities, Capacity and Competition

 

Considering competition covering of scale and accuracy involving new operating tools, Germany’s unification involving new weaponry and logistics is a useful casestudy. Despite having Europe’s largest land army Austria lost its dominance in the region. Prussia ascended, through matching invention in weaponry (a breech-loaded bolt-action rifle1 that fired at six times the rate) and innovation (as first user of rail transport for European wars) with modern reforms. Koniggratz was devastating2. The Austrians lost 45,000 men, compared to Prussia losing less than 10,000.

Naturally such precedent caused a scramble in research by other nations to emulate this advantage (following lags). In 1866 France adopted their3 bolt-action rifle and trialled it in 1870’s Franco-Prussian War. The battlefield proved the necessity of this weapon class with new models of behaviour (including regiment density and positioning). Observing nations were present. The threat of the opposing sophistication would have necessitated the change in practices, lest the sophistication prove too devastating.

Relating this to business models where rivals are technologically matched, it is not only up to entrepreneurs to identify what component in the business model they have or can create for a competitive business plan. However, given the threat of competing business models where drivers as similar to the rifle situation above it is sensible to also reverse engineer potential weakpoints (or as an alternative consider outsourcing). When it comes to relating change to the objectives and requirements of an organisation, it is not only imperative to build internal models able to maximise opportunities but also enough flexibility to recognise the ability and hunger for rivals to ape what makes your organisation successful. Doing so is especially important in most industries, given technological developments and globalisation have catalysed increasingly short timescales between an invention or innovation being adopted by a first mover and its mainstreaming.

Considering the methods organisations deploy for business models to undermine competitors revenue streams as a form of attrition, it is curious how often it is not only about matching like for like but also trying to isolate rival business models strengths and weaknesses. Reverse engineering key aspects or macros of a business model or working under the conventions of price and quality competition is key. However, it goes further than that, particularly today. It is common for organisations to engage in lateral assaults on rivals’ business revenue streams using aggressive (or even zero cost) pricing schemes to direct customers towards their core business models. For example, the free distribution of iTunes software and low downloads prices at its store (relative to rivals) was a model to encourage uptake of its iPods and subsequently the iPad. In effect it fed financial gains from music production towards a different media type.

Looking at the computational capacities that will be used to power future workplaces, war is already escalating:

Big Data is on every CIO’s mind this quarter, and for good reason. Companies will have spent $4.3 billion on Big Data technologies by the end of 2012.

But here’s where it gets interesting. Those initial investments will in turn trigger a domino effect of upgrades and new initiatives that are valued at $34 billion for 2013, per Gartner. Over a 5 year period, spend is estimated at $232 billion.

The fact that that article was about the opportunity of open source technologies make the proposition all the more intriguing regarding the growing scale of free or lower cost but still useful tools for improving the functioning of an organisation. Industries will be obliged to create in order to maintain competitive advantage and maximise their profit base.

The recent election was a classic case study regarding the importance of data and modern processing and knowledge tools to provide strategic advantage. This extract gives a key parrallel to Konniggratz regarding the relationship between using front line activists and functional tools to increase rate and precision of activities:

The Big Data-based approach, Alterx adds, “allows a campaign to micro-target its efforts for activities on the ground (e.g., where to send canvassers, where to locate signage, even the selection of a school or community center for a candidate visit) to find the actionable areas where the race is likely to 48 to 50.”

By pooling responses over the last several days of a tracking poll (such as Gallup’s and Rasmussen Reports’) there would be a large enough, constantly updated sample, to allow for nearly live local level updates.

“Short-term bumps are spread around, and the basic closeness of a race in a small area isn’t likely to change much with a two to four point bounce in the national polls (A 48 to 50 local race is as close as a 50 to 48 race, even though this change represents a 4 point shift).

This gives a clear example relating to how information systems and social interaction is becoming intertwined, as well as how important it is becoming for executives to maintain an understanding of the capacities and capabilities of competitors.

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1Johann Nikolaus von Dreyse’s breech-loaded bolt-action rifle enabled this switch. It combined a technique previously only used centuries for some early canon models. Modern craft based manufacturing techniques helped. Beyond its brilliance it optimised consistency and cost of production. Long firing pin and sliding bolt functionality meant that Prussian infantry was able to fire six times as many rounds as their Austrian counterparts.

2Machine Guns: An Illustrated History of Their Impact – James H Willbanks – ABC Clio Inc – 2004

3Invented by Antoine Alphonse Chassepot

—————————–

More than just eCoal, eSteam and ePower: The Modernizing Dynamics of Change also includes:

  1. Introduction
  2. Economic requirements: Catalyst for Invention, Innovation and Progress
  3. Not Just Invention: Change Through The Desire to Innovate, Reimagine and Expand
  4. New Tools, New Patterns, New Thoughts: the Great Dialogue

—————————–

Other sections of Dialogue, Governance and Reform in the Web 2.0 Age series include:

————————–

Other blog posts in the Order From Chaos miniseries include:

  1. Order From Chaos: Performance Management and Social Media Analytics in the Age of Big Data;
  2. Abstraction, Perspective and Complexity: Social Media’s Canon of Proportions;
  3. Logic, Computation and (f*(k?) Meming: On2logi+k,ing;
  4. Transposition, Catalysts and Synthesis: Playing with iMacwells eDemon.

————————–

Other blog posts in the Order From Chaos miniseries include:

  1. Order From Chaos: Performance Management and Social Media Analytics in the Age of Big Data;
  2. Abstraction, Perspective and Complexity: Social Media’s Canon of Proportions;
  3. Logic, Computation and (f*(k?) Meming: On2logi+k,ing;
  4. Transposition, Catalysts and Synthesis: Playing with iMacwells eDemon.

—————————

If you have any suggestions, relevant links or questions to add flavour to this series then please join the dialogue below or contact me via Twitter:

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