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Consider the Organisation as if it Were Granular Sand

24 Feb

Being Amended

Earlier group posts concerning performance management have taken a two strand approach. Firstly, some key business methodologies have been evaluated and compared. Secondly, the relationship between information/commentary media have been concerned in terms of meaning, abstraction, scale and complexity. This has been done with the purpose of reconciling the clarity of clear, reference-able breakdowns of organisational challenges and opportunities with the seismic shifts that big data will provide business models, strategies and tactics. In particular, the importance of language and social media to future BIS orientated models of governance, knowledge acquisition and communication will be most deliberated on.



Concerning Executive Decision Making

It is worth emphasizing that executives in the modern age are usually swamped informatically. They are too limited by their finite time and focus and potentially distracted by seemingly infinite demands (both internally and externally).

Whether actively or passively two key soft levers are used to build individual or macro level resistance points. These are in regards to how value is perceived  (in this example through transaction costs and how policy intersects with semiotics in the form of language


Transaction costs can be divided into three broad categories:

  • Search and information costs are costs such as those incurred in determining that the required good is available on the market, which has the lowest price, etc.
  • Bargaining costs are the costs required to come to an acceptable agreement with the other party to the transaction, drawing up an appropriate contract and so on. In game theory this is analyzed for instance in the game of chicken. On asset markets and in market microstructure, the transaction cost is some function of the distance between the bid and ask.
  • Policing and enforcement costs are the costs of making sure the other party sticks to the terms of the contract, and taking appropriate action (often through the legal system) if this turns out not to be the case.

Commons, J.R (1931). “Institutional Economics”.
American Economic Review

Organisations have to make tradeoffs between the differing transaction cost categories when it comes to deciding upon, searching for, agreeing upon, implementing, using, maintaining and upgrading information systems.

Communication in Organisations The Heart of Information Systems

Communication in Organisations The Heart of Information Systems
Roland Holten and Christoph Rosenkranz; Sprouts (2008)

Language and Semiotics and Governance

Similar to wider or similarly specialist reform(s), there would exist certain norms (either explicit or otherwise) in the social culture, vision and outcomes. This is a complex interplay between individual, component and aggregate entities. This operates collaboratively, competitively and symbiotically, with pulses, resonance bleeding. As a method of institutional/collective expediency beyond professional clusters people develop and enforce (to varying levels) language codes, norms and understandings. These loose standards can be done to widen communication and also/simultaneously stifle/undermine it.

To understand this better and build on the previous posts [I] [II] on language and media it is best to give a breakdown of key language schema examples:




Globe - DNA - D1.1

Public Affairs issue category

public consciousness public attention public support Popular support public rejection public anger pressure cause


Globe - DNA - B1.1

General initiatives category

little help arrangements cross roads comparison situation dangerous game


Globe - DNA - F1.1

General events category

poll tax riots Equality Impact Assessments technetronic era world war


Globe - DNA - E1.1

People types category

couple sociable friendly community protected group poorest members friends vigilante activists


Globe - DNA - H1.1

General organisations category

Spartacus group Resolution Foundation ATOS Atos BT BBC Guardian


General individuals category

Globe - DNA - G1.2

Christopher Thomond Hooper family Stuart Holden Lord Freud Steve Webb IDS

Product Types

Globe - DNA - C1.1

Finance products category

receipts overheads negative equity non payment arrears


Globe - DNA - A1.1

Fear keywords category

No-one poor pity problem gripe astonishing effect



Reconciling Roland Holten and Christoph Rosenkranz’s model for understanding language ease/barriers and the aforementioned schema one can imagine an organisational structure similar to the activity beteen differing molecules in a space offering multiple/overlapping environments:

Colour Pallette - 1c- first

The model displays an organisation with a communicative executive core, as well as a (slightly?) disjointed outer layer comprised of medium and lower tier employees or external communication. With the ontological schema, it represents a membrane and distance that limits proximity to decisionmaking for individual commmunications/policies coming from outside.

Organization”, understood in this sense, is closely related to the concept of “control”.
Control in big systems is defined as stable communication between sub-systems, meaning a
stable organization. Therefore, control is precisely the stable state of the variety interactions
between the nominated sub-systems

Beer, S. (1965) “The world, the flesh and the metal,” Nature205, pp. 223-231

Colour Pallette - 1c- second

Colour Pallette - 1c- second - b

Naturally, the failure of and organisations facets in regards  processes, artifacts or people can widen (or reduce) “communications power distance” between senior and lower level decisionmaking.

In this example the disharmony stems from Type categories and Keyword categories.




When it comes to organisational habits the total distance as well as the outcomes of velocities as communications are improved or hindered in order to encourage strategic alignment. When it becomes too one sided, asymmetrical or overly confrontational between one or different camps reciprocal issues grow This is a sure sign that disharmony and alignment is being forgone increasingly for ulterior motives.

Colour Pallette - 1c- second - mix

Weick (1988) describes the term enactment as representing the notion that when people act they bring structures and events into existence and set them in action. Weick uses this term in the context of ‘sensemaking’ by managers or employees. He also describes how they can enact ‘limitations’ upon the system to avoid issues or experiences. It is also seen as a form of social construction. To date enactment is related to organizations and their environment and strategic management.

In the diagram above, to counter increasing communications gaps from strategic groups to outside communications flows added core competence regions were added to provide ground up solutions and create a mid point using interdisciplinary stakeholders/emphases (notice the three coloured cluster in the top right direction of the image).



Ball of Confusion

Screenshot from 2013-02-17 21:11:11

For organisations operating on a significant level of complexity or sophistication a wider range of dimensions and components require consideration:


A system that adjusts its way of behavior relative to changing internal or external conditions is termed self-organizing

Ashby, W. R. (1947) “Principles of the self-organizing dynamic system,” Journal of General Psychology (37) pp. 125-128.
Ashby, W. R. (1962) Principles of the self-organizing system, in H. von Foerster and G. W. J. Zopf (Eds.)
Principles of Self-Organization: Transactions of the University of Illinois Symposium, London, UK: Pergamon Press, pp. 255-278.


Below is a framework for encouraging eGovernment projects using a large and diverse range of stakeholders. It is particularly helpful in environments where operating in ‘silos’ with different approaches to artifacts, processes and  people exist. Its value is that the breakdown of complex problems into components can allow focus and harmonisation.

M. Wimmer A European perspective towards online one-stop government: the eGOV project (Electronic Commerce Research and Applications ) 2002

M. Wimmer A European perspective towards online one-stop government: the eGOV project (Electronic Commerce Research and Applications ) 2002 University of Linz (2002)

One of the disadvantages of this technique are the more complex abstraction requirements to handle complexity. As part of the tradeoff it may be more difficult to engineer consensus or even understanding for groups (even at an executive level.

Globe - Clolours1.1

To overcome this approaches need to be built in to ensure that individual perspectives and requirements are built into procedures and that this crystallizing is built into a cataloging that not only provides distinction between entities but also empathy.

One useful mechanism to deal with this is to embed a semantic framing of key policy and measurement communications. Sentiment analysis permits dashboards of keyword search for a variety of formats. However, most conventional approaches seem geared towards the tactics then strategies of organisations and how they relate to their/external communities.

An effective system for executive or senior level managerial decisions should be framed around the guiding strategic drivers that motivate direction and change.

Given the sophistication and limitations of human and computing logic as addressed in a previous post it is appropriate to draw from the logic that a single blog post and its responses is capable of generating hundreds of key terms, all which can be delinerated by the semantic schema explained above.

To extract and analyze ten pieces of concern and motivation of individual entities in regards to an organisational problem/opportunity could provide the starting point for articulating:

  • What are the overriding
    • visions
    • priorities,
  • What are the available
    • threats,
    • benefits;
    • limitors;
  • Who the key community stakeholders are
    • internally,
    • externally
  • What competences exist contextually
    • intenally
    • externally

Using human/and or algorithm techniques teams of specialists or lay researchers would be able to generate knowledge and/or communications competences as a scale previously unimaginable without the mixture of Internet community and machine learning sophistications (which is why big data is so important).

Returning to the keyword analysis of a social housing blog (creating a keyword list of around 500 unique terms) using a mixture of techniques involving:

  1. Artifacts Search: Wide keyword category search to identify user profiles,
  2. Process Search: Extract of specific terms (such as “bedroom”) within profiles,
  3. People Search: Extract of relationships/contexts within individual identified media.

Globe - Clolours1.2

Doing this intensely over a short period is not only able to generate homogenous tweets (over 800) from a large user population (over 300) (accounts [I] [II] [III]) but also contextual, filtered [I] [II] or broader information flows (albeit with requirements in these instances for reinterpreting/synthesizing).

Given the complexity and significant time, cost and communications expenses involved in a major information systems project it is appropriate to build in appropriate necessitating of data mining and representation to engineer communications harmonizing or demarcation within/without an organisation.

Having a tight data set using a wider population has its advantages for allowing data drift, as well as timeline style benchmarking of processes, systems and infrastructures to highlight where disharmony ebbs or recedes (either internally, between rival organisations or between industries or technologies). The adaptive potential for using an information community for complementary analysis and engagement.

Returning to the frameworks our group has already analyzed, below is an evaluation of the perspectives focus on a semantic level, graded up to five for relevancy:

Description Department for Trade and Industry Balanced Scorecard Framework Activity Basesd Costing Economic Value Added OBRiM Cresswell’s ROI Process Oriented BSC
Processing Systems 3 3 2 2
Alert Systems 2 2 3 3 1
Inventory Systems 2 2 2 2 2
Management Information Systems 4 3 3 4 3
Decision Support Systems 3 3 3 3
Accounting Management Systems 3 3 4 4
Financial Management Systems 3 3 4 4
Payment Systems 2 2
Expert Systems 2 4 3 3
Databases 3 3 4 4
Human Resource Information Systems 3 4 3 2
Marketing Information Systems 3 2 5
Technology 3 3 2 3
Computer Science 3 3 2 2
Electronics 2 2
P2P 2 2 4 2
Information Technology 4 4 3 3
Internet Technology 3 3 2 2
Internet of Things 2
Software 2
ICT Change 3
Knowledge 4 4 3 3 3 5 5 3
Information 4 4 2 3
Meaning 4 3 3 3
Statistics 3 3 4 4
Data Integrity 3 5 4
Virtualisation 1
Cloud 1 1 1 1
Cloud Technology 1 1 1 1
IT Reliability 3 4 4 3
IT Quality Performance 3 4 4 3
Knowledge Management 3 4 4 4 3
Statistical tools 3 5 3 3
Analysis 4 5 2 2
Sentiment Analysis 5 4 3
Standards 4 4 4 4
Front End 3 2 4 4
Re/engineering 3 3 2 2
Security 3 4 3 3
networks 4 3 4 2
Relationships 3 4 2 3 4 3 1
Clusters 2 4 3 5
Social Businesses 4 3 2 2
Collaborative Working 4 3 4 4 3 4 5 4
Communication 4 4 3 2
Knowledge Share 4 3 4 3
Openness 4 4 3 2
Open Source 3 3 2 3
Internet 2 3 2 1
Globalisation 2 3 2
Mergers 2 3
Asymmetries 4
Innovation 4 4 3 3
Competition 4 4 4 2 4
Competitive Advantage 3 4 4 4
Cost Leadership 4 3 3 2
Quality Leadership 4 3 3 3
Differentiation 3 2 3 4
Cultural Issues 4 4 3 2 5
Strategic Drivers 3 4 2 4
Business Change 4 4 3 2 4
Disruptive Technology 3
New Markets 3 4 4 3 3
New Territories 3 3 3
Fads and Trends 5 5 3 3
Changing Roles 3 3 3 3 1
Macro Economics 3 3 3 2
Micro Economics 4 4 3 2 5 3 2
Risk 3 4 4 2 2 2 5
People 3 2 3 2
Organisation 4 4 3 3 4
Multinational 4 4 4 3 4
SMEs 5 4 4 4 3 2 2
Individuals 3 3 4 4
Business 4 4 4 3
Entrepreneurship 5 3 3 3
Government 4 4 3 3
Society 3 4 3 1
Social Enterprises 4 3 4 3
Professional Types 3 3 4
Executives 4 4 4 2 4
CEO 5 5 4 3
CTOs 4 3 4 3 3 2 1
CIOs 4 4 3 3 5 4 2
Leadership 5 4 3 3 3 2 1
Governance 4 5 4 3
C Level Commitment 4
Orientation / Focus / Vision 4 4 4 3
Value Systems 3 3 4 2 2
Gut Instinct 4 4 3 3 3 4 3 4
Strategy 5 5 4 4 5
Strategic Alignment 5 5 4 4 4
Executive Strategy 4 4 4 3 4
Business Strategy 5 5 4 4 4 3 2 5
IT Strategy 3 3 3 2 4 3 2 4
Strategic Planning 4 5 4 4 3 3 2
Business Development 5 4 3 3 5 3 3 4
Accountability 4 4 4 4 2 4 3
Transparancy 4 5 3
Regulation 4 4 4 3 4 5 2
Consulting 4 5 3 3 3 4 4 3
Business Models 5 4 3 4
Free 5 5 4 4
Business Intelligence 4 4 3 4 2 3 2
Business Plans 5 5 4 4 5 2 3
Organisational Flexibility 4 4 4 4 1 2 1
Outsourcing 2 2 1 1 3 4 3
Mesurement 5 5 5 5 4 4 4
Objectives 4 4 4 3 2 3 3
Concerns 3 4 6 4
Goals 5 5 5 5 4 3 2
Mission Statements 4 3 4 4
Stakeholders 4 3 4 4
B2B 4 4 4 4
B2C 4 4 3 3
Distributers 4
Employees 4 5 2 5
Performance 5 5 5 5
Deployment 4 3 4 3 4
Planning 4 4 4 4 2 2 5 4
Process Management 3 4 3 2 5 4 2
Division Management 4 4 4 4 3 4 5
Length of Time 4 4 3 4
Supply Chain Management 4 4 4 2
Total Quality Management 3 3
Just in Time Processes 3 3 4 5 4 5 3 4
Six Sigma 3
Management 4 4 4 3
Front Line 2
Human Resources 4
Customer Centricity 4 4 3 2
Marketing 4 3 4 3
Sales 2 3 3 4
Distribution 3 3 3 3 4 2 5
Financing 4 4 4 4
Accounting 2 2 3 4
Legal 2 1 1 1
Information Technology 4 3 3 4 5
Bring Your Own Device 1
Investment 3 2 2 4
Venture Capital 4 2 3 2
Capital Projects 4 3 3 4 3 2 5 4
Costs 3 4 3 2
Costing 2 2 4 4
Expenditure 4 3 2 3
IT expenditure 3 4 3 3
Revenues 2 4 3 4
Services 4 3 4 3
Service Provision 3 3 4 4
Products 2 2 2 1
Observation 3 3 3 2
Methology 5 5 5 5
Administration 1 1 1 1 2 4 3
Efficiency 3 2 4 5 5 3 2 4
Operational Efficiency 5 4 3 4
Decision Making 3 4 3 2
Evaluation 2 3 4 4
Informal Evaluation 2 5 3 3
Metrics 4 4 4 4 4
Benchmarks 4 4 3 2
Quality 3 3 2 3 5 3 3
Service 4 4 4 4 3 4 2 5
Flexibility 2 5 3 5
Scorecard 5 5 4 4 3 5 3 5
Key Performance Indicators 5 5 5 5 5 5 4
Measurement 5 3 3 3 4 4 4
Financial Measurement 5 4 4 4
Multi Criteria Measurement 4 4 4 4
Ratio Measurement 4 4 4 4
Portfolio Measurement 3 4 4 4
Net Present Value 4 5
Internal Rate of Return 4 5 4 5 4
Economic Value Added 4 4 3 5 3 4 4
Return on Investment 4 4 2 4 2 5 3
Payback Analysis 1 2 3
Game Theory or Role Playing 4 4 5 2
Simulation 4 3 4
Quantification 2 2 4 3 4
Qualification 2 3 4 3 3 2 4
Intangibles 4 4 4 3 5
Tangibles 4 4 4 4 4
Outcomes 4 4 4 4
Communication 4 4 4 4
Messages 1
Social Media 1
Online Communities 1
Military 3
Mining Industry 3
Healthcare Industry 4
Pharmaceutical Industry 4
Travel Industry 4
Finance Industry 4
Banking Industry 4
Computing Electronics Industry 3 2 3 2
Consumer Electronics 4 2 3 2
Technology Industry 4 3 4 3
IT Industry 4 4 4 2
Internet Industry 3 3 3 3
Internet Search Engines 4 3 3 3
Internet Forums 3 4 3 2


The weightings from the combined methodology could be built to provide rank and contextual parameters based around the motivations of the stakeholders providing material (and therefore weighting depending on submissions and feedback.

Strategic Alignment: A Summary

30 Nov

As this weeks post is my final, I have decided to do a recap of my previous blogs, to conclude my work on strategic alignment.


Week 1: My first blog was an introduction to strategic alignment where we explored the meaning of the term and also looked at definitions from scholars.




The primary point we can take from this blog is that from the observation of previous successful Strategic Alignment, it is essential that firms tailor plans to fit their firm, not replication of other companies.

Week 2: This post emphasized the importance of communication of information right through the organization chart, from operational employees right up to top management. As previously mentioned only “14% of employees understand the organizations strategy”. If all employees had a better understanding of the organisations strategy, then strategic alignment will be allowed to occur.

Week 3: This blog explored how the presence of a flawless business model paved the way for successful strategic alignment.  Osterwalder points out that “The business model concept improves the alignment of strategy, business organization and technology”.



In order to guarantee a smooth implementation of business visions and alignment between the different groups, firms require a very clear communication of concepts and understandings between the implicated parties.

Week 4: In this post we once again refer back to the role of communication in achieving strategic alignment. I carefully analyzed Brian O’Flaherty’s paper where he expresses a belief in the effectives of putting a liaison in place.  His case study showed how the presence of a liaison role in a firm, which acted as an intermediary between IT and business units, enabled all parties to be fully informed and understand the goals and strategies of the company.

Week 5: My final investigative blog focused on the role of strategic alignment in the banking sector. I found this industry of interest due to the richness of data present in the sector and also due to the importance of security for the firms.

IS/T Alignment

Following the four steps outlined above enabled financial institutions in the study to succeed in implementing effective strategic alignment.


I found the Strategic Alignment topic to be a very interesting one and although much research has been done in the field, with many resulting theories, questions still remain.

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:


Tesco’s use of IT and how it aligns with their chosen strategy.

28 Nov

The purpose of this blog is to examine Tesco from an information systems strategic alignment perspective. In my undergraduate degree I took a module on food retail and supply chain management. I want to use some of the information I learned in this module to look at Tesco and their use of IT and investigate whether it aligns with their strategy.

In recent years Tesco’s strategy has been to brand themselves as a discount retailer. Evidence of this strategy can be seen in the way they design and lay out their stores. They display signs in store displaying products which they sell at a cheaper price than their competitors. The type of packaging they use to display products in store also lends itself to the discount retailer look. Tesco also retail and market their own brand products which are cheaper than other better known brands in the market.They display meat in crates placed in the cold counter and display milk in metal crates which are wheeled from the storeroom out to the cold display unit. Tesco also make use of shelf ready packaging to display most of the products in their stores. All of the forms of display above give Tesco’s stores the look of a low cost retailer making them look almost like a warehouse in appearance. The use of shelf ready packaging like those listed above also means that staff spend less time filling shelves, this in turn increases an individual’s productivity meaning less staff are needed, which drives prices down further again. This virtuous cycle means that Tesco’s chosen strategy of a discounter is being continuously reinforced by the savings being made.

How does IT fit into Tesco’s strategy of being a discount retailer?

Their use of self service checkouts is one such example of this. Tesco’s self service service checkouts were originally introduced in 2002 and are now used in nearly every Tesco store in the world, they even went as far as to open their first completely self service shop in Northampton in 2010. These self service checkouts allow customers with only a small amount of items to quickly complete their transaction and avoid lengthy queues in the process, they also allow Tesco to reduce the number of checkout staff needed in each store (again reducing costs which are eventually passed onto the customer, reinforcing its discounter image further). In my opinion Tesco’s self service checkouts and the image they present lends itself to its discounter brand strategy also, more up market retailers like Marks and Spencer and Supervalu haven’t taken to self service checkouts in the same way as they don’t align with their respective strategies. In Supervalu’s case they have presented themselves as a local and Irish owned company.

Tesco have also utilised heat-sensing technology in conjunction with self service checkouts in its stores to monitor lines and to reduce the amount of time customers wait in queues. They have also introduced an online order system where customers can order groceries for delivery. They have also utilised IT in their supply chain to cut costs and increase efficiency. A new system of hand held computers was introduced to staff in UK stores to simplify the process of monitoring stock levels and orders of replacement products.

In one of my previous blogs I examined the IT Strategic Alignment model by Venkataraman. This model showed how different business domains depend on one another. I think the Tesco example and their use of IT can be applied to this model as their use of self service checkouts is dependent upon their continued dedication to reduce costs and present themselves as a discount retailer.

In my opinion Tesco have successfully aligned IT with their business strategy. Does anyone have any views or thoughts on Tesco’s use of IT?

Does Maturity bring Alignment?

28 Nov

Hopefully by now you understand the importance of harmony between IT and business. If you don’t here is everything you need you know. I ve also mentioned in the past the importance of creating the right strategic fit for your company. As [Henderson and Venkatraman, 1999] illustrate functional integration is what separates business from IT.  Building on the work of ac04 in her work on how enables/inhibitors impact on alignment , I hope to expand on this by describing the strategic alignment maturity assessment method of [Luftman, 2000].

This method helps firms to judge where it stands on the road to alignment; it also flags potential opportunity for firms to tighten alignment. The method is really a model and this model has 6 areas of alignment. Each area is multi-faceted. The reason for 6 areas is as Luftman states because there “no single activity will enable a firm to attain and sustain alignment”.

Each unit is assessed by a team of business and IT executives and a score allocated from levels 1 to 5 with 5 being the worst.

The IT and business team must then agree on the firms current level. The conversation that ensues on how best to achieve alignment is extremely valuable to understand the firms current state of maturity and how best to improve it.

By recognizing what level of maturity the firm is at it can then gauge how best to reach the next level of maturity through outlining improvement areas. But arguably more importantly it provides a framework for IT/business managers to interact and discuss problems and potential improvements for the firm. The key for alignment is to get all six elements of the above diagram to work in harmony. This benchmarking approach is essentially a benchmarking process, that marries the twin dynamic worlds of business and IT.

Click to access IT-Business%20Alignment.pdf

How do we measure strategic alignment?

28 Nov

In the past few weeks I have studied and read as much material as I could find on Strategic Alignment. I examined different models drawn up by industry experts and academics and read papers on how best to fit strategy and IT together. While examining models I would often try to think of real world examples where the model could be applied. Is achieving strategic alignment as simple as an Accounting firm updating their software to a new program that allows them to work through clients accounts more efficiently and accurately. If IT allows them to complete their most basic business function more easily then surely we could say that their strategy and IT are aligned successfully.

How do we even know when strategic alignment has been achieved? A model I have used in a previous blog suggested the strategic alignment pyramid as a tool in achieving strategic alignment.

Within this model they suggested the use of key performance indicators to measure the success of any new business process. The next question is how do you know it is a lack of alignment which is causing under-performance? Could the strategy itself be flawed and doomed to fail regardless of how you utilise IT? By asking these questions I think it highlights the difficulties that exist within strategic alignment and more specifically in its measurement.

This is only a short blog in which I wanted to raise the question of measuring strategic alignment. I did a quick search before posting and haven’t seen any blogs asking this question.

Does anyone else see the point I’m trying to make here? Any thoughts to add?

How Strategic Alignment Strengthens IT for Transforming Organisations

28 Nov

An article by IBM reinforces the statement that there are a lack of fundamental frameworks in place to allow people to understand the potential of IT for “tomorrows organisations”. Their article illustrates the power of the model in terms of two fundamental characteristics of strategic management. These two key characteristics are strategic fit and functional integration. These elements act as a fusing mechanism between four competencies better known as:

  • Business Strategy
  • IT Strategy
  • Business Infrastructure
  • IT Infrastructure

The illustration below from depicts this fusion well:



As you can see, the business sectors are shown on the left hand side while the IT sectors are depicted on the right. It is evident from the diagram that the function of strategic fit is to make sure that the IT divisions are aligned with the Business department while the role of functional integration is to align the concept of strategy with infrastructure.

As it has been mentioned in some of my previous blogs, strategic alignment is not as simple as the diagram above portrays. In order for this concept to be implemented to leverage IT for transforming organisations, the strategic alignment pyramid must be adhered to. Below is the strategic alignment pyramid:

So as we can see from the pyramid, the organisation must begin with a vision, they must know where they want to be in the future, secondly they must implement a strategy, how are they going to accomplish their vision? Objectives must then be set to address what tasks must be completed in order to execute the strategy. Critical success factors must then be analysed to identify the areas that must be focused on. KPI’s are also very important in the measurement of the organisations success. And finally, Key Action Initiatives will help to establish what action programs will help to achieve the organisations goal.


Source of Strategic Alignment Pyramid:


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.


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


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:


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:

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.


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.


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:

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

28 Nov

Part 1 of More than just eCoal, eSteam and ePower: The Modernizing Dynamics of Change

There have been significant economic and societal gains as a result of the symbiotic improvements to the capabilities of technological and computational development and how individuals and groups harness this raw potential. Unimaginable outcomes and possibilities, previously out of the reach of even elites and nation states have today become readily available and even ordinary. We should not only celebrate this, we should learn from the inventive, innovative and social drivers that powered this change.

In order to convey the scale of social transformations that these refined and newer tools provide I felt it appropriate to draw parallel with the Industrial Age and reinforce how our pushing against the boundaries of possibility today is not without precedent. It also helps shine light regarding how leaders should be thinking of the future and how to relate businesses and organisations to change.

Three clarifications help explain technology’s contribution to business model and strategic challenges:

  • At some point even the most basic of tools and infrastructures had to be conceived, formed and manipulated, reconfigured and re-engineered;
  • Invention and innovation is usually determined through need or to satisfy a specific outcome. However, history highlights that serendipity or un/expected re/discovered models and applications of tools can provide the most significant breakthroughs. Either evolutionary or revolutionary, great jumps can come from the most written off and neglected cul-de-sacs of human (and today, computational) enquiry.
  • Whether ancient or modern, man’s great inheritances have been received and expand upon tend to be under appreciated. Similarly, the great leaps forward in our age usually lose cache through the triumph of familiarity and pervasiveness.


Serving as part of the Dialogue, Governance and Reform in the Web 2.0 Age series, supplementary posts will include:

  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.


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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