Saturday, March 19, 2011

The New Wave Business Process - Part II : 'App'lied Business Theory

A conversation I was having with a senior strategist and a vendor conference which I attended this week triggered some further thought process on handling the new wave business processes. So I decided to elaborate on my initial concept in the previous blog - - about network linked business capability and online collaboration leading to commercial transactions.

Let us look at some of the changes we are seeing around us -
- Proliferation of apps
- Requirement of information
- Need to collaborate and communicate
- Remote and mobile access to apps and information for collaboration and communication

All of this points to a scenario where business operates more and more in a distributed manner and not from central locations. This also breaks down the traditional central chain of command and leads to empowerment at local levels for taking decisions and executing transactions. The challenge for leadership will be - how to ensure order in this chaos and channelize synergies across these disparate events which make for completion of a business transaction.

Working remotely is indeed supported by the emergence of technologies which support distributed collaboration. Concepts like cloud computing have matured to a level where they have business acceptance leading towards a critical mass needed to support the next stage of growth. The adoption of cloud computing opens up the business to tackle the challenges and opportunities of the future.

Now let us examine how these changes will affect the way people work. First the definition of work will undergo a change. Neither organisations will be willing to commit to fixed number of resources which is akin to sunk cost on a recurring basis, nor will resources be content to dedicate their efforts to one organisation. With that goes the concept of working hours (does it exist nowadays anyway?) as resources are supposed to perform tasks on demand. Whoever has the right skills at the time when the demand for a task to be performed comes up, gets to do the work.

What this means is that people, process and technology gets replaced with skills, capability, connectivity. Strong processes and technology support would simply be the hygiene factors which will enable this new way of working. We are getting comfortable with apps for our social requirements. Wouldn't it be great to have an app to submit your expenses? While you are on your business trip, you make your expenses through your mobile pay app and get a choice to charge it to your expenses which hits your organisations accounts payable.

Now taking this thought process to the next level - how about doing your entire business online? You no longer need concrete buildings full of people to do business. What this needs is an online infrastructure which replicates your steel and concrete structure and allows collaboration amongst your resources, partners, stakeholders, customers instantaneously. With this level of automation being built on the cloud, the organisation can hire resources online, allocate work as per skills and monitor work reports online. This concept can already be seen at work in the freelance community. If we put this in a online structure it results in a virtual organisation being created. Organisations would have administrators of such virtual departments playing the role of HODs.

When you have multiple such organisations created online and communicating with each other, you have online collaborating leading to commercial transactions. Procurement in Org A could then collaborate with Sales in Org B using an app similar to maybe Google Wave. Negotiations are conducted and recorded online resulting in issuance of a PO. This gets sent to resources in the sellers delivery organisation and the resources with the right skills and closest to the buyer get to deliver the products or services so procured.

If this concept is detailed out, it leads to huge benefits in productivity and costs. The ease of doing business also results in higher growth. Resources get benefited by getting the best value out of utilising their skills, doing what they do best.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The New Wave Business Process

Though this post focuses on a particular industry event, I am sure the process concerns raised here resonate across other sectors as well and are just as relevant.

I was at the TM Forum (TM Forum is the world’s leading industry consortium focused on improving business effectiveness for communications Service Providers.) Regional Spotlight in Delhi the previous week. One of the participants brought up the top three priorities for business as -
- New products
- Growth
- Improving Processes

This means post-recession communications service providers are clearly expecting and looking to ride the new wave of growth. At the same time there is a cautious approach to handling this growth by re-using existing infrastructure and improving current processes.
However, this was a CIO view and I would have liked to see more business process owners from operators at this forum participating and gearing up for the changes and improvements required to handle the next wave. (TM Forum's eTOM is the common business process architecture adopted by telecom operators globally.)

Now for improving the business processes, there will be dependence on IT to deliver automation projects that support the process changes or help make existing processes more efficient. No doubt IT will play an important role in process efficiency, but can only act as a catalyst. The initiator of this exercise has to be the process owner who has to have complete clarity on the future roadmap of the organization, the challenges current practices are likely to face in the future and the changes which are required to be brought about to stay current and releavant.

Additionally, newer technologies will change the way we do business. We already have seen the changes in the way we interact with each other in the last five years. These changes have already started seeping into formal interactions and business communication. These changes will further percolate into the business transactions themselves as we see businesses recognize and adopt the power of cloud computing. I am currently conceptualizing a network linked business capability which enables businesses to collaborate online and possibly enter into binding transactions online. You could essentially run your entire business on the cloud. Just imagine the power unleashed by this concept of anytime, anywhere enabling business capability.

The kind of capabilities I am envisaging here changes the way we set up organizational structures, the way we hire and maintain our workforce, the way we interact within the organization, the way we define the tasks essential to carry on business, the way we engage with external stakeholders, in essense everything we call as 'doing business'. Businesses will have to go for a deep introspection and respect none of the currently established practices as valid in the future.

This essentially means the current ways of doing business will just not be good enough to tackle the new wave of growth which will have its own demands of quicker than before delivery, better than ever products and lower than ever costs. In essence this calls for not only looking afresh at business process re-engineering, but also changes the way we look at and perform BPR itself.