Processes, Technology and People: The three keys to successfully changing anything

If you are contemplating change, business process improvement or organizational transformation the keys to success are people, process and technology. These three factors, more than any others, will govern the degree to which you succeed or fail. Almost any change you attempt will have some effect across all three of these areas because they are so intertwined.
However, before you even contemplate change in any of these three areas it is critical that you get the information part of the equation down. Now, more than at any other point in history, information is king. Having a complete understanding of the information that flows through these people, processes and technology is the critical component in ensuring that any change leads to meaningful results. The fact is that the information that runs most organizations is probably the thing within the organization that is least subject to change. If you are in the retail business then you how much you sold something for, the terms of the sale and customer information have been important and relatively unchanged for hundreds of years and from organization to organization. The same is true of construction and most other industries. Sure there has been some change, maybe now we need an e-mail address, etc but the pace of change is much slower than the change in people, processes and technology. The mechanics of processing an order in retail has changed dramatically over the last 20 years with the introduction of online retailing, etc with huge repercussions for the people, processes and technology involved.

Once you clearly understand the information required to support the breadth of the area you are targeting for business process improvement or organizational transformation you can begin looking at the people, processes and technology:

  • Processes: This is a great place to start because it drives the requirements for the other two. For example if your new process for car sales no longer includes the salesman negotiating the price you may begin to look for different qualities in your salespeople or provide different training because negotiation skills may now be less valuable in comparison to other skill areas.
  • Technology: Once you understand how the process should work, you can develop a solution that meets those requirements. I have spent a lot of time working backwards from solution to people to process and it can be incredibly frustrating. Unfortunately, this happens quite a bit particularly when solution activities are vendor driven.
  • People: I put this last, which I think some people will disagree with but I believe that one of the great advantages of people is their flexibility and adaptability. These traits are becoming even more important as the pace of change in the world increases. Once the process and technology components are defined the approach to people can be evaluated and developed.

In no way am I suggesting that people aren’t important to the transformation process I just think that at least first attempting to optimize the first two conceptually enables you to truly understand the implications for the people involved. You can also evaluate the organizations (people) ability to change based on current skills, etc. I really do not like the idea of starting from the people side and trying to evaluate change initiatives on the basis of what can be accomplished based on an evaluation of the existing personnel because while that may be comforting to the people who are subject to that change I don’t think it holds up over time, nor will it result in a business process improvement or transformational activity that will withstand the forces of the marketplace. If you sub-optimize your organizational processes because you are afraid that your existing personnel may not be able to scale to meet the challenge you may be underestimating your people, but you are almost certainly setting yourself up to fair poorly in comparison to peers who do not place themselves under the same constraints. You may need to segment or develop a phased approach to the change initiative but I do not believe that you should settle for a final scenario that is deliberately sub-optimized on the basis of fit to existing personnel.

What do you believe? I know there are a lot of people who believe in working from the people you have towards optimal solutions for those people because the social factors involved in working from this direction drives buy-in which in turn drives success. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts in this area because I do believe that, in the end, the success or failure of a solution is often tied more to human factors than to technical merit. I try to emphasize developing the people and processes and then focusing on the sales pitch to the people as my mechanism for buy-in, but let me know what your take is.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Operating Models: Understanding Complex Organizations

Operating Model Diagram

Standardization and Integration of Operating Models

I’ll be giving a Webinar today for MB&A Academy’s Webinar of the Week Series. Every week we feature industry leaders and experts giving a peak into the full length course we teach to leading government officials and corporate executives. My talk today will be on Operating Models. The idea of an “organizational operating model” is the central concept discussed by Dr. Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David C. Robertson in their seminal work, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution. They contend that for companies to succeed, they must understand their operating model: in other words, the degree to which they must standardize business processes and/or integrate data to produce optimized business outcomes.

Higher standardization of processes is typically required where efficiency and predictability are the primary factors in delivery of the organization’s products or services.  If an organization wants to present the same face to customers in diverse locations, or capitalize on efficiencies of scale in purchasing, for instance, a high degree of standardization is required. The higher the level of standardization, however, the greater the cost to the overall organization in terms of flexibility and innovation.

Data integration effectively links the efforts of various organizational units through information sharing.  Higher levels of integration encourage close working relationships between various areas of a business or agency, and more centralized decision-making. Also, the more integration, the more agreement is required on definitions, and this comes at the cost of local control and autonomous management of information resources.

Clearly, each organization will have different needs; even different divisions of the same company may have quite different objectives.  As such, different operating models can maximize their individual potential.  Once the Operating Model is determined, the Enterprise Architecture can be designed to meet the critical process standardization and integration requirements for delivery of the company’s products or services.

Ross, Weill, and Robertson specifically define four models that exist depending on standardization and integration requirements of each organization. To learn more about these models, and how we work with our clients to identify to most productive To-Be model for their organization, check out my Webinar today at 12:00pm EST. Register here.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.