Business Process 21C: The Jackhammer Tales

suitOver the past few months I’ve begun to reflect upon how I arrived here at the intersection of process and innovation in the Enterprise.  It occurred to me that everything I learned as a researcher, a writer, and an industry observer in the services provider space  (my pre-Internet career) now had great bearing on what I was seeing in the Enterprise as a result of the pace of disruptive technologies impacting the market.  The question that kept re-emerging for me was: how are rigidly defined business processes that were hammered out in the 90s reconfiguring to adapt to better, faster, more efficient ways of meeting customer needs?  Even more puzzling is, if my friend Josh’s old joke is correct, “SAP is like pouring concrete into a company,” how are large enterprises dismantling foundational ERP systems to include disruptive technologies?  After all, no 21st Century business can stand to stay frozen in the past.  Even SAP itself is retooling to provide greater flexibility and real-time actions and insights with its HANA in-memory database and its JAM social platform.

This big question has been vexing me for a while, so I asked my friend and fellow Enterprise Irregular, Phil Fersht at HfS Research, if he’d be interested in an exploratory study to see how BPO providers and consultants are responding to new advances in mobile, social, the Internet of things– all new capabilities that were not present when the majority of institutional business processes were “cemented” into the Enterprise. I’ve seen evidence of several companies who’ve been introducing social, in particular, to provide greater value to customers.  Of course, some of the best examples are coming from platform vendors themselves such as this post, “Enterprise Social is about Business Process Redesign”  by CEO  at Socialtext.  But, I’ve seen other examples such as Deloitte’s work in this area explained in this post, “Social Reengineering by Design,” and even examples about how large consulting firms are changing their own internal processes as a result of new ways of working, as evidenced by this post, “Spark – taking Collaboration and Corporate Social Networking to a new Level at PwC.”   Luckily, Phil agreed this is an area definitely worth pursuing, so we’ve kicked the study off this week.  We’re compiling data and hope to publish results in the early May timeframe.

I’m really happy to be working in this area that combines my long history of covering the traditional outsourcing sector with my area of interest for this current iteration of my career in next generation technologies.  Phil has done an amazing job with HfS Research, too, so I’m proud to be contributing to their strong brand in the market.  HfS was recently named one of the leading analyst firms in a formidable field of competitors.  Last week, I paid a visit to my longtime business advisor Mort Meyersen, who is an icon in the outsourcing field having helped build EDS and then Perot Systems.  It feels good to be back among old friends, mashing up what I’ve been learning from new friends.

I will be working hard on this study for the next few months, but also working on the startup we announced a few weeks ago, Change Agents Worldwide.  So, busy, busy, but really having fun.  Hope to see some of you at SXSW, but I will be hunkered down and only getting out to a few of the evening events.  Please keep up with me on Foursquare if you’d like to connect while you’re here in Austin.

If Social Media will be like Air, Enterprise 2.0 will be like Carbon

The year I transferred from a small, liberal State college to the ginormous State University, I started the fall semester with a bevy of difficult subjects: Chemistry, Calculus, Introduction to Philosophy, and Abnormal Psychology.  When I showed up for my first day of Chemistry, little did I know I had entered the wrong classroom.  I was seated in an Organic Chemistry class, not beginner Chemistry.  Of course, I made a good show of it– nodding with the professor at different intervals, taking notes,  looking confident.  Meanwhile, I had no idea what he was talking about and wanted to run out of there screaming.  However, I now know that 40 minutes was not a waste.  I learned something day one at that class I never forgot.  That lesson is that all organic compounds (and all lifeforms on the planet) have one thing in carbon: Carbon.

I was thinking of this random fact the last few days when I read somewhere that Social Media goddess @charleneli was recently quoted saying, “Social Media will be like air.” (Love that, actually.)  And also because there’s been a bit of to and fro from the business process stalwarts who have once again found the Enterprise 2.0 conversation to occupy their fancy.

Because (admittedly) I have somewhat of an unfair 50-yard line view of the playing field for Enterprise 2.0 adoption in the work I do for The 2.0 Adoption Council, I feel relatively confident in saying, “If Social Media will be like Air, Enterprise 2.0 will be like Carbon.”  I commented to this effect on Zoli’s Enterprise Irregulars re-post of David Terrar’s @DT‘s blog post, although I’m not sure the EI blog is drawing traffic these days.

This is a great post. Read it on @DT’s blog. Totally agree that the bridge between traditional enterprise systems/data/process is the “missing link” in the e20 evolutionary branch of life. Where social will be “like air” as @charleneli says, Enterprise 2.0 will be like Carbon (where Carbon compounds form the basis of all known life.)

But looking at the enterprise through the process prism is not the right perspective, imho. The enterprise of the future will be a social web of connected individuals and teams– innovating, experimenting, verifying, discovering, deciding. The correct view is to analyze the social layer and align process to meet the demands of an ever more productive and innovative workforce.

My friend @sameerpatel has just completed a report, “The Real-Time Enterprise.” Although I have not read this report, I’m fairly certain Sameer and I see the world through a similar lens. I highly recommend you check it out. Enterprise 2.0 is coming.  It’s analogous to trying to stop the Internet from encroaching on global trade in the late 90s.  In the decades to come, it will permeate every business process, every line of communication, every channel to every member of the eco-system of the Enterprise.  Count on it.