Friday, August 29, 2008

Process: More than "the computer says no"

I have been interested in transaction cost economics for a number of years, particularly from the organisational & supply chain point of view. At what point do the internal efficiencies of process and formalisation become more effectively performed outside the organisation? How much formalisation should we have versus "organicity" and "self direction"?. From what I learned, quite a lot of "reality" gets "codified" through "formal procedures". We've all seen it happen in our companies, or in former places of employment: the report says "good to go", but you know there are risks not mentioned in that report. That's where the informal processes and network does its work, and those conversations are probably happening in emails, IM's, and social networks. So, formalisation is and always was mediated and augmented by conversation.

Being thorough in following process and procedure can drive effective performance, even in medical environments like Intensive Care. It can help in the diagnosis, in the doing, and in the reporting.

I was intrigued when the FastForwardBlog had a posting on Taylor and Micro-Processes. To quote:

examples (of micro-processes) might include:

  • Customizing an existing sales presentation for a meeting with a new prospect
  • Designing the agenda and preparing materials for an internal brainstorming meeting
  • Putting together the briefing materials for a quarterly business review meeting
  • Analyzing and making sense out of a competitor’s recent pricing announcement

These micro-processes are characterized by:

  • A small number of steps
  • Ad hoc design created by the knowledge workers responsible for the process
  • Loose definitions of the beginning and end of the process
  • Loose notions of control, sign-offs, and approvals
  • Technology-enabled, if at all, by email and office suite tools.

None of these processes were ever explicitly designed; they’ve evolved over time. The cumulative pain and productivity drag imposed by these processes is accepted as a fact of organizational life. While various technologies are offered up as ways out of the swamp, we need an overall improvement strategy to provide the necessary direction

There is much to ponder here. Given that there has been little progress made in bringing "Taylorism" to knowledge work, how we can use process-based orientation to expose these hidden drags could lead to an explosion in productivity. God knows, our economy could do with it. VoiceSage takes a process perspective to drive out drags in communication and collaboration, particularly in communications to the customer base, but there is no reason why a similar focus could not be used on internal processes. Indeed Thomas Howe has numerous examples of how document sign off and management creates unnecessary and expensive drags that when traced and measured cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Odds and Ends of Week

Evert Bopp is following up on his idea for a co-working space in Ireland. Eirpreneur uses Twitter to have a virtual watercooler for teleworkers. Bernie Goldback does the Sunday Papers via Qik, the instant video solution from your smart phone. Oh Yeah, and Ireland gives James Enck some serious link love around his return to the world of Blogging, and being "cutdown in subprime". So what's it all about?

Well in a way there are some fairly big themes going on here and they have to do with broadband, broadband availability, and the impact of this on work patterns and social communications. From ip-networks to social networks, if you will. I have to admit that I am more than a little interested in how people can maintain social networks, and business networks through a combination of online conversation, webinars, and physical presence. Ken Thompson calls it 3 types of network dialogs "Getting Things Done, Grooming, and Emoting", and a viable network has to have all three to be sustainable.

I've been around a few years now, and I think that I've found that particular people can be great networkers, but it is so very very hard to extend that capability to groups, and to organizations as a whole. Yet, everywhere we look the researchers are telling us that "open innovation", "networked organisations", "virtual organisations", are the future of our global economy.  Cisco have put very big bets on just this kind of social change and collaboration (thus their purchase of webex).

I'd love to hear of great examples of these virtual networks. How far do people have to be apart for it to fall over? Is it iterative or or are they like the may fly that dies once its purpose is completed?

For my book, I am watching the guys around Twitterphone with great glee, (,, What I love about it is that for a relatively small amount of money, three players were able to get together and make a big bang in the world of early adopers. Perhaps it isn't the belly of the whale, but its on its tale, and its making it way.... "press 2 to talk to the whale".

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Thomas Howe has an interesting take on why Ribbit acquisition by BT is all about the next generation of services for the enterprise. One of the key things will be "communications enabling business processes", or CEBP. Who companies look to to deliver this capability is one of the reasons he reckons BT is so interested in the acquisition. The "typical enterprise developer" will not tackle telephony solutions in his humble opinion.

Jay Philips over at Adhearsion has a great posing on why the Asterisk open source PABX is not developed upon to a higher degree. "Beyond that point (..of getting a basic function to work)Asterisk becomes prohibitively unintuitive and that impression sticks and becomes a reputation" He also says the developer retention rate is less than 1%. This is very, very interesting, and maybe also why Ribbit, in turn, is interesting. If applications can be niche, and faceted to their actual use-case situation, without programming, then they become "long tail". Maybe what the open source movement need here is a "container" that enables people to play, without programming.

If Ribbit was as easy to use, as say, iTunes, would it be adoptable? If there were zero programming? If literally, you did not see one line of code, not even a "copy this, and paste it where you see <body" :) Perhaps this is the bet BT are making.

Well don't let me scare you, but if you had popped inside VoiceSage you would see that our applications are entirely deployed without you having to write a line of code. Could it be made as "easy as iTunes"? mmmm.....Lets see.

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