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Author's profile photo Ian Thain

Mobile and the Decentralization of Decision Making

In a traditional modern enterprise, information can be a key factor in delaying business process control, as people who own information can own control over the process. Mobility is challenging this traditional process control hierarchy by making it easier for decision makers (this means decision makers at all levels of an organization) to have direct, un-delayed access to information. This means control will move away from executive levels and closer to the people who are hands-on with customers, processes and products… The Information Workers. Already more mobilized employees (and even customers) spend less time going through a hierarchical structure to “get” information, they need it immediately. Mobile information consumers find their own paths to the information they need. But will corporate authority structures allow this to happen? In a word, YES!.. Ricoh UK earlier this year completed a study which shows that nearly two thirds of business leaders in their market expect just such an evolution in decision making.

Mobility may be sparking a rush toward decentralization of decision making, and many mobile operations benefit with accelerated business processes, more effective tactical decision making, and high levels of customer engagement. The advantages are measurable and well documented, but even with all of the advantages, does the decentralization of decision making compromise business process control? Surely we still need coordination and accountability to maintain a robust, resilient, audit-able enterprise. For example:

  • How does an enterprise ensure all decision makers are accountable?
  • How does the business make sure the customer experience is consistently high when individual employees have so much latitude and discretion?
  • Does the decentralization of decision making impact brand coherence?

In fact the very mobile apps and mobile business processes that are driving the decentralization of decision making can also work as tools for regulating and maintaining the integrity of the process. In many ways, mobile apps are ideal for this purpose. The limitations of mobile devices put a premium on computing resources and data usage. That means the best mobile apps are tailored to the business purpose they are intended to serve (As defined by an Application Definition Statement ADS, possibly created via a Mobility Innovation Council MIC) . For example, a mobile application designed to provide its user with context specific data just when the user needs it is efficiently utilizing device and bandwidth resources. It is also limiting user choices to the tactical needs of the moment. If designed properly, those choices should reinforce the integrity of the business process.

Using mobile apps to govern business process in a decentralized decision making environment only works if the applications are compatible with existing corporate information systems. This is because business processes are not isolated activities. They are inter-dependent activities that share data with other business systems. Some business processes may also be served by a suite of mobile apps. That is why a platform based mobility strategy is so important to effective enterprise business mobility.

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