I have mentioned in the past that my professional background lies in the logistics and supply chain domains. Over the years I have been focused on helping clients to meet their business objectives by adopting the principles and practices of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and implementing ERP software. In many cases these ERP initiatives were either preceded by or included significant business process reengineering (BPR) and business transformation efforts which were critical to enabling the ERP effort and delivering business value. As I investigate the emerging principles and practices of Social Business and develop my thoughts on Enterprise Collaboration I find myself considering the challenges and opportunities from the perspective of BPR.
Much of the current thinking on Social Business is oriented around generic use cases, such as “Ask a Colleague”, “Find an Expert” or “Crowdsourcing”. Given that Social Business is fundamentally about people, networks of relationships, communication and collaboration, it makes great sense to consider things that way. However I think that the key to deriving business value from becoming a Social Business is through changing the way that the enterprise organizes and performs work. This is why my thoughts are drawn back towards BPR.
At first I thought I could simply have a look at a particular process, and the functions and activities that compose that process, and spot the places where I could plug-in one or another Social Business use case that is relevant. As I described in an earlier posting, The Happy Path, there are in fact a number of processes where a use case, such as “Find an Expert”, can be easily employed to help to quickly and efficiently resolve the exceptions that occur during normal operations. An enterprise embarking upon a Social Business journey could analyze their end-to-end business processes and find a number of places where use cases could provide value quickly and with a minimum of effort. It is my opinion that these opportunities would represent only the “low hanging fruit”.
In order to assess and identify the full extent of the opportunities I believe that we need to carefully re-examine each and every function in the business process. I contend that our day-to-day familiarity with “how things are done” obscures the way in which a relative lack of information sub-optimizes the design and capability of the process. For example, once a production operation has been designed and deployed successfully we often take for granted the efficiency and effectiveness of the design. Prior to the availability of social business collaboration (SBC) tools there were no practical means to obtain input in a timely manner from all of the many experts throughout the enterprise. As a result valuable insights into tools and techniques elsewhere would not be leveraged. However, if the manufacturing engineer were to share their work using status updates or by tagging content then it could be visible across the enterprise and stimulate engagement. Well maintained employee profiles can be used to quickly identify resources from around the globe that have the relevant knowledge, skills and experience for the task at hand. Better yet, rather than working alone and then sharing their work, experts can use SBC tools to collaborate synchronously on the creation of work products in the first place.
Is there a limit to the Social Business reengineering opportunities? I don’t think so. Any work that is done by people and which requires information should be considered.
What do you think? Is there a limit to processes and functions that should be considered? Is there a better approach than business process reengineering?
Please share your thoughts.