I recently completed an interview with the VP of patient management for a large healthcare organization. When introducing herself, she said that her responsiblity is “connecting the dots”. I asked her what kind of dots, and she said “We have a software application for everything we do -- I must get them talking to each other and this is a challenge.” I asked her what the role of IT. Her answer was “they do a good job of maintaining the applications, but not so much on cross-functional processes”.
Is this an unusual situation? Obviously not. A recent Forrester survey of 141 organizations shows that in 78% of organizations business executives -- not IT -- drive process improvement initiatives. I assume that most of these initiatives are about “connecting the dots”.
I think that IT decision-makers can do a lot more to improve business processes, in particular cross-functional processes. Acting as agents of process improvement, they need to re-focus their teams from supporting tech platforms to optimizing cross-functional processes. As one of these change-agents pointed out in a recent interview “ No single functional department owns end-to-end order-to-cash. IT can help a company see something that is hard to see”. (see this report)
Working with several IT decision-makers, I developed a few recommendations for change-agents who aim to increase the business orientation and efficiency of their organizations:
Focus on business enablement through service orientation
Over the last 25 years in the business I heard my share of BI horror stories: “we have over 20 different BI tools”, or “we have a few thousand reports in our BI application”. BI is very much a self fulfilling prophecy – “build it, and they will come”. As we popularize BI, and as technology becomes more scalable, more stable, more function rich and user-friendly - BI spreads like wildfire and often becomes uncontrollable.
I can’t help but to quote from one of my favorite books by a British author Jerome K. Jerome “Three Men In A Boat, To Say Nothing Of A Dog”. One of the reasons I love the book, in addition to it being one of the funniest novels I ever read, is that I can almost always find a very relevant humorous quote to just about any life or business situation. At the beginning of the book three British gentlemen are planning a vacation on a river boat. As they plan for how much food and supplies they should carry, they quickly realize that there isn’t a boat big enough to fit the dimensions of the Thames river to carry all that junk.
“How they pile the poor little craft mast-high with fine clothes and big houses; with useless servants, and a host of swell friends that do not care twopence for them, and that they do not care three ha'pence for; with expensive entertainments that nobody enjoys, with formalities and fashions, with pretence and ostentation, and with - oh, heaviest, maddest lumber of all! - the dread of what will my neighbour think, with luxuries that only cloy, with pleasures that bore, with empty show that, like the criminal's iron crown of yore, makes to bleed and swoon the aching head that wears it!