Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Technology V Requirements the Chicken and Egg dilemma

A recent tweet from a business analyst said,

“We need to change the system so that it works for you, instead of you working for the system.”

As much as this is laudable in the true business analytical form of establishing requirements first and then build the system the practicality and real world scenario is somewhat different.

With the increasing use of cloud service platforms that spread the costs of development over large numbers of clients the reverse becomes reality. Changing systems to fit to your specific needs is expensive and time consuming, the alternative though is a loss of differentiation.

I feel a similar way about sector capability frameworks if an insurance company has the same capability map as another how does it make itself competitively different.

Over recent years we have seen, driven by technology platforms, a move to standardised working. The economic pressures of reduction in development costs and SAAS platforming has increased commoditisation.

This trend results in value being created through cost leadership - size and the spread of fixed costs being the order of the day.

On our course in developing operating models we address this issue and use a matrix grid to plot choices whether to build buy adapt or use stitch and glue addressing the balance between value chains delivery (differentiation) and cost. #businessarchitecturetraining #operatingmodels #business analysis.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Methods seem to be the answer to all business change issues, follow a methodology and all is well. As the years pass I see repackaged ideas with new fancy names, promoted by fancy graphics and delivered by accreditation and expensive training courses. Each one is the new silver bullet that becomes the mantra of the cult that follows - it nothing changes.

Methodologies actually restrict creative thought, create silo thinking and result in increased costs in change due to  focus on method rather than outcomes. What is needed is a more critical evaluation of methods using the right tool for the right tasks not just blindly following the latest craze.

These thoughts stem from thinking about Dave Snowden's work on Cynefin which I was introduce to earlier this year - see earlier posts. It illustrates that one dimension thinking results in trying to apply a method to inappropriate scenarios. Why do I say this? Well previously I was a business process    management acolyte I did lean and had played with 6 Sigma now and again. I was in "disorder" see Cynefin Model but didn't know it!

My business architecture paradigm was  - strategy, design, deliver in a holistic top down approach what I now realise that this is fine for the simple and obvious domains and perhaps for complicated - "the fine engineered watch"  - but not for the complex and chaotic where centrally controlled design blue prints, EA and  holistic business architectures just don't fit.

Whilst it is still valid in many cases a one stop method doesn't fit every organisation, especially those based on emergent strategies and evolutionary change.

So, time to think about dynamic operating models and techniques in these more challenging zones.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Complex and complicated - More depth

Some weeks ago I mentioned the two types of systems -  complex and complicated - a topic stimulated due to a client ask. In the meantime several colleagues pointed to the Cynefin framework by Dave Snowden who is cited as the creator of this idea.

Cynefin is a welsh word meaning habitat and the framework has five zones or domains. The two we already know are Complicated and Complex but the others are: simple (obvious)  , Chaotic and the fifth in the middle Disorder. The latter is a state of not knowing where you are at all whilst the other four are states to identify where you are and once identified give guidance to how to respond.

The framework is a sense making tool and as such does not have defining axes , as confirmed by Dave Snowdon in a response to a tweet on the topic last week. It is all about identifying your system state and how to respond - useful thinking.

Where do operating models sit?

Well certainly in the  obvious(simple zone) and probably in the complicated zone, but probably not in the complex zone and most definitely not in the chaotic area.

One final point to add is an organisation may well have several parts operating in several zones at the same time - life is often not simple!

If you search Cynefin there are some nice short explanatory videos  on YouTube, one by Dave Snowden himself. see Video Dave Snowden.There is a nice artistic graphic on creative commons licence by Sketching Maniacs see Edwin Stoop Cynefin illustration graphic.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Complex and Complicated

I was first exposed to systems thinking back in 2001 when working with some guys at Detica. The idea of a system of interactions with feed back loops and knock on consequences is fairly clear. Peter Checkland positioned it in literature but his books were a hard read.

Times change and new ways of presenting things appear to help us understand older concepts better. Recently I came across the words Complex and Complicated and although at first it seemed a bit semantic it cleared up some previous thinking with a nice model.

The words sound the same but as presented the complicated system is one with an engineering basis where things are difficult but logical and where 1 + 1 make two. The complex system however is more chaotic where the reaction to changes may not necessarily produce expected results.

How does all this fit with operating models? Well, it re-enforces the idea that there is not one form of operating model if a system some are complicated and some are complex and others have bits of both.  In a practical sense how does this realise itself? In low variability high volume organisations often mass market frequently B2C the model is one that describes a Complicated System - it is about algorithms processes and the elimination of variety in the operation. In these cases the business runs like a Swiss watch made up of many interacting well oiled components consistently delivering the same result time and time again - typical lean sigma territory.

The model of a system that is complex is more likely to be in services where there is a high rate of variety and heterogeneity - each case is different each customer interaction is a unique set of professionally applied offerings, Process maps are almost pointless if not impossible to define. Typically these are B2B or sometime B2C but with a more professional services slant; consultancy, accounting, legal actuarial and other markets. The third option, this is probably highly common, is a mix of the two with a transcational core surrounded by a complex startegic product development outer shell.

This is helpful because often people in BPM or 6 Sigma peddle a "one way fits all" approach and in reality things are not as simple as all that. The words might be clumsy, I do feel there must be better ways to describe this, but the thinking behind it is sound.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Using tools properly

Business studies is full of two way grids ,matrices and canvasses of one type or another, These range from well known acronym driven tools like PESTLE SWOT to the now famous business model canvas,

As a lecturer in degree level business I see students getting the wrong end of tools; they think as long as they can talk about PESTLE or SWOT or Porter's Five forces they know Strategic management inside out.

Unfortunately the tools and acronyms give a false sense of security; many students know the tools but fail to use them well. This is not just for students business professionals also fall foul of generalist lists or a patch work quilt of "post it" notes on a flip chart. What is missing is the motivation behind a listed factor.

The classic at the moment for any PESTLE analysis or SWOT threat is BREXIT.  Apart from every poorly managed and failing business blaming BREXIT rather than themselves, the threat is rarely explained.

This type of thing is especially seen in PESTLE and if you don't explain the reasoning for something on the list and its consequence clearly stated then doing the PESTLE in the first place is pointless.

Kaplan and Norton also got frustrated when the great Balanced Score Card  resulted in massive lists under the headings and had to write another book to rectify the poor usage - Strategy Mapping,.

Rubbish in rubbish out - no tool or framework is going to solve that for you.