Friday, 31 December 2010

Faceless Registration - A bad customer experience.

Several electronic products needed registration over the holiday period and most give a web site reference for registration; bearing in mind this is perhaps the first experience of the organisation one gets you think it would be a good thing to get right.

On two occasions the websites failed to allow an account to be registered and so followed a phone call only to be held in a queue for ages and an abandoned call. For the first organisation in the end the post card was filled in a stamp applied and the old fashion contact strategy used. A mail was sent pointing out this rather daft situation and I still await a reply with bemusement.

The second company a well known camera manufacturer with the initial letter "N" where having failed to set up an account to register I tried to email a message through "contact us" only to be told I need to register an account to send a message - oh dear!

OK next step use the phone, having listened to a message about defrosting frozen pipes for 3 or 4 minutes, remember this is a N**** camera , I eventually get through to an operative in a general maintenance and warranty company who is operating this outsourced activity on behalf of this photographic manufacturer, who to be fair to her registers the product quite efficiently.

On mentioning the website failure she says " nothing to do with us sir but I can put you through to N**** to talk to them" reply "no thanks I have wasted enough time on this already sorry; Oh by the way what has frozen plumbing got to do with photography?" answer " I didn't know we had that message running and as we operate insurance for plumbing cover that's probably why it is there".

So apart from this "Meldrew rant" what is the point of this post from a business design perspective?

Do any of these large corporates every really realise what their customer experience is really like. Customer journeys must be mapped correctly and clearly understood else the consequence is creates serious confidence and brand damage particularly for a prestigious brand like the photographic manufacturer in discussion here.

The second observation is that outsourcing, although saving costs, can create a disparate customer experience with processes and activities operating in non communicating silos.

The third observation is if you use a web site to stand at arms length from your clients for please ensure other channels of communication are easy to access as not only are you alienating your customers but you don't even know you are doing it and can't be given constructive criticism - blissful ignorance and corporate group think prevail yet again.

My summary message from all of this is "for goodness sake step outside and look in because from out here it looks pretty bad".

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Best Practice - Is it always best?

There is a constant focus on aiming to follow best practice in many corporates at present. Best Practice means to many the best way of doing something, but is this reality.

Is best practice perhaps the most common way or excepted way of doing something - does the word best really serve us well here?

Best practice based on the normal way of doing something is really attempting to minimise risk by following what most people do on the basis of if most people do this and failure is rare then by definition this is the best practice way.

There are some issues with this: "insanity is doing things the same and expecting different results" Einstein I believe. So if you want to differentiate or achieve a step change in results is best practice really the way forward or will it limit your results and ambition.

My other point is that best practice way well have lots of waste in it as people move from one organisation to another and accumulate activity by wanting to create a position and a set of activities to sustain their existence; then that all becomes best practice; is this really agile or lean, probably not.

Is the adoption of so called best practices actually creating corporate overhead and management fad or does it give benefit? - most smaller businesses would not understand much of what goes on in large corporate because they are to busy serving customers and making ends meet to spend time engaging with corporate best practice. Is that in itself a clue to answering the question?

Best practice may well the safest way of doing something but is it the most effective way of achieving results and is perhaps a limit on creativity?

I think if we are continually striving towards best practice it is important to challenge and assess whether it really represents a good way forward because at the end of the day it may well a serious constraint to creativity and downstream performance.

Monday, 6 December 2010

121 Distance Learning some useful experience.

Having just finished a distance learning version of the Business Architecture training I thought it was worth talking about the delivery process and technology.

Being it was 121 facilitated via VOIP and screen sharing I was pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of teaching like this. The learning management system provided bespoke material to the learner and made an easy place to leave material to be browsed securely whilst between sessions.

The Skype worked well as the new version 5 seems to be bug free and didn't have any of the disappointments of the previous versions ; no video freezes or issues whilst flicking from video to screen share. Whether I would use this for larger groups is another question but some of the more familiar commercial versions of web conferencing are a bit pricey for low casual use like this.

Upsides are substantially lower delivery costs and therefore lower pricing for the client, no travel costs no venue charges, overnight accommodation or travel time to be billed. A classroom event needs a minimum number of people to make it financially fly; so this is ideal for individuals particularly those who are self funding.

The other upside was it fitted the clients time scheduling an hour session once a week - well we often over ran in reality but that was OK - as long as value was perceived I am happy with that.

Downsides are you loose the flow and ebb of group discussion facilitated by social interaction over a more traditional residential delivery model. Kinaesthetic exercises obviously are not so clever and neither is syndicate work for obvious reasons; syndicates with one member aren't that effective!

Overall from a trainers point of view this approach has some merits and we will be pursuing it further as part of the mix of offering.

Strategy and the SME

I have been putting some material together for a business strategy unit and it contains the usual candidates Ansoff, BC Matrices, SWOT and Pestle; most of the literature is written about big corporates and very little on smaller organisations SMEs and even less on micro businesses and in particular life style businesses. Banks don't seem to understand life style businesses underwriting loans based on balance sheets rather than income generation.

It seems that many seem to look down on life style businesses and yet these form much of the small business economy. In fact if you look at your average local authority facilitated business group most of the members will be life style businesses.

What is needed in terms of a strategic point of view is a different perspective on some of the techniques deployed which are clearly emphasise on growth and value creation. Lifestyle businesses give focus to enjoyment of an activity that a so called lifestyle business creates. i.e. the fun or delivery of an activity, perhaps an interest or hobby, that also creates income is clearly a different matter.

I don't think corporate types and bankers should look down their noses so much on these businesses; lets face it making a living doing something you enjoy rather than commuting up to London three hours a day and attending meetings filled with corporate group think isn't really all that clever - is it?

SMEs and lifestyle businesses at the smaller end of the SME spectrum have specific strategic and tactical issues that need addressing.

These ideas need to be explored more and my new unit will contain some thinking on this as well as the traditional blue chip large corporate approaches.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Security and productivity

An organisation that restricts access from the outside in terms of emails both in and out although best intentioned creates great delays and extended delivery times when it tries to work with outside suppliers or contractors. What happens here is an organistion that has made a decision, usually by risk people, who have not considered the consequences to the organisation as a whole.

It then begins to complain when deadlines are missed as working productivity dives for the partner as it sends its staff into the client building 200 miles away to use a PC; after of course the obligatory 6 weeks it takes to set up a new user. When companies are paying time and materials just why do they do this?

The decision may well be right; but has the downsides been discussed and agreed, or is this a risk decision made without recognition of the overall needs.

A colleague once said "the easiest job for a risk manager is to say no - the real skill in risk is in knowing when to say yes".

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Value Add Very Low Percentage of Cycle Time PCE%

When you first explain that the amount of value add in a process is often less than 5% the rest being waste you get some odd looks as if "that can't be possible surely".

Well, if you take the total cycle time i.e. the time the process takes from initiation by a customer until when the customer considers it finished and then see what time is spent adding value from the customers perspective then 5% in service processes is the norm. Sound bad well it is.

This is known as the process cycle efficiency figure PCE %

Why am I thinking of this today? Well my son has need of some orthodental work and we have been for yet another appointment.

This all started five months ago, we still await some actual work to be done, the rest has been in consultations and differences of opinions across three health silos.

In fact the value add so far is about 1.5 hours i.e. time in the chair so to speak; the rest is in waiting caused by queing and unfortunately delays caused by defects in process due to poor communication between seperate dentists and othodontists working in different practices.

So, even by being kind in removing weekends and non working hours! the process cycle efficiency is at about 0.18% and we still haven't achieved much yet either!

The waste to the NHS is another matter; poor letter writing and mis-communication, confusion as to who should be responsible for doing the x rays, asumptions of what has done whom and what each party thinks the other is responsible for adds to the list of delays and obvious cost of this "should be" simple process.

No wonder the NHS costs so much. Why of why do they make such a meal of everything!

So 5% PCE in service industries is quite good really!!
Answer: improve communication and manage the process from end to end not within silos.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

IGrafx Reference Models

I had a call from Trevor Moore of IGX solutions today he informs me IGrafx are providing some reference models in their process modelling suite.

The models are for ITIL and SAP they are also working on a Solvency 2 model.

This is going to save loads of time for people implementing one initiative or another rather than having to start from scratch and pay the high consulting bills for the IP. this approach looks an interesting development.

Distance Learning

I have been experimenting with delivering a version of the business architecture course at a distance. The issue has always been that when individuals want to enrol there are never enough at the same time to make a course economic for delgates and the trainer alike.

So by offering a version of 121 seminars and material on an learning management system it means the problem can be solved.

I have mentored one client recently and it seems to be well received. Skype as a delivery method is a bit flaky though with screen control freezing to much but as a first try all is going well. The delegate is based over 250 miles away and that fact alone proves the concept.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Process Gets the Blame

I am working with an organisation that has very little process, well fragments - dotted around here and there. They think they have process but they don't really. Some low level physical work flows too wordy too granular and certainly no big picture. Well meaning people changing stuff with unintentional knock on elsewhere in the organisation organic growth not change by design.

When things go wrong and you say its "because of lack of process" the reply is we have to much process that is the problem!

The issue is that what they blame as process is bad design and poor old process as a discipline gets the blame - it is difficult when people just don't know what looks good or for that matter what looks bad!

Are pockets of bad process worse than no process at all?

Networking Cynicism

As the downturn continues I am not surprised when as network colleagues get redundant they suddenly get in contact; this is happening about once a week at the moment.

Often you don't hear from people for years and then guess what their on the phone. The best ones are senior perm's that never returned your calls while trying to get business when they were in a position of power and now of course they want your help. How the mighty do fall!

I must admit is takes restraint not to tell them a few facts however in the preservation of the network- you never know when it works the other way- one has to hold ones tongue!

If people want the benefits of networking you think they would see the benefit of keeping in touch when times are good as it does look so cynical otherwise!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Process Technology and People have to be in balance

A recent reply to a comment on a forum that presense of business processes were negative in a business promoted this response.

Process technology and people have to be in balance.

However processes are vital, without them you have high variability non managed customer experiences and high costs. Processes are as much important assets as people.

What we see so often is badly designed standardisation resulting in some of the appaling customer experiences that we have to deal with today as customers. So just because process design is done badly is no reason to deny the value of process management.

Any business above a certain size can't function professionally without some process framework a SME can, to some degree, and that is why small compapies often do so well in a competative environment based on service; however get beyond a certain size and the cottage industry approach tends to fall apart, unfortunately.

The people issue is interesting. I have worked in failing organisations with no process or very little and they always promote "our people" as assets the result is people running around in mad chaos making things happen due to lack of process and creating a culture of indispensible people - prima donnas and heroes. In these companies costs are out of control and the inefficiencies errors and customer service are highly varied. They rush from one crisis to the next. In a market where day rates and salaries have plunged and supply of people is high people, subject to training of course, are a fairly easily replaced.

Businesses say people are their main asset and perhaps they are but most fail to treat their employees and engage them correctly. Corporate mantra of HR is that people are our assets but the reality of this doesn't often manefest in how folks are treated.

HR often believe what they wnat to believe in a group think manner - is "our assets are our our people" a corporate buzz-phrase?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Extreme Contrast

I was fortunate to have a day on the Ffestiniog Narrow Guage railway recently. One of the thoughts I had was how different this railway was to mainline companies; and one in particular I used daily whilst on a contract.

In accepting the vast differences in scale the overriding difference was cultural.

The daily commuting line I used seemed to treat its customers as the enemy with revenue inspectors, penalty fares, process driven ticket staff who had no empathy or concern for anyone other than their rules and inflexible procedures. Many posters of corporate mantra of customer focus but the reality is that its staff ,who are effectively inenabled due to the corporatised nature of the organisation, have a culture of resignation and "whats the point" - this is how things are done around here.

To be fair the trains run on time, well mostly, but the experience of this large company imposes on its monopolistic customer base is quite unpleasant.

The mountain railway was the complete inverse and it was all about engagement of its staff; they loved what they did, many being volunteers, smiles and fun were the theme throughout. It is so interesting to see how culture and coporatisation of a culture can create such variance. I know this is an extreme experience comparison but the well known commuter line could learn a lot from this bunch of committed amateurs in North Wales.

My observation here is about how coporate cuture can destroy the essense of customer service and how employee engagement is so key.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Pivot the Organisation - Design the organisation to serve the customers not the people who work for it!

-An Article published in Leasing World Magazine July 2010 issue aimed at the Asset Finance market but true for many other organisations-

Management through functions and departments is very familiar to those working in banks and asset finance companies. This traditional approach where businesses are structured according to professional skills - financial people working in finance, sales people working in sales and processing staff working in operations - is nothing new,

The traditional functional based business design is efficient in organisations that do not change very much and in businesses with low levels of complexity. The centralisation of skills delivers savings in synergies and resource management. Today businesses that have low levels of change and are simple are rare. There is a clear driver for client focus and an emphasis on local profit and loss where centralisation and standardisation doesn’t deliver differentiation and agility easily.

However in other industries this model is changing. There has been recognition in recent times that the customer and his or her experience is more important than how the organisation is constructed. The underlying question posed is does the division of the business into these skill sets actually deliver performing processes and activities?

In many cases the resounding answer has been no. Why is this case? Many customer-based experiences have activity that crosses functional boundaries and every time there is a border crossing there is an opportunity for miscommunication and delay. The criticism of organisational “silos” is well voiced and having enterprises structured in a way which could be described as being at “right angles” to the way customers experience the organisation doesn’t necessarily facilitate good customer service.

The growing trend seems to be to structure the business in line with how the processes flow with all individuals, with whatever skill family they come from, reporting into someone accountable for the performance of the process as a whole. This end-to-end management structure is gaining popularity and pace.

This starts off with a few core customer processes where experts from all the functions collaborate in a new end-to-end organisational structure. It is soon seen that this works: customer satisfaction rises, complaints fall and more efficient processes deliver better returns. After a while the new way catches on and soon other key activities in the enterprise start to be re-organised in this fashion.

If the end-to-end management takes off the traditional functions eventually get smaller and smaller until they finally disappear. The organisation has by this stage completely pivoted from a functional construction to a construction based on its core services and underlying processes.

In asset finance there has always been the aim to create a healthy tension between the risk management sales and operation functions. The balance between the desire to sell, the drive to follow protocols and the need to reduce risk has always been a continual ebb and flow within finance businesses. If this balance is well managed then the company is successful; if one or more functions are allowed to dominate then the company either fails to achieve market share or conversely develops bad debts, both issues leading to potential failure.

The natural requirement to sustain this functional tension is maybe one of the reasons that functional based organisational design in leasing companies persists. Other industries have tackled similar issues through matrix management or balanced scorecards or indeed a combination of both to generate both customer focus tempered against increased levels of risk.

Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”; this quote gives encouragement to try out different and new things, or else expect more of the same.

One way of developing a step change would be to try out structuring your organisation around the activities that support your customers rather than around the skills and political preferences of your employees. You may well find a lot of waste and certainly delays in delivering customer value as well as potential improvements in customer focus leading to higher volumes of business. If you structure differently to your competitors then this may well lead to market changing differentiation.

So often restructures start and finish with an organisational chart; they should start with a process and value chain map and people allocated to support the delivery of value. The message of this article is to design your processes with your customers in mind and then design the organisational structure to fit those processes not the other way round, which is the default position for so many enterprises.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Training for Individuals -ADVERT-

Training courses for specialist subjects are difficult to provide to individuals. If the subject matter is widely in demand then one can schedule public courses knowing that of the hundreds that want to do the course a core number will book places for the scheduled dates.

For more specialist courses like for example "Business Architecture" conventional training usually only can be organised for groups of people within businesses. This is how most of the business architecture courses that we have run at Dever Solutions have run historically.

Frequently it is a team which is wanting to build up a business architecture capability and wishes to use the course to facilitate its building process - this has worked well for many of our clients over the last two years or so.

However several times during the year we get individuals wanting to book on to a course but there is never enough who want to do it at the same time! It would be unfair to recover the full costs from an individual to run a 121 course delivered in a conventional way; it is the fixed costs of paying tutors travel and subsistence that makes this difficult.

In order to solve this issue we will be creating a 121 mentoring version of our popular "Business Architecture An Approach For Effective Business Design" course using remote delivery and our e-learning portal.

This won't be just slide packs and resourses but scheduled lecturing time with tutors using conference call - audio and visual - and other remote delivery techniques.

This will enable us to price the learning experience at levels affordable to independently financed individuals - contractors and consultants and the like. At the moment the ability to deliver a course to less than 4-5 people on one occasion, particularly away from our home territory, is restricting its access to many.

A Token Post! What is a Token?

A process does nothing until it is triggered. Some therefore refer to a process as a static business item or object.When some event happens the process "fires", the receipt of a letter a timed event or a phone call are examples of triggers.When the event occurs a relay race starts through the process activity boxes - think process map here- and the baton passes through the flow until the process ends.If the process splits into parallel activity the relay baton, otherwise known as the token, duplicates or splits until it merges later, or each part of the split token finds an end point.The token represents the flow of activity through the process identifying the event that started it all off.So, a process is static until triggered and becomes dynamic whilst the token or token parts are still active until the tokens either combine and reach the end or all of the tokens reach the end point in the process.If you want to do process simulation getting your head round this is essential!I am currently designing a new training programme in "Developing Your Business Processes as Business Assets" which will address this issue amongst others.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Visio Helps Me Bill More Days! But is this Good Value for My Clients?

I was asked to do some simple process mapping recently. I asked what tool they wanted me to use and surprise surprise "VISIO 2003" came back as an answer.

I arrived on site and ran some 121 interviews and began to draw.

Several days later on schedule I delivered the results and was then asked to do some customer experience (value chain) work with the process drawings. The re-drawing with all those fiddly links that get messed up on changing things took several days with much angst and frustration; as everyone who has used this generic drawing tool will tell you.

Why do you use Visio? I asked during the assignment wash up meeting.

- Well, its on the standard build and its cheap" was the reply.-

- "We don't want to spend money on more software and anyhow it is too hard getting the purchase request approved by I.T." !

My conclusion was - had they recommended a professional mapping tool I could have done the work in 40% of the time or produced more in the time allocated.

So is saving money on a cheap tool really a saving when a freelancer, charging several hundred pounds a day takes, a week to do what he could do in two days with a professional process tool like IGrafx flowcharter?

False economy I thinks!!
The addition factor is that Visio drawings are drawings not models and very 2d not being suitable for further use ; but that is another discussion for another day.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Lean Irony

I had a side splitting moment this afternoon after receiving an e mail from a government agency, name withheld, telling us it was cancelling its procurement tender for a lean process review due to the new government cuts.

Why is this so amusing?

Well it all started before Xmas with a request for tender for some lean consulting work; having looked at the paperwork required to tender i.e. health and safety policy equal opportunities and the such; I and my associates decided to give this paper trail a miss.

Five months later we get a mail saying that none of the applying companies understood the requirement due to communication difficulties and they were starting the process all over again! Lean I think not!

The agency didn't understand what lean was, in our view, and when people who did know gave them advice it fell on deaf ears.

Would they indulge in dialogue with suppliers - no they followed their process; surprise surprise they got the wrong things offered to them.

Today the note says the process is now cancelled due to government cuts in consulting contracts. I spluttered all over the laptop screen in mirth.

So we have a Lean initiative procured in a remarkably unlean way and then it gets cut to save waste; but Lean saves waste and reduces costs how ironic is this.

Understanding of lean is not that good in this particular government agency. No wonder this country has financial problems!

Monday, 24 May 2010

A Bird in the Title DSDM Atern

The naming of a project development methodology version with the name of a species of bird hit the discussion forums this week. DSDM Atern instead of Version 5 or whatever; is apparently named after the Artic Tern a so called agile bird species.

The use of such a metaphorical version name is a bit puzzling and I do wonder whether it will further the cause or not. DSDM = Dynamic Systems Development Method is actually a pretty good approach shame about the name - an opportunity missed I think!

Shame I always liked DSDM having helped a major life insurer develop their own approach calling it something different "Hothouse" but in reality it was a variant of DSDM version 3/4 with some tweaks for bolting an agile front end for requirement definition on to a tediously slow incumbant waterfall method.

RJ Robinson comments on this @

Monday, 17 May 2010

What is in a Process

Process means different things to different people. When groups of people used to working with certain types of processes view other areas they think and act in their own image.

What do I mean?

Well, transactional process i.e. people dealing with high volume high replication activity, model measure and simulate. Data is key and they use it on occasions to the the extreme using methods like six sigma to measure slight variations in variability to eliminate defects and produce highly repeatable consistent processes.

Whilst processes in the professional area, where the activity is nearly always different in one way or another, are viewed by transactional people as "Are these really processes?" and they often try to codify the variability much to the frustration of the users who rapidly get turned off.

The theme with professional processes is that there are scenarios around a standard theme or best practice approach. Process mapping and improvement is no less valuable than "paper factory" processes; it is just different.

Learning to see and to communicate how best to do things doesn't mean necessarily turning a professional job into a production line.

The message here is appropriateness e.g.use the right approaches and tools don't impose your views or experience on areas that just happen to be different - business and process architecture is not a black and white game.

Forcing inappropriate methods on to people never reaches a satisfactory outcome.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

What wastes time?

I was running a session yesterday on time management. We were doing a "brainstorm" on what wastes time. As well as the usual stuff about e-mail mis-use and meetings one feature that was discussed was the most wasteful thing for some was dealing with their own manager's chaos!

It seems that busy fool disease amongst middle and senior managers is still growing as corporate cultures demand individuals to look good and be "busy busy" at the expense of productivity and the people they work for.

Another comment was the bigger the business gets the further its activity goes away from delivering value to its customers at the expense of corporate group think and fluff - interesting.

Good bit of perception from a group with an average age of about 26; perhaps some of our older 50K + earners should think about their behaviours and look in the mirror.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Standing Back From The Cliff Face

Well I actually mean that literally!. I did geology at Uni. and as a consequence still have a look at the old rocks when on holiday.

When you are close up to rock formations on the beach trying to understand what the structure is it gets difficult. Look back at the bay from the cliff path and things become quite obvious very quickly.

What has this muse of the Lower Paleozoic of Pembrokeshire got to do with business architecture?

I sadly thought while walking the coastal path last week that this is just like analysts and architects. Analysts often stand too close to the "rocks" and do measurements in attempt to understand whats going on while architects stand back and see the bigger picture.

The ultimate ability or competence is to do both; which in my experience it is difficult to find individuals that can successfully achieve both.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Accreditation a double edged sword?

The I.T. world is full of accreditation on the face of it it all sounds sensible but is it really?

As I run a training company I looked recently at a well know I.T. accreditation programme; I shall keep the name to myself for now.

I was surprised to see that it was the exams that were accredited not the training and it involved both substantial fees to be paid to the accreditation authority and lots of process and bureaucracy. There was no insistance on qualified trainers either PTTLS or ITOL which seemed a bit ironic to me.

The exam providers get there exams approved, quality control the examiners/course directors and then the approved examination centres train delegates to pass their exam.

Is accreditation therefore more about making money for accreditation authorities that improving professional capability or am I being cynical?

As a qualified trainer I am more interested in delivering long lasting skills and capability than getting delegates through tests.

Perhaps this is why senior I.T. leaders say to me "Well the team got accredited but they still can't do the job - is this perhaps what is going wrong?

Perhaps accreditation is creating the wrong behaviours, creating closed shops and delusion particularly when ignorant agents and HR professionals are filtering out candidates based on their accreditation credentials; but that is another subject for another day.

Friday, 19 March 2010

What is PTTLS

Answer: Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector.

Any training course funded by public money in the UK has to be delivered by a trainer holding a PTTLS certificate. So if you are in the public sector - NHS Trusts, Government Departments, Local Authorities or in receipt "train to gain" funded training you need a qualified trainer.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Shareholder Value As a Measure of Value?

I asked someone the other day how they defined value as they described their efforts to add value in their business change efforts - The reply was quickly given "shareholder value".

I reflected on this over the last few days and thought actually this is pretty difficult at the moment and really doesn't help us in project land - why?

Well shareholder value is the combination of divided and gain on share price and really is a longer term goal through a complete economic cycle because it is dramatically affected by short term volatility of share price; particularly in recent times.

I mean when do you measure it? at balance sheet date each year? or is it over a full economic cycle? which would make it quite difficult to use to measure shorter term initiatives.

You could embark on a major piece of change to radically re design the business and in reality that may well have been highly successful but the market falls of 2008/09 would wipe any so called value off the face of the project making the initiative a complete failure if that what the programme uses as its measure?

Is shareholder value a useful measure for business change. Well perhaps not? Is it just too high level and abstract to be really practical; give me NPV any day.

Tom Graves, in a recent thread on a linkedin group robustly thinks that shareholder value is a massive distraction and other definitions of value are much more important, I have sympathy for his views.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Role of Enterprise Architect Again

It was coincidental with my last post that I was talking on the phone later this same week with Paul Williams of GCS Recruitment, who specialises in architecture appointments in the UK, he told me he had had written in his blog recently how he was frustrated by clients advertising for enterprise architects and then promptly listing a whole list of technical skill requirements.

The role clearly was not what it said on the tin.

I do hope I.T. and HR people are not high-jacking the job title and using it to sound good and dress up senior technical roles else this trend is going to create even more mis-understanding and be quite unhelpful.Particularly in alienating the business people who then will see the title enterprise architect and think it is something quite different to what it should be.

The other issue I have seen is that CIO's and their senior managers go out to recruit enterprise architects and say all the right things about wanting business orientated candidates and call strong business architect type people in for interviews; but then end up selling out, recruiting technical people instead later on in the interviewing process.

This creates much frustration to the business types who were reluctant to get involved in the first place because they new this would happen; but had been reassured by the agent that: " Oh no they really want strong business design people- this isn't a technical role you such a good fit!"

I have always thought that there is a tendency for people to "recruit in their own image".

Thursday, 18 February 2010

When is an Enterprise Architect not an Enterprise Architect?

Answer: When in reality they are an Enterprise I.T Architect!

An Enterprise architect by definition should mean an architect that architects the business as a whole. However, most individuals who hold this title sit in I.T. and look outward to the business for guidance. In variably these folks architect the I.T. across the whole business i.e. an enterprise view. An enterprise architect seems to represent the most senior architecture role in I.T.

This causes confusion amongst all architecture roles including business architects and results in much discussion wherever business design and architecture is discussed.

Business architecture should be a subset of EA but invariably it isn't EA often plays with business architecture but doesn't incorporate it properly else we would see 80% business and 20% I.T. in EA; but in reality the reverse is true.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Thinking About Value in an Outsourced Scenario

On the face of it determining value seems quite simple - ask the customers what they see as value and work with that.

However, whilst working last week with an outsourcing organisation the first comment is who is the customer then? is it our client, the clients client, or the end user; this is made even more complicated when the "consumer" i.e. end user is not a true consumer as they don't actually buy the goods or services they are just subjected to them.

The chain delivers value to an authority rather than "actors" that the process is performed upon.

The answer is that we need to examine the value chain as a whole and see how various stakeholders get value and that value may not just be monetary but other aspects such as time delayed or degrees of intrusion.

In understanding the chain of value we can get all parties to agree on the value add through the chain, else as in so many outsourced arrangements the SLA's between the many partners in the chain create behaviours that destroy value from the chain as a whole.

Remember - end to end is the key not just analysis of a component part. So life in outsourcing and shared services isn't as simple as it first seems. If done badly outsourcing destroys overall value as fast as wet rot in a roof!

Sophisticated lean suggests examining the flow of value beyond ones own enterpise boundaries which is quite a step change in thinking for many organisations.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Modern Communication has side effects

How often do you walk on to a large floor in corporate premises to see many people working in complete silence. All these individuals are staring at their screens some are writing documents or coding programmes or processing data. Many are responding, reading and creating e-mails; probably to those on the same floor perhaps?

The modern office is becoming a lonely place! Is this efficient communication or social ineptitude. A conversation results in interaction, creative and productive in nature.

Taking 20 minutes to carefully construct a mail by each individual in the chain of communication, to avoid offence, when a few minute conversation will do the same is much more effective and indeed healthy.

Come on lets Talk!its much more productive.

An office where there is lots going on is a creative place, a floor full of screen ghouls is depressing and dull.

Whats your office like?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Razor Blade Business Model

I have been printing today in preparation for a business architecture course in early February. I have been upgradng the printing and output quality by going down the colour printing route.

One aspect that is interesting is it is cheaper to buy a new colour laser printer with a set of cartridges doing a 1000 pages per cartridge than buying refills!

It also seems that cheaper printers give smaller starter cartridges and sell the printer cheaper to get you on the hook. A modern example of the old razor and blade business model.

Throwing out a printer because replacing cartridges costs substantially more than a new printer isn't very environmental either. Mad world.

Another feature I thought about was Dr Kano where colour printing of course material has become an example of a delighter moving to basic or hygiene. At one time , not that long ago colour output was rare due to the cost and now more the better -performer- or even expected- hygiene.

Mind you some organisations ban colour printing due to cost; having seen the Staples invoice I see why!

Expectations on handouts drive up the cost of production and therefore the training charge. Do you want lower day rates or higher quality output? Tell me.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Organisational Design and Business Architecture

I have reading up on organisational design recently particularly a couple of books written by Naomi Stanford.- Organization Design- Guide to Organisation Design- apologies for the "z" it is in the spelling of the title.

What was interesting was that these books actually described, in the main, a business architectural approach, with some HR bias naturally, but the phrase "business architecture" didn't appear at all.

So it seems when organisational design is carried out correctly the two disciplines are somewhat synonymous.

So why is it that in many organisations HR do org. design and compete with operations people doing process design and I.T. people doing enterprise architecture. In some organisations there is a business strategy group doing business architecture as well, with all these teams pulling in different directions and fighting for "turf".

The corporate world is so interesting is it not?

Friday, 8 January 2010

Business Process Maturity Model

I have recently revisited my Business Process Management Maturity model particularly as an associate started discussing with me the allied CMMI business process related models which rely on subjective questions posed in interviews from senior managers in process areas.

I quickly saw that the model I created and use was more objective being based on observational data i.e. Can I see evidence of things rather that a response to a questions posed in an interview "Do you have your processes mapped"? "Oh Yes" says Churchill!!

The first point is: does the recipient of the question understand the question the same way as the person who asks it?

i.e. Question "Do you have visual management in place"?

Does the person interviewed know what visual management is? or worse does he/she think they know what it is and say yes, or indeed yes it is there i.e. a white board with some figures on but in reality it is there for show not for use and has not been updated since last month when the divisional head was on a royal tour!

Secondly is the answer based on hubris and ego rather than reality; we all know that senior managers have a tendency to be "half full" optimists on occasions!

Surely it is better to go and have a look and see the reality rather than accept someones word for it however well intentioned they maybe? At least I know what I am looking for which is a start.

The model looks for features in lean-sigma and benchmarks your process management based on things the assessor finds - a bit obvious really and I am surprised this sort of approach is not more common.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

New White Paper

I have just been using these quiet snow bound days to write a new white paper, my first for 2010. It is all about developing business processes as business assets and gives focus to the use of tools and approaches.

I have used the IGrafx tool set as an example, which I am becoming increasing enamored with, to illustrate how tools need to be appropriate for a choice of process maturity allowing migration and progressed functionality. The white paper is about 2500 words or so, a bit big for on here.

If you want a copy it will be on the Dever Solutions website shortly or post a comment requesting a copy and I will send it on.