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How Far Would You Go… October 24, 2012

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Business Process Management, Electronic Records Management, Enterprise 2.0, Enterprise Content Management.
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… To Achieve Perfection In Your Information Management Initiatives?

Over a good few years, I have been fortunate to have experienced a variety of Information Management projects aimed at achieving an even more kaleidoscopic set of objectives (or lack of) out here in the Middle East (more specifically the GCC).

These projects have covered a variety of sources of information from Paper to PDF, from Web to Word, from Data to Documents.

The projects have also behaved in manners that depict a multiple-personality disorder, from Chaos to Calmness, from Schizophrenic to Stable, from Spontaneous to Structured, from Illogical to Intelligent.

Information Management projects can come under a variety of aliases such as Records Management, Content Management, Document Management, Digital Asset Management, Process Management or the more recent ones such as Social Media Management, Enterprise 2.0 or Information Governance.

All of them though wanted to achieve that single trait of Perfection and the question that always popped in my head was, “How far would one go to achieve perfection in Information Management projects?” It’s also pertinent to understand that the need for perfection always belongs to the client and not the vendor.

However, most clients here are yet to find their project nirvana with the either the clients leading the project to being orphaned or the project leading the business to being disappointed and in most cases, a deep dent in their wallet. Clients have taken pains to invest time, money and resources to achieve their perfect project deliverables and vendors have also invariably ended up investing just the same. In a simple perspective, either the client or the vendor wins the battle. But in reality, the loss is on both sides.

The GCC is a cauldron of a multi-cultural workforce, with majority of them being expatriates and not citizens. Obviously, it indicates cultural and communication challenges, but, that is by no means a constraint to successful projects. If that were the case, these countries would not have gone on to achieve what they have in such a short time.

The obstacles here are caused more out of the approach towards such projects and the leading cause of this is the lack of genuine and “passionate” subject matter experts in this domain. Being hardly 10 years old in this market, of which the first 5 years were infancy, leaves Information Management as a child finding its place in society, growing up but not grown up.

While there are no single dose antidotes to this ill, clients and vendors here are forced to “convert” talents from other domains of Information Technology to Information Management professionals. The resources themselves, out of the necessity to survive, take it up with certain numbness. Yes, some do find their passions ignited, but most just see it as a task.

Over time, more visibility to such projects will see a gold rush of talent to the domain, but businesses cannot afford to wait for that and must immediately address their information management requirements and challenges.

So far, everyone has been looking into Information Technology in itself to find ways to run these projects and have tried every methodology from Waterfall to Agile to Scrum to the Next-Big-Thing to plug this leaking hole.

I feel the answer lies elsewhere and not within Information Technology and where better than the masters of building great monuments, the Construction Industry!

If one were to want to build, a Shopping Mall, would we go out and get ourselves a Contractor to start constructing the complex? Remember, they do have Project Managers and Engineers who can build large, complex structures. The answer would be a resounding NO!

A large Construction Project goes through a simple sequence to build that Mall!

Consultancy

The first step to building that mall would be to find ourselves a Consultant and they would be well stocked with competent Project Managers, Architects, Cost Engineers, etc. who are skilled at “architecting” the Shopping Mall.

Ever heard of pure Consultants being employed in the Middle East for “architecting” information? Ask any genuine Information professional and they should unanimously tell you that information architecture is critical to successful information management projects.

Project Management

Once the consulting engagement is satisfactorily (note the lack of use of the word perfection) completed, the time would then come to launch a Project. Here, professional and experience Project Managers, ideally, in building Shopping Malls would be recruited. They could either be the client’s own team or outsourced to professional Project Management companies. They will continue to engage with the Consultants for ensuring they get everything right.

Very few clients here employ experienced Project Managers in the domain and tend to believe any IT Project Manager can do the job. Remember, some really talented and knowledge-hungry ones will be capable but not all. So choose your project manager wisely.

Contracting

Once the Project Managers have successfully laid out their charters, plans and budgets, the Contractors would only step in at this stage to actually start constructing the mall. They may bring their own project managers, but these project managers have their scope limited to their activities only and not the entire project. This also ensures good governance during the project.

In our information management projects here, the contractors (system integrators, as they are called) end up managing the full project. In some cases, they are also the ones who have sold you the software and that can result in solutions leaning towards purchasing more licenses. Governance loopholes creep in here and they have proven many times to be fatal.

Maintenance

With the Mall successfully built, it needs to be maintained to keep it running successfully and ensuring its customer experience ranks very high. Generally, the contractors who built are not the maintenance operators. This helps avoid lack of transparency of any construction flaws and a different maintenance company would definitely highlight construction flaws to minimize their risk. This also forces all parties involved in building the mall to maintain proper and up to date records to hand over to maintenance.

In information management projects, there is a perception that only those who built can maintain and it is time the clients here learnt that it is not necessarily so and sometimes, it might be in your best interest to keep the two separate also.

In summary, an Enterprise Information Management Project, is just as challenging as large Construction projects and must be handled with the same level of dexterity, control and sensitivity. Remember that information can sometimes be a life or death matter.

Ever heard the story of “Kill Him, Not Spare Him” and “Kill Him Not, Spare Him”???

P.S. Leave perfection to the Almighty and aim for functionally acceptable standards. Use maintenance for any issues that may rise.

 

Deep flows the River between Social and Business… July 25, 2012

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Enterprise 2.0.
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It’s been quite a while since the world has been gripped by the Social Media fever . However, as is the case with any new concept that catches the masses by their eyeballs and wallets, social media too has turned into a big Gold Rush with many following suit.  Suddenly, plenty of creative designers, copywriters, and account managers have now turned into peer-recognized and self-proclaimed social media specialists.

Yet, like every time the dust rises, it also has to settle down. When it does settle down, are we going to see despair as we did with the Dot Com bust in the 1990s? For everyone’s sake, I hope not, but, somewhere deep inside I sense a repeat of history.

Can businesses reinvigorate themselves from the inevitable social media overkill when the time comes? Yes, it can and this will be the time when they wake up to Enterprise 2.0. Coined by Andrew P. McAfee, Enterprise 2.0 is defined as “Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.”

However, the future will not be just about Enterprise 2.0 platforms; this will also be a journey of how the corporate world adopts its Customer Engagement Strategies. Customer Engagement sees itself metamorphose itself over 4 key stages, namely, Initiation, Integration, Intelligence and Value Creation.

  • Initiation – being the welcoming stage for the customer
  • Integration – stepping it up to engage the customer to consume the products or services
  • Intelligence  - used to accumulate past learning and understand the customer’s engagements
  • Value Creation – to develop an ongoing relationship through knowledge gained from the previous 3 stages.

Today, we can witness a trend where Initiation and Value Creation are being actively promoted on the Social Media ecosystem through interactive products like events, games, competitions, etc. Obviously, these are conceptualized from the Intelligence gathered over time through proven methodologies. However, a weak Integration presence would result in many customers being bored of all the fun around without any real work being done.  All Play and No Work can also make Jack a dull boy.

So, what does all this mean? This means that until Social Technology evolves in such a manner that customers can execute business transactions via these platforms, they will over a period of time go the way of Newsletters and Raffle Draw tickets as just another marketing gimmick.

This evolution has been defined very eloquently by John Mancini of AIIM in this info graph published in his OccupyIT manifesto.

Image

Yes, Facebook has taken interaction with the customer to different experience, but it still lacks that most important activity between a customer and a provider and that is the “business transaction”. Naively portrayed below is my vision of the future and where I believe the future should move to.

Image

A world where one can log on to online banking, traverse to a single transaction and engage in a query or clarification with customer service.

The future is not just social and it’s not just business, but in a nutshell, it will and must be socio-business.

Size DOES Matter! May 7, 2012

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Business Process Management.
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1 comment so far

Back in February 2011, Peter Schooff of eBizQ.net asked a very important question, “How big is a process?” The very insightful comments that answer the question bring forth many interesting perspectives on the size of a process. Ranging from the length of a string to single “value chain” process, the debate is very enlightening.

However, outside these very pertinent arguments, I strongly believe the size of a process is all about management capacity. A “process” must be measureable and manageable. And it is best managed under a single process owner, ideally a CxO, allowing clear decision making to govern the process.

Many a time, in a desire to have an end-to-end view, organizations tend to meander towards large, complicated and sometimes complex processes. Cutting across the authority lines among different CxO’s, the process tends to become a broth with many cooks. I guess we all know what happens when many cooks come together for a single broth.

This also means that apart from the process diagram, no human element is able to comprehend or re-collect the process. It also results in loss of memory of the reasons the process has taken to become the maze it has turned out to be. At a time of change, intensive efforts are required to evaluate the process and more often than not this leads to process-fatigue.

So what is Management Capacity?

Management Capacity is the capacity, within which a CxO sets strategies, ensures execution, monitors performance and achieves objectives under the boundaries set by the demands of their function and corporate governance.

Obviously, to attain this we need to achieve the below:

  1. Each process must be manageable under a Single CxO Process Owner
  2. Each Process and its sub-processes must link to Enterprise KPIs under the respective CxO

In cases, where it is identified that a process spreads across more than one CxO, it is best to break it down and the process architecture changed to meet the above. The same principle applies when you go down to department level under a CxO.

An intangible element that also plays a key role is the CxO’s capability and ability to manage well. But, as we all know, good management is a pre-requisite to any good process to perform well.

So, if you want to get your processes performing, ensure they are defined and assigned under the right authority with the capacity to manage them.

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