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Architecture & Governance III – Enhance your Innovation, Control your Automation. March 5, 2011

Posted by Sanooj Kutty in Business Process Management.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

As the most authoritative I can be is of the region I have worked in, this blog post covers the role of Governance in BPM in the GCC.

The GCC countries are facing a major challenge. Their oil resources are no longer enough to sustain their global presence and influence. The lurking danger of the North African people revolution spreading is another hidden concern. Taking away the natural resource factor and the political concerns, the ambition to be at the forefront of the global innovation drive through science, education and entertainment will prove to be their biggest challenge.

For a long time, the world of business and technology have been trying to automate their functionalities.  Having been in the  IT industry for close to 15 years in various roles primarily fluctuating between business analysis and project management, I have had the (un)fortunate opportunity to witness a lot of time, resources and money invested into automation.

The GCC countries are very young compared to the US, Europe and even East Asia. Globalization has forced them to come out of their well-oiled comfort zones and face the friction of global competition. This has led them to do whatever it takes to be of international standard and thus, unnaturally rushing into quickly adopting the latest technologies without going through the learning curve of the older and mature markets.

Automation has been quite central to various solutions ranging from ERP to EAI to CRM to BPM. It has become such a misused and often abused concept that one wonders if this fanatical desire to automate has fatally diluted focus from the real purpose –  to improve business through innovation.

Information Management deployed over Technology has been a bread-winner for me and trust me, in no way am I against automation. Just as automation (from mechanical to electrical or electronic) revolutionized the industrial era, I am convinced Business Process Automation will change the rules of the game in this information era.

However, while systems can automate your obvious, the challenge is in automating the oblivious. In its rush to be among the best, GCC’s investment in automation has taken precedence over investment in innovation. When was the last time a truly path-breaking innovation came out of the Arabian stables?

This single question can be answered with a follow-up questions, “Where does innovation come from?”

Is innovation top-down or bottom-up?

Does innovation always have to come from visionary Steve-Jobs-alikes? Not necessary.

The “Java” story is one such case where innovation was born bottom-up. I am sure there are many innovative stories in every organizations. Some that change the world, some that change just that activity. However, it is these hidden small innovations that takes one ahead of competition.

For GCC to rise above the rest, they have to rise bottom-up. This leads us to take a look at the GCC workforce bottom-up.
And it becomes evident, an expatriate population completely motivated by oil-money forms the bottom core of all GCC corporates. With no authority, these core workers remain subdued under the stringent rules to create anything significantly innovative.

The Governance model of these countries bottle-necks power at the top. With a hardworking, visa-restricted obedient workforce that slog to earn its “Arbaabs” good revenue, who cares for innovation? Yet, as most lessons in life, it has come late to the ruling powers that they need to innovate bottom-up and to do so, they need to bring in their own citizens to the workforce to enable sustainable growth and long terms success.

But, bringing your inexperience minimal population to the top does not empower you with the knowledge required to grow. The devil lies in the details and innovation must kill these devils. Either they embrace the expatriates as their own and empower them, or their citizen population become humble enough to learn the hard way – from the bottom as most of the competing world does, the GCC may automate as much as they want and they will still lag behind.

This does not mean they haven’t learnt. They did learn and they are now trying to be self-sustainable. The long hard journey may require them to open some of the closed doors of citizenship and residence to the expatriates in order to do so.

BPM in the GCC will face its toughest battle not at a functional or technological level, but, with governance. Governance sets controls and authorities that enable the right people and restrict the wrong people. Until such time, that they do not learn to empower and restrict in a balance, no automation shall compensate for innovation.

BPM as a discipline and as a technology both rely on improvement. Improvement, not by automation, but by innovation.


1. Ian Gotts - March 5, 2011

Agreed. Pity the automation software vendor’s marekting teams don’t agree 8-(

Sanooj Kutty - March 6, 2011

Have to agree to that too. Which brings me to my point of true “BPM” evangelists must step out of being “BPMS” evangelists!
The “discipline” must gain prominence over the “tool”.

2. Jaisundar - March 7, 2011

It is well known that Process automation, esp through BPM is culture change within the organization in question. But thats really only half the picture. The bigger truth is it is also about regional mindsets. Different cultures have leanings towards different aspects of BPM that they see as benefits. Good post.

3. BPM Quotes of the week « Adam Deane - March 13, 2011

[…] BPM in the GCC – Sanooj Kutty BPM in the GCC will face its toughest battle not at a functional or […]

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