Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The end of process

Processes in general and Business Processes in particular are very popular notions today. Popularized by writers like Hammel and heavily marketed by all sorts of software, systems and consultancy firms, process now seems to have conquered the vocabulary of business and government alike. If anything goes wrong the usual response is "we need to look closely at our processes" and (ofcourse) Process Improvement projects flourish abundantly.

All this process-thinking and focus started to annoy me lately, but I couldn't tell why. Until I saw this slide by Dave Snowden:

In it he explains three waves of management practice. The first, scientific management, led to the industrial revolution, where - inspired by military forms of organization - the organization was managed and optimized by function: purchasing, production, sales, marketing, service, HR, etc. Life was simpel then, processes were siloed and controlled by function. The ability to mass-produce was the result of this new form of functional organization.
This lasted until the '60s when it turned out it had become a bit more complicated. No longer mass but mass-customized production became the norm. To achieve that one had to look at the organization as system that turned customer demands (multiple) into targetted delivery. All this based on information such as demand expectation, strategic planning, scenarios, production planning, etc. So there was a clear need to exchange information between the silos. Many organizations "tumbled over" to become process oriented (often disguised as becoming customer focussed). ICT became a very important factor as information in general and process information in particular became prime suspect as a source for optimization. The ability to control information became the key to business succes.
In todays world information is still seen as key, but is it really? If we listen to the process-addicts it is. It is all there is. How to make sense of the very high variety found in todays consumers and citizens. And can we separate those. 9 to 5 has gone. We can be a citizen for 3 minutes, a consumer for the next 3 and go on as an employee for a while after that. Mass collaboration creates Wikipedia, YouTube and Twitter influences the way small organizations and individual critters lead their productive/commercial lives. Social is back on the agenda, not just in computing but everywhere: eco, care, gov, the list is endless. Why? Well, because it is no longer key to control the information, but key to get things moving. In Dave's words: it is key to situate a network, the ability to create a group of followers and actually do someting with it.
What is all means? Time will tell, but I'm glad that we can forget process. Things aren't neat anymore. Networks dissipate, they don't process. They are resilient, not designed.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Not sure this post is about services directly, but hear what happened to me yesterday.

Last week my wife had an MRI scan (no worries, all is fine, thanks for asking) so we went to hear the results and conclusions yesterday. After going trough all the detailed results the docter proposed to try a kind of medicine (no worries, as said, all is fine). She remembered the medicine has some by-effects but couldn't remember them exactly. Something with "orange" and "stripes".

So she went on the hospitals portal to find the drug leaflet, found it and .... no hit. The by-effects were not mentioned. Hmmmm.

So she went on to the manufacturers website to find more specific details and ... no hit. Some by-effects mentioned but not this one. Hmmmm.

As a last resort, she tried Google, typing in the full name of the diagnosis, four very scrabble-worthy Latin-like words and .... lets try the first hit. Hmmmm, no succes.

Meanwhile she muttered, I guess I will have to go to Wikipedia and indeed the 5th hit was a Wikipedia page on exactly the abovementioned scrabble term. And indeed, there is was. The by-effect was neatly desribed and the advice was "propably you won't like the taste of Cola anymore". Hmmmm.

So I got very curious and asked her: does this happen often? The reply was as expected. Yes, wikipedia-pages are often more accurate than the internal hospital system, simply becuase thousands of medical professionals share facts and insights this way.

Hmmmm. What does this example mean for services innovation or innovating services. It looks like the docters service to us depended on a good piece of EXTERNAL infrastructure that was built by a collective effort of thousands of very serious professionals. I would love to hear more of these kind of examples of services being dependent on efforts of external networks.

Monday, 7 September 2009

The Services Sector does not exist

After a long pause, I finally came over the barrier that kept me from posting. It was a sentence I read just five minutes ago about a professors whose chair is named "Economy of the Services Sector".

It is not the word economy that got me fired, not even the words Services or Sector, but the combined notion of the latter two: Services Sector. How long will it take before we finally get rid of this incorrect use of the word Service?

Lets face it, who speaks of the product sector? Nobody isn't it? We have PC's, cars, tiles, gasoline, even software licences, but these do not form the product sector, they are part of sectors like Oil & Gas, Consumer Tech, or Automotive.

But for some strange reason the term Services Sector continues to creep in from time to time. And that simply annoys me. Especially because the solution is so simple: every economic activity has a services part, even product-related activities.

Aroujo and Spring have been very clear on this: products alone cannot be sold so mankind invented the product/service combination to make things transferable. Economic goods are goods because they can be traded like a good.

And ofcourse there are examples where trading does not work. Not in the sense that a certain good is traded. When that happens, when the customer does not know in advance what he or she will get, one can be very sure services are near! For the rest, its a combi. Every product has a services lining. And almost every services comes with a product. Isn't that what economists call complementaty consumption?

Wouldn't that be a good title for a chair "Professor of complementary product/service consumption". Any suggestions who is willing to sponsor that Chair are more than welcome :-)