The health, competitive power, and even survival of an enterprise largely depends on its ability to understand and harness the power of knowledge workers who are enabled to take responsibility for providing automatic solutions to meet many of their business needs.
– IBM System Journal, SOA Meets Situational Applications: Examples and Lessons Learned
The speed and efficiency of a responsive organization can only occur if people think for themselves and control their own actions. The notion that some central person can do all the thinking for everyone is a quaint idea from the days of the industrial revolution, when we lived in a slower, simpler and more predictable world.
– Michael Hugos, Business Agility: Sustainable prosperity in a relentlessly competitive world
Knowledge workers are required to make decisions and judgments based on their knowledge.
For decades, many IT organizations have been dealing with developers outside of the IT department as if they were insurgents – their weapons were Excel and Access.
–Mike Rollings (Gartner), Citizen Development: Reinventing the Shadows of IT
Knowledge workers need to use multiple systems to get their work done, often with a combination of enterprise process applications, other data sources, and end-user computing tools such as spreadsheets. They frequently have to work around the predefined process in some way, especially for collaboration and customer communication. The systems may be augmented or integrated in an ad hoc, unsupported manner in an attempt to improve the functionality and information context, which is why automating workflows is so important.
Few organizations, until now, have actively supported the efforts of their knowledge workers to solve problems themselves.
But this doesn’t mean that knowledge workers have simply accepted this. They have gone off and found whatever tools they could to help them get their jobs done.
The tools knowledge workers use today to help them achieve their objectives are like the land of mutant toys.
Value creation is more and more based on intellectual activity rather than manual dexterity or brute strength. But we continue to use the management and organizational structures that worked for the factory and the field. Here success was determined by standardization and efficiency. These in turn demanded adherence to a set procedure. We used people as cogs in a machine when we could not devise a machine to do the job.
Ian James, The Process Consultant
For the past two decades, much of the focus for information technology deployment has been on automating or even eliminating less-skilled jobs. This has been largely effective, and organizations today are able to do far more with fewer people. Workers today spend less of their time on routine tasks than was possible just ten years ago.
These types of automated systems are givens, commodities that can add little additional value to the organization. What are left are the unstructured business processes that have received little attention from management until now.
Harnessing and coordinating these unstructured processes in a way that provides customers with a consistent, cohesive and agile experience is what is needed to become a Customer focused company.How do these unstructured processes manifest themselves in the organization?
Situational process management is an important part of workflows.
It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.
W. Edwards Deming
Flocking birds are an example of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS). There is no lead bird micro-managing the other birds and telling them all where to fly. The individual birds self-organize by adhering to a few simple rules.
Xpeditor works well because it is grounded in the way that knowledge workers actually work, rather than the way we think they should work. We always try to make things run like clockwork, but they rarely do. Instead of trying to make the clock work better, we need a more realistic way of looking at the way things really happen.
The self-organization leads to unpredictable results; you cannot predict the specific patterns that will emerge, but the behavior is adaptive and highly robust.
In order to truly become a customer company, you need a customer platform – a platform in which sales, service, marketing and applications, even products can leverage shared customer data and processes.
Cloud computing makes it possible to create new “business operations platforms” that will allow companies to change their business models and collaborate in powerful new ways with their customers, suppliers and trading partners – stuff that simply could not be done before.
-Peter Fingar, Dot.Cloud: The 21st Century Business Platform
No matter how good your user development tools are, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to build smart workflows that are stable, coherent, efficient and effective software solutions for your organization when your system environment looks like this to business users:
A self-service database can help you eliminate silos.
Most user-developed solutions are at the mercy of their underlying data sources. The data layer makes “businessperson-friendly” data sources and related services available. The data layer simplifies the interface to keep users from getting in over their heads. It is critical for the success of process management.
Making data easily available to users will make them much less likely to access data sources in ways that are less secure and less accurate.
The data layer brings together, in a single repository, the information needed to build cross-functional solutions. The database reflects the entire extended organization, rather a particular application. It is the anti-silo.
Database management requires no technical skills, is automatically tuned and optimized, and is highly scalable. There is no low-level management such as patching, backups, or configuration. Reliable and secure, the database is constantly monitored and administered by dedicated professionals whose only job is to manage the database. Databases are instantly available to anyone who needs them with just a few mouse clicks; there’s no waiting to provision databases.
Data security rules are isolated and managed independently from the rest of application business logic. This eliminates the need for applications to have to code, test, and maintain their own complicated security logic. Database sharing rules can be defined by user, profile, role, group, and record level. This protects against inadvertently giving the wrong person access to data.
Organizational hierarchy is built into the database. This allows access privileges to be set at different levels of the organization; e.g., a manager can automatically have access to the records of their team members. Yet another complication the solution builder doesn’t have to worry about.
New systems can be brought online quickly, because being enabled by Salesforce App Cloud eliminates the steps to acquire, install, and maintain software, and provides immediate access to accurate and complete data in a single location, obviating the need to build new interfaces or cleanse data, or waste effort due to incomplete information or looking for information.
All [citizen developers] need are services that can supply them with data to feed these tools. IT can facilitate their efforts by supplying data services that virtualize complex data sources.
– Mike Rollings (Gartner), Citizen Development: Reinventing the Shadows of IT
When a user wants to build their own business process solutions, chances are they need access to data that already exists – accounts, products, transaction history, etc. Collaborative work management solutions that rely on existing data can be built much faster when a base inventory of reliable enterprise data feeds is pre-established so the data can be consumed and mixed as needed for a process.
Seeding the database is a highly cost-effective and practical way to eliminate or reduce the amount of time users need to spend to find the data they need, and the need to make requests to data owners and/or IT.