Tag Archives: technology alignment

Squishing a Round Process Foot into a Square Technology Boot…Not!

While I don’t want to sound like a process guy forever ragging on software companies, here we go again. After completing an enterprise process redesign; identifying explicit technology enablement requirements; conducting a search to find the best application fit (we will have to integrate two systems), we selected Company X, which assured us they would tailor their implementation to what we’ve already done and where we are.

Baloney (or is it bologna). Sales transitions the job over to the implementation team, and then we receive a cookie-cutter implementation plan that starts with (get this) 4 days of meetings with me and my client’s management team to redesign our process to suit the software. Wow! Breathtaking arrogance! Then we meet resistance when we ask for a “sandbox” so client managers and I (haven’t implemented this one before) can start identifying what functionality we’ll use and what we’ll hide – plus familiarize ourselves with the interface and start pulling together the data they’ll need to configure the system our way. Hey, why do we need that. They’ll show us how we’ll use their system, after they straighten out our process.

They’re now starting to catch on, but it’s truly hard for them to comprehend how our process, designed before we met them, should drive their technology. Foreign concept, totally. Sometimes I have to pinch myself and remember we’re still living in the past. Before customers started taking over buyer-seller relationships. And before we realized process has to drive technology, not the other way round.


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Are Outside-In Practitioners Becoming Overconfident of Their Future?

Hey – I’ve been through this entirely too many times. At the start of the relationship marketing movement; when B2B database marketing got serious; when “micromarketing” started; with TOC (Theory-of-Constraints); and in spades with CRM. All sure bets practitioners could take to the bank. All supposed slam-dunks coopted by parochial economic interests – whether by advertising agencies, media outlets, Six Sigma & Lean, CRM software companies, etc.. Looking back on this history makes me fear O-I is ready for a face-plant.

We’re hearing too much ungrounded exuberance, too many excessive claims, too many ungounded predictions about O-I. And saying that market conditions will force business to go Outside-In  ignores history. Let’s face it straight up. O-I will succede if we make it sufficiently attractive to companies, not because the market “forces” companies to go O-I. And accomplishing this will require much more from the O-I community than the community’s yet prepared to give.

We’re changing market phases now from “Innovators” to “Early Adopters.” To get there, we have to do more than prosletyzing the O-I concept. And to reach some of the penetration levels O-I aspires to, we’re going to have to move on to “Early Majority” clients – which will require an execution level the movement’s not yet close to.

To get O-I into the meat of the marketplace, I believe we have to accomplish four, difficult tasks:

1. Do it right:  Migrating from inside out to Outside-In is a three-step journey: a.) aligning strategy to customers (which requires finely honed planning skills); b.) aligning process to strategy (which we’re best at); and c.) aligning technology to process (which the movement often ignores). Sure we can accomplish quick wins with process change or a customer experience initiative – provided the company already leans O-I, like Best-Buy, Fed-X, Trader Joe’s and USAA . But delivering Outside-In enterprise-wide, to its fullest capabilities requires all three alignment elements, not just one.

2.  Train O-I practitioners across the alignment spectrum:  We have lots of O-I practitioners trained in aligning process to customer strategies. Almost none trained in aligning strategies to customers. And way fewer trained in aligning technology with process. We need to provide training in all aspects of O-I. We’re not doing it.

3.  Focus on the steak. not the sizzle:  It’s easy to toss off claims that O-I is the greatest thing since sliced white bread. It’s another thing to make it work. And making it work in organizations not already O-I of their own volition demands properly and persuasively framing the long-term benefits of the inevitable organizational change required to migrate to O-I, rather than pumping the bellows. We need to stop discounting organizational change requirements and start confidently justifying them.

4.  Over-deliver instead of overpromising:  Overselling sweeping, non-specific benefits or offering growth, profitability or expense-reduction bromides hurts Outside-In in the long run. Face it, helping clients achieve broad-based O-I success requires a “grind it out” mentality. We create value incrementally, step-by-step. Enterprise-wide, O-I does not create whopping revenue gains, profitability gains or expense reductions in a flash – or even a year. Double-digit improvements? Very often. But not quantum leaps. Puffery destroys credibility. Remember, our clients are customers. Overselling them on the benefits of Outside-In is very inside-out.

Outside-In has cleared the “Innovator” phase. But we’ll need to change what we say and what we deliver to make substantive progress penetrating the “Early Adopter” segment of companies. And then we’ll have to make even more dramatic changes to enter the mainstream and penetrate the “Early Majority.” As a community, I believe we have a whole lot of hard work ahead of us before we can  bring Outside-In to the corporate masses. Are we ready?

What do you believe?

Is It Time to Redefine the Boundary between Outside-In & Traditional Process?

We (HYM) commonly characterize O/S (office & service) work as O-I’s natural domain and production as more apropos for inside-out approaches, especially Lean, which is our preference. Since most work directly affecting customers happens in the O/S, this creates for a nice, clean, understandable distinction. But every once in a while, complexity does help – as is the case with accurately describing the O-I/production process dividing line.

Case in point. A very high volume reconditioner of capital goods interviewed us for a process engagement intended to increase throughput (we formally kick off next week). The company’s customers had voted with their wallets that they wanted to sacrifice pristine quality for a lower finished price point, which made throughput and efficiency the primary goals. Sounds like a job for Lean (or LSS) rather than O-I, no?

No. During an initial day observing we quickly discovered the major impediments to reducing cycle time. Communication breakdowns and slowdowns only addressable through systems architecture changes plus an infusion of new, communication-based process automation technologye. Yes, we’re to recommend plant layout changes and work force disposition and training, but this client’s primary issues aren’t origi9nating on the shop floor.

From our perspective, neither Lean nor LSS redesign communication process well, especially at the level of specifying systems architecture and application layer changes. In contrast, the full O-I regimen – which aligns strategy to customers; process to strategy; and then technology to process – gets deep into enabling technologies. So we made what I believe is fair representation saying that O-I was a better fit than Lean or LSS, crossing over the basic O-I/production process dividing line. The client agreed with our thinking.

I know our saying that Visual Workflow, the O-I approach we use, will outperform Lean and Lean Six Sigma in this setting will rile up some traditional process types, who’ve at least had safe competitive refuge from O-I Process on the production side. But I’d venture a prediction that we’ll soon see more encroachment by O-I on what’s been accepted as traditional process space as O-I continues to grow in share of overall process redesign work.

Are “Bolt-On” Business Process Management Systems Running Out of Market Space?

I confess–over many years designing office/service (O/S) process, I’ve never once introduced a client to free-standing BPM technology. Too expensive, especially for SMEs, but often in large company settings as well. Too hard to implement, complicated by increased IT outsourcing. But most of all, in O/S settings BPM technology is largely redundant and often irrelevant. Everything BPM systems do that’s appropriate for the O/S space, we provide using alternative methods–especially process management facilities embedded in more and more application software.

For example, SAP’s application layer workflow engine obviates using “bolt-on” BPM systems. And when ERP systems don’t offer BPM functionality, for O/S purposes we typically look to very extensible and configurable CRM systems for process management and measurement. That works especially well because HYM designs O/S process from the customer in, so we’re already enabling customer-company interactions with CRM software. And in the back office, supply chain management systems including SCOR, which is based on “outside-in” process principles, provides more granular process management support than generic BPM technology.

And speaking of granularity, a new wave of “communication-based process” applications embedded in telephony systems will soon appear, offering very granular management of unified communication across the enterprise. Still less need for freestanding BPM in the O/S space.

And there are other tools as well. In fact, although not yet widely used or understood, Microsoft’s XRM supports development of multiple “applications” on a single platform with replicable, multi-use code, which will enable users to integrate office/service process management technology at the application level, a huge advantage over using free-standing BPM technology. We’re drooling over the opportunity  to apply the XRM concept to our Visual Workflow O/S process approach.



Because office/service environments are so highly collaborative and interconnected, the exact opposite of manufacturing, content management tools including SharePoint (used by Microsoft as part of XRM) pitch in and carry part of the load. Project-heavy companies are adopting workflow managing project management applications, which again drill down much deeper than free-standing BPM systems. often much more robust than PM capabilities in freestanding BPM systems.
Add it all up and we have “bolt-on” BPM technology that most SME’s can’t cost-justify; that’s not specific enough to support much of O/S process; and that replicates application-level functionality already at work in many O/S settings. And ERP-based applications increasing have the manufacturing space covered.

Not exactly a rosy picture, when vendors are still stumbling over themselves to introduce new, “bolt-on” BPM systems.