Please go to Internet Time Blog for the current blog.
You can read yesterday's Internet Time Outbound newsletter online.
Do you Furl? It's free. And Beta. And great. When I see a webpage I may want to reference, I push a button on my browser's toolbar to furl it. Unlike a bookmark, Furl lets me store a category, my rating, notes, and a excerpt. Here, take a look at my Furl Archive.
The experience will Blogger has been largely positive. Some issues remain. By far the largest is its broken RSS. Their support troops are working on it, but Internet Time Blog has dropped off the RSS radar. I am going to kludge a temporary solution -- reposting to the MT blog just to generate the RSS. Also, I miss trackback but it's not that big a deal.
Loosely Coupled is a wonderfully lucid book by Doug Kaye, who also provides IT Conversations, mp3 recordings of interviews with IT visionaries that I love to listen to while walking in the Berkeley hills. Founder and former CEO of Rational Software, Doug has an ability to explain what's going on in Web Services, applicaiton integration, Service-Oriented Architectures, security, what's still missing, and more. He concludes with a Strategic Checklist.
Gifted writer that he is, Doug still takes 300 pages to make his case, so I propose little more than to skim the treetops and to recommend that you grab a copy of this if you expect Web Services to impact your job (that is, if you expect to be in IT, corporate finance, or training administration five years from now).
Here's a map of the entire Web Services vision. The bottom third is done; you've used it many times. The middle stuff is still being worked out; it's a universal need, and much of it will migrate to the bottom tier. The top of the pyramid is industry-specific. Highly automated industries like financial services, high-tech, and automotive have many standards worked out and are actively using them. Kaye points out what's here today, what's expected tomorrow, and when it's reasonable to expect it. The subtitle of the book is The Missing Piece of Web Services, and it's this separation of the real from the vapor that makes this an incredibly useful book.
Why would any CIO in his right mind embrace this Web Services business? Two words: Application integration. Inside corporations, anywhere from one- to two-thirds of all programmer time is spent splicing together applications so they can talk with one another. More than anyone likes to admit, integration is often accomplished by manually intervening to transfer data from one application to another ("swivel-chair integration" or "sneaker-net"). Unfortunately, in this sort of set-up, data only flows one way. When systems rely on one another, things rapidly fall out of sync.
ERP was an attempt to glue things together systematically. However, the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of putting in an ERP is in the neighborhood of $15 million, most of it for integration and customization. A study found the range to be $400,000 to $300 million, with an average cost of $53,000/user! Nonetheless, most companies were happy, because they achieved enterprise integration for the first time.
You're going to hear a lot about services in the future, and I don't mean what maids and messengers do. Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is an approach to building systems where the fundamental building blocks are connections. A software architect begins by definining the interfaces between business processes. Once these are solid and interoperable, the business process can change without screwing up the whole system.
This is important to understand, and I'm not doing the best job at it, so I'll draw an analogy. Before loose coupling, the buzz-phrase for common interface standards wired to some process behind it, corporate IT applications were hard-wired to one another. Each M&M here is a separate business process:
With loose coupling, processes (or "services") are separable at the interfaces. We treat each process as a free-standing bundle and insert new connections between them. Each process becomes plug-and-play:
You can see what's coming. If I want to outsource a service, all I need to do is unplug it. In fact, I could create a business process model that replicated the service, and do what-if analysis until I hit on the best configuration of services to achieve my objectives.
The prevailing business wisdom is that you should do what you're good at and hand off the rest. Thirty years ago, companies programmed their own accounts payable applications; now they all rely on someone else to do that. Fifteen years ago, companies ran their own payroll; now they hand it off to ADP. The trend to handing off anything that's not your core expertise is growing. SOA and Web Services will make it hard to resist a smoothly interoperable service managed by someone for whom it's core.
Back to Doug Kaye, for I drifted away from his message when the M&Ms showed up. The reason the afficianados of IT feel SOA is inevitable is because it provides:
To work with the big picture, you've got to rise above the day-to-day to the process level.
Business Process Reengineering sought to tighten things up at this level. BPR claims to make end-to-end improvements. BPR often failed. On the one hand, BPR oversimplified how organizations really work; you can’t do without the grapevine, workarounds, the shadow organization, social networks, and other intangibles. On the other, BPR mistook the old wall surrounding the corporation for the limits of the value creation process. The wall is an artificial barrier. That’s why Jack Welch told GE to be a “boundaryless organization.” Why mess with only the inside stuff when you can leverage the assets of the entire world?
As we backed away, a bigger picture came into focus, a “Value Chain.” We recognized that our organization is but a link in a chain that stretches from digging raw materials out of the ground to putting a smile on a customer’s face. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If the company that supplies our raw materials is an inefficient, high-cost producer, our customer is eventually going to pay for it. Hence, it’s in our interest to select, train, inform, and motivate every link in our chain. A majority of the people who work for Cisco don’t draw a Cisco paycheck. They are suppliers, assemblers, shippers, channel partners, consultants, and integrators.
Stepping back once more, the frame captures immense ecosystems interacting on myriad levels. Organizations don’t have a relationship with their partners and customers; they have thousands upon thousands of them. I’ll never forget my surprise, when I popped open the console cover of the first mainframe computer I sold, an NCR 315. There in the heart of the beast was an IBM typewriter mechanism. It was better for NCR to sell the competition’s typewriter than to make their own. We’re all in this together.
Zoom out one more time, and you see a globe where everything is connected to everything else, and the outcome of interaction is unpredictable. Large investments sometimes yield nothing but frustration; tiny actions sometimes yield immense results. A butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo and a hurricane forms in the Caribbean. A worker talks with a customer on the phone and a entire new industry pops up in Abu Dhabi. The photograph is getting fuzzy. In Powers of Ten, images turn into random spots at a trillion kilometers from earth. We’ve zoomed out of focus; we don’t understand what we see.
The boxes model the evolution of a business organization as time passes and we see the entity is a larger context.
What you see depends on where you stand. Companies in the vanguard are forever deciding how to optimize a bigger picture. This process view is at the heart of Workflow Learning. This is Business Process, melded directly into work. "Give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth."
The first successful spreadsheet was called VisiCalc; where is VisiProcess?"
Connecting workers to the work is what Workflow Learning is all about.
This is the first of what I expect to grow into a collection of personal reflections on the workflow learning revolution that will be stashed in the Workflow Institute's Vault.
Mo-working is on the rise. More and more consultants and corporate types work at client sites or from home offices. The economic downturn and the trend toward outsourcing have created legions of free agents. Knowledge workers are no longer tethered to buildings.
Unless you like noise and sweet, overpriced coffee, Starbucks is not a workable substitute office. If a new baby just moved into your home office, good luck concentrating on work. Besides, lots of people enjoy the social aspects of work; for comaraderie, a friendly break room beats an empty kitchen.
This afternoon I met with someone who's going with the trends rather than fighting them. Neil Goldberg is the founder of Gate3 Workclub. Imagine a workplace with sunlight streaming in, lots of conference rooms, modular office set-ups, a learning center, a cafe, oodles of Herman Miller furniture, T-1 access for all, a sunny rooftop, and lots of friendly people scurrying around, but no boss. That's the Workclub.
Gate3 has a lot more appeal than the rent-an-office suites I've visited. Those seem to fill up with ersatz financial planners, multi-level marketing schemers, and other undesirables. The "offices" provided by outplacement firms are worse. ("Oh, boy, a chance to use the phone and hang out with the jobless.") At Gate3, you can order a latte or have a massage. The ambiance is very California.
I'll blog more about Gate3 after my next visit. Neil's accepting applications now. If you call Gate3 (1.510.868.8180), tell them I sent you. I may want to hold some classes in the big room downstairs or perhaps take advantage of the usability lab.
"Make no little plans. They fail to stir the blood of men," said architect Daniel Burnham. Indeed, life's too short for mediocrity. When I hear someone say they wish their online learning were as effective as their instructor-led workshops, I wonder why they're shooting so low. They should be aiming to make their technology-enabled learning much better than the passive classroom experience. Let's face it, the classroom is often a mediocre learning environment.
Today I've seen the future, not once, but twice, and I can hardly wait to get there.
First, Robin Good whisked me away to visit his persistent meeting room on smartMeeting. I outfitted my avatar with natty blue sweater, gray slacks, and a beard, and joined Robin in his online space.
Slick, eh? We were talking VOIP. I could see his avatar hopping about.
Things weren't perfect. I'm running an older machine, and my video card is less than this software's looking for. Also, I lost contact with Robin while I was switching PCs. But I could see the potential and it is awesome.
Imagine having your own virtual space where you can call up presentations, briefings, video, and whiteboards for your guests. All with sound. Private or public. Works over a low-band connection.
I've lusted for something like this for some time. I can envision Emergent Learning Forum using it for small meetings and mentoring sessions. This is much more friendly than video conferencing. At long last, collaborative technology is becoming less geeky.
Keeping one's demos and presentations at the ready 24/7 makes so much sense. Got a laptop? "Come into my parlor..."
You can stake out your own room on the web for a monthly rental payment. Software imitates life. Here's my new room:
All of which raises the issue of what's better to keep on the web and what's better on your own (probably not adequately backed-up) hard drive. Your mobility and your attitude to being tethered to a single machine are major factors here. Operating systems slop back and forth from local to remote these days. Applications are promiscuous at this. Data is wherever you want it to be.
This was on my mind today when I talked with a tiny start-up that has the potential to save big companies big bucks on IT maintenance and upgrades, and to eventually open the door for small business to buy software capability by the month
That's my desktop. (The background color pumps up my adenalin.) It's remote. I can tap into it from anywhere. I don't have to fiddle around with updates from the guys in Redmond. It's always there, whenever and wherever I connect from. The apps run really fast. It feels like a screaming Pentium even when I'm jacking in with a pokey machine running Win 98. The host can afford to run on machines faster than I can dream of.
This evening I escaped the office while it was still light out and drove over to Tilden Park for a walk in the woods. Tromping alongside a little stream for 40 minutes was just enough time for me to listen to Doug Kaye interview Doc Searls on my tiny mp3 player.
Doc talked about the genesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto, how he got the name "Doc," his early marketing career, and his most recent campaign, DIYIT or "Do It Yourself IT."
The most visible action in the IT marketspace is what Doc calls "vendor sports." These are the supply-side vendors like IBM or HP duking it out in full-color magazine ads.
The underappreciated part is the demand side, where programmers scratch their own itches. They most often use Open Source software but they're not necessarily part of that culture, with its emphasis on licensing, development protocols, and so forth.
The DIY crowd just want to build things. The closest analogy is to the construction industry. They share a common language ("builds,""tools,""builders"). Linux is the DIYers' lumber, a raw material for virtually any job. Neither software construction nor building houses locks you in to a particular supplier. The housebuilder doesn't say, "We're building this house on a Weyerhauser platform...."
Doc set up IT Garage as a home for DIYIT. He'd like it to grow and morph into a magazine (since it's usally the other way around).
The fact that Open Source code is free delegates decision-making lower in the organization. You don't need a purchase order -- or official approval -- to use it.
If you want to follow what's going on in IT, I recommend downloading some of Doug Kaye's marvellous IT Conversations.
Robin Good is the go-to guy for collaborative technology, so I was delighted to happen upon this post this morning.
Yesterday afternoon and early evening, I attended the announcement of a partnership between Oracle and Macromedia at Oracle's futuristic headquarters in Redwood Shores. I'll be a little more reserved than usual in my reflections on the event because I like both these companies and because I was officially invited as a stringer for CLO magazine. Also, I know the people on both sides of this deal, both companies have been generous to Emergent Learning Forum, and I'll undoubtedly be hitting both up for business in the future.
In a nutshell, the news is this: Compliance with AICC, IMS, and SCORM is no assurance of interoperability. The standards are subject to interpretation, and legal extensions can lead to one-off code. Macromedia is king of the mountain in web development tools; just about all of Oracle's 300 LMS customers use Macromedia products. By having their engineers bang their heads together, the two firms will make it easier for shared customers to build, publish, and consume training. They'll support best practices for learning content development and publishing with a Content Resource Center that's free to all.
More than a hundred of us convened in Oracle's conference center. I'd been here once before, when Oracle VP Chris Pirie hosted a meeting of Emergent Learning Forum last year. At the time, one of our members remarked, "Wow. This is really nice." His companion responded, "Yeah, well, this is a profitable company." Oracle is a class act. The opening speaker explained that this was once the site of Marine World, which is now esconced in Vallejo. The builders left the lake so the boss would have a place to walk. (Book title = The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison *God Doesn't Think He's Larry Ellison.)
"We're going to have a raffle after the presentations. Someone is going to win some free software -- PeopleSoft, Siebel, BEA... Of course, you may have to wait a while to receive your prizes."
Chris Pirie and Kevin Lynch gave a mercifully short presentation before yielding the floor to Josh Bersin, who led a panel of users in discussion. (Ever see Warren Beatty's wonderful movie, Reds? Fantastic film. Anyway, the panel were the "witnesses".)
Cisco's Peg Maddocks advised that for next generation eLearning, "Stop doing what you're doing." After eight years of "free range learning" where everyone did their own thing, her team has chopped the 31,000 offerings on their LMS back to 4,000, and she figures half of those can go, too. In the early days, Cisco would pay $300,000 to $800,000 for a custom program on products that were changing monthly -- and couldn't be updated. Quick-and-dirty development is a better way to go.
Brocade's Linda Moss is focused on customer learning. A mere handful of the audience are there yet. Linda has limited resources, so instructors have been recuited as developers and are now becoming web developers.
Mary Kay Russell, director of Enterprise eLearning for Kaiser Permanente, is using the 80/20 rule as she centralizes what started out as in-house, ad hoc page turners. Kaiser is implementing an automated medical record system. In the early nineties, I hawked clinical record software for a while. The various regions of Kaiser Permanente considered themselves separate companies. Mary Kay has her work cut out for her.
America West's Tony Willis was the eLearning virgin on the panel. While the airline has 12,000 employees, just about all training has been instructor-led. They're implementing eLearning first with the reservations group, then other airport personnel, and eventually hope to add in the "absentee workforce," i.e. pilots and flight attendants who may live just about anywhere. America West has been an Oracle customer, and that figured heavily in their choice of Oracle's LMS. Tony's caveat: Don't oversell eLearning. His boss now thinks it's a silver bullet and wants everything to go "e."
Genentech's Harry Wittenberg has previous eLearning experience with IBM, Cisco, Apple, Chas Schwab, and...was it Andersen? Harry told lots of "blended" learning stories.
As with so many events, you really had to be there. How else could one savor the sushi, satay, stuffed mushrooms, and wine? As I said, Oracle is a class act. The reception had the feel of a college reunion. So many people I hadn't seen for a year or two.
Is this technology partnership a big deal? It's good for Oracle customers. I'm disappointed we don't see more industry cooperation. Wouldn't it be great if Macromedia had this sort of pact with IBM and Sun and Microsoft?
Given the skepticism that greets me when I talk with many people about blogs, I was delighted to come across this item from Buzz Machine:
Every medium has its amateurs and its pros. Some people are exciting to read; others are a snooze. When blogs are good, they are very, very good, and when they are bad, they are awful.
Yesterday I read a post by Mena Trott, the former CEO of SixApart, about handing over the reins to an older guy. Outside the blogosphere, a news release on a transition of power would have been obscured by so many layers of corporate baffle-gab that you'd never know what was going on. Mena's post was different. It was personal. It came from the heart. She writes:
So, for all you out there who've read up to this point, I hope that I have proven that it's possible for a CEO to stop being CEO but still be content in a company. Additionally, I hope that this weblog influences others in my position to share their experiences.
Last night I met with a charming group of people at the monthly meeting of the Silicon Valley Chapter of ASTD. We discussed A Few Thoughts About Informal Learning. My pal Kathleen Hurson introduced me as the sort of person The Tipping Point calls a maven. In fact, she said super-maven. Finally I've found a title to put on my business card. Well, perhaps not.
e. e. cummings
By definition, most people are on the opposite site of the gray vertical line some call "the chasm."
It's not that some are right and some are wrong. Both points of view are valid. In diversity there is strength. Different organizations need different mixes of attitudes. Here's a koan for your contemplation:
More than once, people have described me as "out of the box," generally in a tone that communicates WAY out of the box. Too far. Of course, I see this differently. The box in my head is simply bigger than theirs. To me, my thoughts are natural, obvious, and real.
People ask me how I find so much time to blog. I answer most of what I write on the blog is no more than sharing the reflections I used to keep to myself. Opening up my thinking to others invites feedback and suggestions which inform my direction.
The Johari Window is a 2x2 showing what I do and don't know about myself in one direction, and what others do and don't know about me in the other. It's a neat way to visualize privacy and ignorance. I'm consciously trying to expand my "Arena," i.e. what I and others know about Jay.
I suspect that most of our Arenas (what we share with others) are further left on the adoption curve than our Facades (what we keep to ourselves).
Last night several people asked what they could do today about my portrait of the future. They are living with overly rigid command-and-control organizations. Courses and classrooms are the tradition; informal learning and collaboration are suspect. Management knows that learning is somehow important but measures performance by counting butts in seats. I think this is a similar issue. Some of us envision the future; others maintain the present. To prosper, know thyself and know thy customers.
Here's my presentation from ASTD International this year, Collaboration Supercharges Performance. The PowerPoint is nearly the same as yesterday evening's, although different words popped out of my mouth in Washington.
I'll reiterate the flow of things since you may want to pick and choose what to listen to.
|We began by looking at a universal model of everything.|
This led into a discussion of blogs, RSS, plogs, and customer education blogs.
Remember that major changes in direction are indicated as SHIFT GEARS.
|Next up: the scary part. We are drowning in information, the world grows ever more complex, time is speeding up, and everything is topsy-turvy. Rigid organizations won't make it through this. Flexibility is prerequisite to survival.|
|Networks are the next step in computing, business organizations, and more. As internodal communication costs drop, networks replace hierarchies.|
|The age of collaborative learning is at hand.|
|Mentoring used to be tied to events. Collaboration can be omnipresent. We considered examples. |
|We wrapped up with the evolving framework for Emergent Learning Forum. |
Oh, yes, links. I promised the group last night links to several topics.
I can doodle, I can diagram, but I never learned to draw. At least, I can't draw well. Trust me on this. It's not learned helplessness. Drawing is absent from my genetically inherited mental macro library.
Actually, I lied when I said I never learned to draw. I should have said I never learned to draw without help. I just finished this portrait. It took about 10 minutes.
My performance support tool was a cool web-based application called Mr. Picassohead. (Try it.)
Check out the whole gallery.
Imagine having a console like this for doing your work. Zounds.
Steve Jobs reputably had a graphic on his office wall at NeXT that said that the least efficient means of transportion among mammals was a human walking. The most efficient? A human riding a bicycle.
I'm in the midst of a wonderful weekend at Kingbridge Conference Center, about 45 minutes north of the Toronto airport. Sixty out-of-the-box friends and acquaintances are participating in a weekend retreat, discussing transparency, good & evil, social networking, and whatever else we're into.
John Abele, who made his bucks with Boston Scientific, owns the Center, which began life as a spa, morphed into the Learning Center for CIBC, and came on the market in tough times. Abele's mission is to use the Center to extend the role of collaboration. The place is beautiful, the food is tasty, and I'd love to host an event here some day.
Shortly before seven this morning, I set out for a walk. Alas, walking through the woods, I was attacked by an aggressive swarm of mosquitos. The front desk gave me some StingEze, but half an hour later I was hit with severe itching on the palms of my hands, my toes, my thighs, and other places I knew the skeeters hadn't gone. I tapped into the 'net and discovered I was having an alergic reaction. I drove my rental car ten minutes south to pick up Benadryl. That could care of the itching but made me so sleepy I probably missed half of today's session.
|BEST PRACTICES SUMMARY |
|Learning Strategy||Organization and Process||Learning Content||Learning Infrastructure|
| || || || |
|Source: SRI Consulting Business Intelligence|
For the last three years, I've recommended Moveable Type to anyone interested in doing some serious blogging.
MT has a great set of features. It's a chameleon; you can make a blog look any way you want. It's a content management system; entries are stored in an SQL database. It's supported by a developer community; volunteers are forever adding extensions called "plug-ins" that add new functionality.
However, MT is not an option for novices. Most tweaks to MT require messing about with oddball tags and scripts. The standard input screen in ugly. Plan on using FTP and changing file permissions to get things rolling. To take advantage of MT, you need to get your head around what this bucket of PERL scripts is trying to accomplish. It's geeky. Their new version, Moveable Type 3.0, doesn't signal much of a change in direction.
One other thing: There's no easy way to manage Spam in MT's Comments fields. The old Internet Time Blog has been trashed with hundreds of messages referring readers to Paris Hilton videos and worse. Registering to make comments isn't the answer -- that will simply drive away people who just want to leave a thought and be done with it. This Comment Spam issue is what drove me back to Blogger. I'm a happy guy, but it gnaws away at my spirit to open the morning's emails, only to find dozens of truly degrading slime posted to my blogs.
Moveable Type also offers TypePad, a hosted version of their software. You pay a fee to use it. I couldn't make it perform the way I wanted. Besides, why should I pay a fee when Blogger remains free?
We Americnans tend to distrust large organizations and root for the underdog. Microsoft. The Internal Revenue Service. Cable television monopolies. Great Britain under George III.
Google is an exception. Everybody loves Google. Compare the Google interface to, say, Yahoo! Google is simple, elegant, inviting, and to the point. On holidays, Google makes you smile. Yahoo!, by contrast, looks like an old circus sideshow poster as rendered by hopped up Las Vegas dip artists.
Google now owns Blogger but they've been wise enough not to kill the spirit of founder Ev Williams. Blogger is free. Blogger is attractive. Blogger is adding cool new features like audioblogging and blog-by-mail. And Blogger is committed to appealing to the broad non-geek audience.
Of course, my motivation is not that simple. I want to see if I can create an exemplary blog with Blogger. Then I'll start recommending it. I'll track my transition to Blogger here, leaving breadcrumbs for other folks who want to switch blogging platforms.
The old joke says that "God was able to create the world in seven days because he didn't have to deal with an installated base." Among the things I'll be trying to figure out is what to do with my MT content (Blogger doesn't have an import feature) and how to switch my change notification system over.
Several emails arrived this morning from readers. Several complained about the legibility of the white-type-on-black-background. On my monitor, a ViewSonic 19" panel, it looks great, but I bow to the audience. I just changed the colors. (Aren't Cascading Styles wonderful?)
What do you think? What else should I do to make things better?
This is not the current Internet Time Blog. Rather, it's a relic, an artifact of the idyllic days before cyber-vandals began littering the blogosphere with comment spam.
If a link sent you to this page, go to www.internettime.com instead. You'll be re-directed to Internet Time Blog, wherever it may be.
The XML feed for the new Internet Time Blog is:
I have had enough Comment Spam headaches. I am moving this site to Bloogger for a while.
Come see the new Internet Time Blog!
My first time.
Last May a journalist named Nick Carr stirred up a ruckus with an article in Harvard Business Review claiming that IT Doesn't Matter. Using the telephone and shipping by rail were great sources of competitive advantage - until every business could afford them. Then they no longer differentiated those who used them. Carr argued that IT is a mature industry, its presence is assumed, and such things as standards will make it even more of a commodity in the future.
Consultants Howard Smith and Peter Fingar shot back a month later with a paperback retort entitled IT Doesn't Matter - Business Processes Do. I ordered a copy the day I met Peter last week, and I read the booklet yesterday evening. In 120 pages, Smith and Fingar skewer Carr, show why IT will matter more than ever, and explain how business process management creates riches.
The big argument is that "Business process management (BPM) systems can, for the first time in the history of business automation, let companies deal directly with business processes: their discovery, design, deployment, change, and optimization." As long as there's innovation, there's room for making processes better. BPM promises to obliterate the "Business-IT Divide."
To optimize a process, the right hand must know what the left is doing. Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), the melding of ERP, SCM, CRM, PLM, and what-not into one all-encompassing application, is a major step forward, but it doesn't link the organization with those outside the firewall such as partners and suppliers. Web Services integrate the enterprise with the outside world, connecting business to business, just as the Web connected consumers to businesses in the last decade.
Does this mean all business is going to be carried out using common processes that embed best practices? Not on your life. "BPM will be used both to differentiate (best-in-class) and to standardize (best-practice)." Count on Amazon, for example, to use best-practice standards for email and credit-checking, and FedEx will deliver your order. Don't expect Amazon to let you peak into proprietary systems such as One-Click Ordering, for that's where their competitive advantage lies.
Nick Carr's screed in HBR attacked data processing as we've known it. Indeed, that's not where to look for big value in the future. Business organizations are moving up the ladder a notch to MetaIT. Instead of one-time automation to save labor, they are establishing structures to continuously improve the way they do things.
Authors Smith and Fingar tell us it's time for the IT tail to stop wagging the Business dog. In their vision of the future, business people will define and own business processes. Instead of doing what-if analyses with numbers on spreadsheets, decision-makers will do what-if analyses of how their business operates or might operate.
As I recently wrote here, it's as if builders could move walls by shifting them on blueprints displayed on their laptops. With a comprehensive business blueprint, an executive can hand off an entire bundle of processes, say payroll, with minimal fuss (and with knowledge of precisely what savings will result.) A manager can experiment with different ways of getting a job done and chose the one with the most profit potential. A worker can fix a glitch in the system that has been irritating customers for once and for all. In the BPM world, business runs the show.
The authors propose a daunting laundry list of other functions the new paradigm can help accomplish, among them "accountability, activity-based costing, business process outsourcing, competitive intelligence, concurrent engineering, crisis management, inter-organizational systems, just-in-time (JIT), key performance indicators, lifetime customer value, pay-for-performance, resource-based strategy, security audit, scenario planning, and supply chain optimization." (Whew.)
My interest in all this is how it improves learning and human performance. Process-oriented environments will impact traditional training just as word processing and social change eliminated most of the nation's secretaries. Process innovation empowers us to create jobs that provide more throughput and greater worker satisfaction, although not through traditional training departments. Imagine the potential of:
For training directors and CLOs, the future holds good news or bad news. It depends on where you're coming from. Training administrators who fail to understand the new dynamics of business as likely to find themselves stripped bare, evaluated by metrics they do not understand, and looking for another line of work. Those who adopt the process mindset take on significant new responsibilities, for everyone knows that the people in the organization are more important than the technology.
After fifty years of waiting for instructions in its corporate cocoon, training is ready to unfold its wings and be recognized as a full-fledged business process.
Michael Moore's documentary on the Bush administration may be the first movie in history to turn the tide of the election. I encourage you to see it. In today's New York Times, Paul Krugman explains why with eloquence I envy.
There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration's use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?
And for all its flaws, "Fahrenheit 9/11" performs an essential service. It would be a better movie if it didn't promote a few unproven conspiracy theories, but those theories aren't the reason why millions of people who aren't die-hard Bush-haters are flocking to see it. These people see the film to learn true stories they should have heard elsewhere, but didn't. Mr. Moore may not be considered respectable, but his film is a hit because the respectable media haven't been doing their job.
For example, audiences are shocked by the now-famous seven minutes, when George Bush knew the nation was under attack but continued reading "My Pet Goat" with a group of children. Nobody had told them that the tales of Mr. Bush's decisiveness and bravery on that day were pure fiction.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" is a tendentious, flawed movie, but it tells essential truths about leaders who exploited a national tragedy for political gain, and the ordinary Americans who paid the price.