People, process, technology

According to conventional IT management theory, these are the three areas  in order of importance – that a successful technology implementation or change management project must address.

In fact, many IT organisations struggle to understand and manage the interdependence of technology and process, let alone the more abstract relationship higher up the order.

But the emerging group of technologies described variously as Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 or social media is changing that.

Unlike the traditional business communications tools – namely email, telephone calls and maybe IM and texting – these technologies leave an auditable record of social interactions. That offers enterprises visibility into the hitherto invisible social structure of their workforce, their partners and even their customer base.

As our cover feature this month explains, this development promises to revolutionise the way organisations think about – and evolve – their business process.

The process view of business management was pioneered in the automobile manufacturing industry – first developed by the American car giants and then honed by their Japanese counterparts in the 1980s.

It sees a business process as a series of events that can be engineered, analysed and optimised.

But human beings are not car manufacturing robots. Their ability to act spontaneously, inventively and idiosyncratically is arguably the very reason that organisations employ them. Systems that attempt to force human-driven business processes into standardised, ‘optimised’ patterns, be they business process management tools or traditional enterprise applications, are just as likely to constrain and demotivate employees as they are to improve their performance.

By contrast, collaboration and social networking tools allow an organisation to see the natural, organic patterns in the behaviour of its employees. That can help it to discover the way its best workers get things done, and where process bottlenecks are, without forcing them into the straightjacket of an inflexible process.

What’s more, by allowing employees to participate in the ongoing refinement of business process design, these technologies will allow people to dictate process, not vice versa.

So while technology may be considered the weakest member of the trinity, it may yet prove to be the key to allowing its higher-order cousins to operate in harmony.

David Cliff

David Cliff is managing director of Houghton le Spring-based Gedanken, a company specialising in coaching-based support and personal development. Cliff is an experienced trainer, manager and therapist,...

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