Ovum CIO Industry Congress – observations from a none CIO…

I was asked to participate in the panel for a Q&A session at last week’s Ovum CIO Industry Congress in London. Which I thought slightly ironic, as any of our IT team back at Nimbus will tell you that I’m, ahem, not the most techie person on the planet…

It was a well attended event with over 200 delegates and was very illuminating to me despite that fact that there were unintelligible acronyms liberally sprinkled around most of the presentations…

The title of my session was Business Process Optimization and had originally been planned as an Ovum analyst session which due to illness had to be modified. Rob Hailstone (Senior Analyst) did a great job of stepping at the last minute and presenting the key planned slides in about 5 minutes and then moderating the panel Q&A session.

I’m not quite sure what the attendees expected, as the planned presentation would have been deep in the weeds automated process optimization stuff, which, although I’m sure would have been interesting to the techies present, would have had me asleep in the first 5 minutes (I’d had an early flight :-)).

As it was the 3 of us on the panel had a much more human perspective on process and together with the audience had a great discussion on a number of topics, including the thorny ‘as-is’ vs. ‘to-be’ debate that I’ve weighed in on before as has my colleague Chris Taylor.

The consensus in the room, including us panellists, seemed to be that there is no ‘fits all’ answer to this, most of us can present both sides of the argument although in most cases, in an ideal world you would map as-is. However last time I checked most of us don’t live in an ideal world and therefore you have to balance the constraints of the project situation.

Another thing that struck me was that there was lots of talk about social capabilities in the enterprise. Obviously the social trend is massive on a personal basis however what’s happening in the enterprise? And more to the point, as a CIO how do you square the circle of control that you traditionally have sought in your IT architecture to the freedom that’s dictated to an extent by the new social paradigm?

The CIOs present seemed to be collectively scratching their heads about this however based on conversations I heard plus presentations attended I think there is a wave of specific social capability in the enterprise that’s coming and our CIOs are going to be embracing it. Obviously there are already social tools int he enterprise it’s early adopters picking this up at the moment and i’m sure that there are lots of ponderings about how best to deploy these technologies to different parts of the enterprise.

I think it’s going to be absolutely fascinating to see what will happen when social is normal in the enterprise in the same way that it is in our personal lives?

Socialist BPM

There’s me sitting in Beijing talking to 2 people from one of our clients, a massive Chinese bank. Slightly odd (to my western sensibilities, don’t take this as any kind of slur) almost military type people, very straight-backed and not even the merest inkling of the tiniest possibility of the smallest chance, that a smile could even begin to ponder approaching their lips…

For a whole 1.5 hours. (which seemed a lot longer…)

However there is always something to learn and this is what I got…

Apparently in many Chinese organisations the whole of concept of a cross-functional process is as alien as it is to some western companies (still…) however their problem is much bigger. You can define a cross-functional process and attempt to implement it, however feedback and any changes you might need to make are going to be painful:

If you’re a middle manager and you see something that should change, you absolutely can’t go and talk to your colleague in the next silo down the process, you must escalate to your silo head, who in the fullness of time may deign to communicate it to your colleague’s silo head, who may in turn pass the info to your colleague. Clearly the message may have become distorted by then (insert your own favourite chinese whispers joke) and may never even reach it’s intended target.

All of which poses some (!) organisational challenges to process collaboration and improvement, but also to collaboration features in software which are probably designed (by western companies) to assume that collaboration is a many-to-many construct. Therefore nobody’s action list gets too big.

The comment from one of my Chinese colleagues was that they were finding it difficult to use the collaborative functionality as about 5 people were getting actions from about 1 million employees….