During the last few weeks I have been talking to a number of people from within governmental organizations and different business segments about white collar productivity.
Actually the discussions have often been around the new buzzwords “Enterprise 2.0” and “Government 2.0” and what these two buzzwords entail. It boils down to trying to define/apply/govern/restrict the use of the emerging bunch of new social media tools (similar to WEB 2.0 tools – Facebook, Twitter, etc… BUT inside the firewall!) within a corporate or public agency environment.
WEB 2.0 tools just showed up in the work place and people began using them as collaboration tools to get their work done (AND you could at the same time communicate with your “friends”). In other words the tools helped people be more productive and gave them an easier way of sharing information than current corporate legacy systems and “sanctioned” office productivity tools.
It reminds me of when the IBM PC showed up in the workplace in the mid-1980s to the horror of and without the approval/control of the IT department. The IBM PC fulfilled a need for getting the work done more efficiently, i.e. they increased productivity and created a whole new industry.
The IBM PC was an integral part of what happened next with legacy software systems going from rigid mainframe systems towards more “flexible” client/server systems with the IBM PC providing the user interface. It became an interactive process instead of the old batch approach to entering data and retrieving information. It was more inviting and easier to use.
During the 1990s Integration began driving a paradigm shift from free standing best-of-breed accounting systems (G/L. A/R, A/P, Order Entry, Purchasing, Inventory, Distribution, etc…) towards integrated systems that became known as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.
The value of system integration and information context won out. Your Accounts Receivable (A/R) system was in sync with your A/R assets account in your Balance Sheet. The same integration to the General Ledger applied to Accounts Payable, Inventory, Purchasing, Billing, etc…
For project based organizations the recording of time sheets and expenses towards projects provided similar integration to the financial system and gave good overview of Work-in-Progress and now you were getting closer to managing the business in real time, at least from a financial point of view.
This has evolved into specialized ERP system for different industries – ERP for Services, ERP for Wholesale Distribution, ERP for manufacturing, etc…
I was involved as a vendor of ERP systems for the service industry in the 1990s and to me ERP meant blue collar productivity improvements by optimizing the processing of structured information and we often showed the advantages of ERP as illustrated below:
As ERP systems from SAP, ORACLE, PeopleSoft, Maconomy, Navision and many others improved their functionality and usability during the 1990s, overall attention turned towards managing the unstructured information that flows along a project timeline.
Many firms in the service segment (consulting, advertising, engineering, etc…) where I spent most of my time realized that they could get the billing rate up with ERP systems to maybe 70% (100% less vacation time, sick time, education, presale, non-billable,..) but that was where they maxed out.
These firms knew that they made money or lost money depending on their ability to manage scope creep on key projects and give project leaders, their supervisors and the PMO office the tools to align the scope definition with the contract appendix detailing the service to be delivered.
The scope of a project most often changed during the execution of the project but often that did not result in an amendment to the contractual service definition. Furthermore this change often resulted in modifications of project timelines, milestones and deadlines as well as resource allocations – people and material.
Most of the corporate silos of finance, legal, human resource and specialized practice departments should have been involved in this effort but are often notified after the fact or when the project is in a serious crisis.
Part of the problem was that the tools simply were not available.
This is where I think Enterprise 2.0 and Government 2.0 enter the scene. These emerging technologies simply fill a need for helping knowledge workers share information in the context of the project or process to which the knowledge belongs.
I think we will see a rapid evolution of these tools towards integrated and specialized solutions dramatically improving white collar (knowledge worker) productivity and this might parallel what happened with ERP systems in the 1990s for blue collar productivity – reference the figure below:
At cBrain we have named this integrated solution the “Knowledge Worker Desktop” and I will cover this concept in some more detail in coming blog entries but will close with a few highlights:
• The Knowledge Worker Desktop works within an automated archiving system that automatically, based on context assigns classification and META data. Archiving and record management is a by-product of the work performed and not a separate work process.
• Give up on most user-based classification (cynical me! It never works!) and automate as far as possible the process of assigning classification and other META data based on context – you already know the entity (customer, vendor, employee, location, case, project, business process, deadline/milestone, next step approval/review, etc.) you are working with or you generate it as part of your work, SO the system will automate classification and META data!
• Regulatory compliance is facilitated.
• The system includes search and presentation facilities for necessary work overview.
I will cover other aspects of the concept for the Knowledge Worker Desktop in coming posts.
Any comments are welcome!