Extracting the full benefit of your technology investments – Technology Adoption Framework
February 14, 2011
— cognitive, cognitive processes, differentiation, innovation, operational excellence, technology adoption, user adoption
In last weeks blog post (here) I talked about how technology adoption was a significant opportunity for both buyers and sellers to create meaningful differentiation. This was based on the premise that most technologies are not fully or adequately adopted to leverage the capabilities offered.
But many readers were probably thinking, ho hum, this is not a new problem. Think about CRM and ERP in the past 10-15 years and Sharepoint more recently. All 3 have spawned many many a niche company, method or significant thought leadership around “user adoption”.
So what’s different and why now?
In short what drove success in the 20th century (and the early part of this century) simply will not drive success moving forward. Business as we know it has changed.
There are many many studies (Gartner, CIO Insights etc) that show for the past 5 years the #1 desire of “business people” of IT has to have IT assist in driving meaningful business process improvement.
Technology investments (and adoption) was driven around process change. This in turn resulted in the Business Process Management industry where many new models (TQM, Six Sigma, Lean, BPMN etc) and tools (type BPMS into Google) were created to help companies map and evolve their business processes.
But technology investments were mainly applied to only 1 type of business process.
Processes have been traditionally described as:
• Core – these are the differentiating business process
• Enabling – these are the non differentiating
Management theory, academia, text and “on the job” learning for the past century have mainly focused on what can be controlled. Operational Excellence, better, faster, cheaper, cost management have all been mantra’s of many many highly successful organisations. This will not change moving forward. However cutting costs and driving efficiency no longer delivers the breakaway differentiation organisations are seeking, it results is staying competitively commodotised.
In short investing and adopting technology to drive out cost and drive up efficiency by targeting enabling processes doesn’t deliver the desired business outcomes anymore it just keeps you in the race.
There is however a massively growing groundswell of focus on core differentiating processes. How can these not just be improved but innovated. In a recent discussion with a client I was asked, how can you help us innovate our innovation process?
The challenge has been that as we moved out of the industrial age and into the information age process were task based. If this then do that. They were easily defined, mapped and the actions and tasks well structured and highly disciplined. But we are no longer in the information age. We are now in the Interaction age !
Processes as we used to know then have changed. Process used to be very structured, highly defined, task orientated and actionable. But as we have moved from industrial to interactions process have become far more cognitive, interpretive, less formal and much more tacit knowledge based.
As a result the traditional adoption methods applying traditional business process mapping (flow charts, Six Sigma, Lean etc) simply are not designed to innovate in the NEW core differentiating process. These models are absolutely still true and valid for operational enabling processes but not for the new brave world of the “knowledge worker”.
Where in the past a person would know exactly what to do and when with very little thinking, the core job function knowledge was explicit and could be easily trained, measured and managed.
These days people are given increasingly more empowerment to gather information, interpret that information and act in ways they decide “on the fly” with supporting guidance from the corporation. It’s a bit like the old “Choose your own adventure” books. A new product innovation may go through a very different path to market than another within the same organization based on the cognitive processes of the team.
Additionally processes used to be strictly internal, whereas now days the lines have blurred between where process start and stop between suppliers, the company and customers. You can’t map and change other companies processes….can you?
With this evolution to “cognitive processes” new methods are required to address the old problem. The challenge “the business” is still looking for is business process improvement (or as we like to say process innovation). But the old approach of process mapping, structured modification and improvement doesn’t work for cognitive processes where the resultant action is one that is as yet undefined and will only be defined by the person executing the process.
New approaches are required.
Cognitive process mapping and tools such as “Adaptive Case Management” tools will play a significant role in driving technology adoption for breakaway innovation and differentiation.
Bringing us back to the adoption framework. The below diagram is a high level “work in progress” of a new Business Adoption Framework for collaboration in the 21st century. It is a model that is built on a focus on core differentiating cognitive process innovation. Would love any thoughts and feedback as we continue to build and evolve this model. This model doesn’t look at cognitive processes singularly. What it suggests is that processes both operational and cognitive will need to be mapped. But to change them the activities to change cognitive processes radically differ from changing operational processes. It’s much more around buy in and cognitive skills (behavioural) change management / development than it is around directive task based change.