As the summer bleeds into some chilly autumn days, and I spend more and more time refocusing on those upcoming long winter days de-crypting work project requests, I’ve been turning my thoughts back to writing for my quasi-professional blog, the FooBarn — and subsequently doing a little more spouting off on the information management topics I’m paid to espouse. Here’s a sampler.
FooBarn’s Foo Maxim #001 (a cross-post…)
It might not seem so at the start, but implementing technology is almost always easier than building business processes that work effectively.
Or, at least that’s my opinion. The opinion of a a guy who codes a little in his spare time and is usually pretty comfortable around technology. The opinion of a guy who works daily to grok business needs and convert them into technological outcomes. The opinion of a guy who usually ends up adapting his technology “solution” way more times than necessary because the business process that blossomed far too organically later in the design flow didn’t quite line up with what was in the minds that requested said technology far too early.
In business, we design an algorithm — a step-by-step procedure — or a series of the same, that converts a business need into a result. A request is converted into an action. A transaction is converted into a service. A complaint is converted into a fix. And all of these procedures involve many moving parts: people, money, paperwork, and information.
In technology, we tend to design algorithms that convert the same sorts of things: a request into an action, transaction into a sale, et cetera. And good technology isn’t — and here’s the key — a stand-alone element. Good technology, at least in a business setting, is a smaller piece of a larger business process.
That’s all well and good, you say, and we know that… don’t we?
Sure, many people do know this. Many people get it. But even the best managers come to me and say things such as: “We want to have a website for this” or “how can we integrate social media better?”
And the confused looks I get…
And the confused looks I get when the “web guy” asks them why exactly they need a website, or what benefit they are hoping to get from using a discussion forum, or what message are they hoping to put out on Twitter that warrants the quantity of work required to do so — those looks get me every time.
See, technology is usually the easy part. If the business process is well understood, then building the technology is a matter of finding an algorithm that converts one thing into another thing. A website might be “required” when a business is trying to provide authoritative information, structured data, or access to downloadable forms to users. A discussion forum might be highly useful when the business process calls for a clear need for providing informal interactive support and discussion between customers and the business. And despite my almost uniform reluctance to recommend it, social media platforms do have a clear place in business for things like clear-headed and balanced reaction to quickly moving or controversial topics of interest to clients and customers.
Novel technology is a challenge, of course, but it’s a challenge that is almost always supported, direct, and manageable if the person implementing that technology understands the exact need — the starting point and ending point for what that technology is trying to accomplish — before the technology is designed to begin with.
Trying to wrap a business process around the vague desire to include an existing technology, on the other hand: can anyone say “square peg into a round hole?”