I read an interesting article from ITBusinessEdge's Lorraine Lawson today called Coping with Disruptive Technologies. She discusses some of the resistance to "Enterprise 2.0" technologies like wiki's and blogs and how the enterprise users are demanding more empowerment. Those people who resist these technologies and laugh at wikis need to first get out of their boxes before they can think outside the box.
As an architect, my job is to build for the future. To do this, I must not constrain myself with the present state. My philosophy has always been to start with a clean slate, remove all rules and constraints, and then think outside of the box. Once the vision is formed, then you can start looking at constraints and start chipping away at the vision until you form something that is attainable.
I am working on a BPM and SOA initiative which challenges us every day to forget about our years of legacy business processes and system constraints and build a future state that reduces costs, improves speed to market, increases efficiencies, and ultimately improves customer satisfaction. On the business side, there are huge opportunities to change the way we collaborate with our customers. On the IT side, this is a drastic shift in the way we approach software development. On both sides, we need to get out of our boxes to create our future state roadmap. Everybody is buying in to the reasons why we need to do this but many are struggling with the future state vision.
Most of the resistance is due to the inability to let go of how things are done today, the rest is fear of change. Today we were listening to requirements on how to deliver a particular business service. The requirements were extremely dynamic almost to the point where it required artificial intelligence to satisfy it. These requirements are all based on the manual way we meet the current business need with spreadsheets. Automating manual spreadsheet manipulation and archiving is probably not the best strategy. Unfortunately, the current business process is extremely hard to automate due to lack of standards and the emphasis on exceptions and customization. This process has evolved through 20 years of business and probably needs to be totally revamped. Everytime I mention this I am informed of the many constraints that prevent this from happening. I don't disagree with the arguments, but those arguments are based on the box that we live in today. To reengineer these processes we must leave our box and derive a solution without constraints. Once we have done that we can brainstorm the new processes and modify them until they satisfy the business needs. Without leaving our box, we will never be able to overcome the limitations of the existing processes and will struggle to accomplish any automation that can improve on our current manual processes.
On the IT side, there is concern for the new SOA governance processes, agile methodology, short delivery cycles, and the shift from text heavy artifacts to model/visual based artifacts. Most of the feedback is based on today's constraints. I totally agree with the concerns. If we constrain ourselves with these new processes the way we constrain ourselves with the old processes, we will fail. However, if we leave our box of constraints behind and think outside the box, we can be successful with the new processes.
As I look at the emerging technologies like Enterprise 2.0, BPM, SOA, and others, the companies that will take advantage of these will be the ones not living inside their box. It is time we started paying attention to social networking, software as a service (SAAS), mobile workforces, open source, and other technologies. It's time to get out of our boxes.
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