Changing in the Dark

Why a formal definition of how business operates is critical to successful change.

A friend decided to substantially modify his house. There were no plans available so the builder’s quote carried a caveat. The job looked straight forward so they went ahead. In the end it cost him double what he was quoted, saw him without a home for a year and compromised his health.

These results – cost escalation, extended unavailability and consequent stress – are shared by many who attempt to implement new enterprise software systems such as SAP, and for the same reason …workers not knowing what they are dealing with - the lack of a plan of the systems and processes they are trying to change.

It’s a simple concept: If you make a change and you are not 100% sure about what you are changing it’s likely the outcome won’t be what you expect. Because the need to make a change has been infrequent, many organizations have accepted the fallout from this concept as a cost of doing business.

This strategy will cease to be viable in the coming decade for two reasons: automation and compliance.

The last decade saw automation leave the factory and enter our everyday lives. We may not yet have an autonomous vehicle but we are using ride-sharing systems like Uber that rely on automated processes for their success. The hallmarks of automation – speed, efficiency and cost effectiveness – are attractive to consumers and corporate executives alike.

The rate of technological change, driven by automation, will increase and those once-occasional needs to change will be replaced by a business environment in which change is frequent - the new normal. A failure to handle change effectively will no longer be able to be treated as a cost.

Business must be able to makes changes to its systems and processes successfully and at the drop of a hat. Doing this requires that people can clearly see what has to be changed - not what’s in peoples’ heads, but defined in a plan.

The second reason why it will become critical to know precisely how a business functions is regulatory compliance. We don’t want to travel on planes that crash due to substandard processes or to eat food that we can’t be sure won’t poison us. Regulatory compliance to well-defined processes for making products (or delivering services, such as surgery) will continue to expand its reach, and just like auto parts manufacturers today with their auto assembly customers, they will have to be able to prove that they are following the prescribed process or lose business.

Change is upon us

It isn’t just climate change we must deal with, technology is changing and the rate is exponential.

"'It won’t be pretty': How the next decade’s technological tsunami will change life as we know it."

This headline is from a Vanity Fair article heralding the new decade . It talks about “rampant disruption when the industrial revolution came along …over a period of about 120 years” and says “The automated revolution we’re about to step into will happen with the snap of a finger.”

The way organizations undertake business today is the product of 120 years of gradual change. This will not enable them to survive the impending technological tsunami.

Business today lacks adaptability because it lacks the tools for the job. AptumX makes business adaptable.

Why Business Can’t Easily Adapt

When you construct or alter a building you need documented plans to ensure a successful outcome and to obtain regulatory compliance.

Building plans are like an orchestral score, ensuring that all parties involved in the project work together to create the finished work, with everyone knowing their part and how it integrates with others.

The same is true for business – or so it should be, except that business lacks a score, a documented way to describe the activities of individual specialists and how they combine to make a whole.

If you don’t know how it works, how can you change it?

There is no single set of documents like a building plan that has everything from a visualization of the finished work to the detailed specifications of technical specialists – a document in which everything is integrated to provide a single coherent description of how to provide the result, such that a change in one area will be reflected in all other areas affected by the change.

Business activity today is defined partially in a variety of documented forms, but largely it resides in the heads of the people doing the work – from the CEO to the clerk.

Despite the inefficiency being a financial dead weight this is not seen as a problem. The pace of business caters for the slow dissemination of knowledge of how to do things. A significant change in business, such as a new computer system, can take months or even years to introduce. Such changes are often accompanied by operational disruption, false starts, curtailed expectations and even project failure.

If construction was undertaken the same way the lack of building integrity would cause an outcry - and greatly increase insurance premiums.

Yet it is apparent that the pace of change is accelerating rapidly. Double the rate of change and many businesses will fall into chaos. Unable to change fast enough to keep up with their market, they will die.

The Need for Integrated Vision

It is ironic that in 2020 what business lacks most is clarity of vision. Having a clear vision for the business means that from the CEO to each office or shop-floor worker everyone shares a common understanding of what the business is trying to achieve, what each role involves and how the roles fit together.

Captains of Industry are like the captain of the Titanic, they see the iceberg ahead of them, or they have been told it’s there, but they are unable to marshal their crew fast enough to avert disaster. With the exception of a few industries - notably airlines - business manages change by the seat of their pants.

Construction plans provide a common vision for building workers. Why no plans for business workers?

Simply put, it has been too hard a problem for people to get their heads around. It has been easier to leave things as they are. But this approach will no longer work.

Plans and orchestral scores require a standard format, language and rules that participants understand – that has everyone singing from the same song-sheet.

There is a huge array of works that attempt to define business activity, but none offer an integrated top down, bottom up view of how a business works. The reason, we believe, is that few people have been in a position to see business as a whole – like a living organism.

The Enterprise System Logic Solution

AptumX, drawing on an unusual combination of enterprise software and business change management, offers just such a view of business, enabling them to create an algorithmic model to describe business from top to the bottom – from the vision to the detail.

Enterprise System Logic (ESL) defines business, its rules and the logic of the systems that make it work. It defines a business’s structure (organizational and spatial), its activities (transactions and actions) and resources (tangible and intangible assets).

ESL joins all these components such that any change automatically self-validates. Because of this ESL can be used to immediately generate the automated systems needed to run business in a changing world.