The Robustness of People
The real reason people are vital to business.
I have recently come across several occurrences of "intentions" — that is, what one intends to do or have happen — and "results" — which are what one actually does or has happen. These occurrences have been in different venues and in various forms, yet their interplay is consistent — there is typically a gap between them, which can result in disappointment for someone. We see actions, yet forget — or ignore — the environment in which the actions take place.
Aligning People, Process & Technology
In a business venue, my firm views business results coming from the alignment of People, Process, and Technology — the stronger the alignment, the better the business results. Consider the ubiquitous smartphone, and how this device has increased expectations on a speedy reply to an email — the sender intends to receive a fast response, yet the results may be otherwise. Why is that? Networks can be down, Internet service quality may be degraded, and emails may be tagged as "unsolicited commercial email" (UCE) or "unsolicited bulk email" (UBE) and sent to a separate folder to await review and resolution. In other words, Technology and Process normally deliver an amazing experience to People...until there's a hiccup. And what occurs then? People intervene to restore the desired functionality.
On a larger scale, what happens when large sections of infrastructure are destroyed? Consider the tsunamis which hit Japan in March 2011. They cut off millions of people from food and supplies, left millions of homes and businesses in the dark, wiped out communications capabilities, and crippled several nuclear reactors — and those were just the initial effects. The problems occurred in an area key to the worldwide automotive supply chain, so not only were Japanese auto makers hit hard, other companies in that industry felt the ripple effects.
- Because the Process and Technology behind Just In Time (JIT) has worked so well to keep inventory levels low, production slowed down or stopped because there was little buffer stock.
- Because Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) had automated the Process and Technology underlying business transactions between business partners, production or shipping instructions could not be transmitted.
In these instances and others, what had to happen? People were the ones who got things going again — delivering supplies to isolated towns, shutting down dangerous nuclear reactors, restoring electricity, and finding alternate methods to get things done.
It's not just business, either. A few months ago, a friend decided to upgrade her Technology, dumping her cell phone and MP3 player for an iPhone 4. While the iPhone did, on balance, deliver many benefits, she had to change her Process to adapt to its "one and done" missed call, voice mail, and text notifications — reflecting inexplicably poor design by the otherwise clever People at Apple.
Closer to home, my wife was recently taking our son to a Lego Robotics competition. She had used Technology — an online mapping service — to plan the route and was following it...until she discovered it had routed them incorrectly and was left wondering how to get to the event. What happened? My son, Shane, quickly pulled out his new iPhone 4s, asked Siri for directions from where they were to where they needed to be, and relayed the directions Siri had plotted. (They made the competition in time, and Shane's team placed second overall in the district, advancing to the state tournament!)
When Process & Technology Don't Work
The moral of these examples? We've all experienced the benefits of Technology and Process. We've all gotten used to having things better, cheaper, and faster. And we've all seen how quickly these benefits go away when the Technology or Process doesn't work. In that case, we have to rely on the most robust part of the overall system — the People.
As much as we might hope otherwise, we can never completely engineer People out of the equation. People have amazing ideas on how to link Process and Technology to deliver some great new product or service, and then collaborate with other People to pull it off. And we enjoy the fruits of these labors...until something breaks, and then we're thankful that smart, resourceful, and clever People like Shane will quickly troubleshoot and fix things, and get us back on our way.
Todd L. Herman
Client Project Update:
I am pleased to provide you with an update on our client projects. Projects we have completed over this period are...
Identified outstanding items, researched the underlying issues, and tested proposed solutions, helping this client complete a repeatedly-delayed major upgrade to its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, and begin to use the many improvements available in the current software.
Worked with our client to plan and execute interconnected updates of application servers, operating systems, and anti-virus and firewall configurations, ensuring smooth upgrades for the IBM Domino, BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and IBM Traveler Server e-mail platforms, and the related Windows, iOS, and Android clients.
Identified the process and technology needs in major functional areas, and led key stakeholders to identify opportunities, issues, and goals for each, building consensus around these items, and setting baseline requirements for a new business system.
Proposed a new workflow for service delivery in this medical services company, and developed a proof of concept prototype application having many best of breed features, streamlining check-in and insurance verification for both the medical technicians and patients.
Met with key stakeholders -including several of our client's customers -and performed initial business analysis for a new technique of reporting services information to consumers, giving them tools to better understand, track, and manage a key aspect of individual well-being.
Designed, developed, tested, and deployed the enhanced user-interface functionality and system-to-system interfaces needed to add many new product component types, enabling the quick conversion of over 11,000 product development documents to incorporate the new options.
Architected and integrated various legal clause metrics into this client's data warehouse, and delivered these results both textually and graphically -mapping results against the property layout -allowing leasing agents to quickly search for and identify options critical to managing shopping centers and improving consumer traffic.
Future projects we are planning include...
Research and resolve post-upgrade system and reporting issues, and plan new project management and reporting capabilities, enabling this engineered-to-order manufacturer to achieve the desired return on its ERP upgrade investment.
Analyze current practices, research software to improve time collection and synchronize with QuickBooks, recommend options to overhaul project management, and implement the selected options, leveraging existing infrastructure while improving time recording and project management for a client having over 100 custom-designed projects in process.
Analyze the records of several municipalities against those of utility companies providing services to identify additional franchise tax, resulting in greater revenue for the municipalities.
Assist our client in recovering from Windows Server and Terminal Server system upgrades planned and executed poorly by their external system support provider, helping minimize the business disruption caused by this upgrade.
Complete the identification and selection of an up-to-date ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system to replace several fragmented and out of date systems, plan the system implementation, and identify the prerequisite process changes and technology updates, helping this client lay the groundwork for a successful implementation.
Evaluate the SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) platform for its customization and extension options, mockup layouts and content -including reports and charts -for both customer and consumer portals, helping our client deliver more meaningful and understandable analyses to both its customers and the ultimate consumers.
Assist our client in planning and implementing the Domino Attachment and Object Storage (DAOS) capability for IBM Domino, lowering disk usage on their storage area network (SAN) by over 100 gigabytes.