- In 2010, Ramesh Jain and Pinaki Sinha of the Dept of Computer Science, University of California talked about the semantic gap that exists between data and its context, concluding that: "Content without context is meaningless"
- In January 2010, I explicitly said that: 'Content without context in process is meaningless." I was thinking about the plethora of stand alone social media applications.
- From last week's SAP TechEd keynote, Vishall Sikka, executive board member SAP said: "Data without context is basically dead." Here Sikka is talking about problem solving in the context of HANA powered systems.
It all comes down to the same (or very similar) thing. From the enterprise standpoint, while we're awash with data it needs to be located into the context of a business process for it to take on meaning and usefulness. So it was with considerable interest that I read Sandy Kemsley's Slideshare (see above) and accompanying notes on the topic as it relates to 21st century business processes and the difficulty of getting people to collaborate with one another.
For those unfamiliar with Ms Kemsley's work, she is one of the leading thinkers around business process management and in particular, how process fits with modern views on collaboration. I was particularly taken with what she has to say about 'productivity is in analysis and connectivity' (slide 8) and the way core processes, linked to external social sources such as Facebook, Yelp and Twitter force operational transparency.
Picking up on the 'social enterprise' moniker, she concludes that social factors impacting core processes have the following effect:
Right now, most of what we see is centered around ingesting external social signals as part of the effort to enhance process. Over time, I anticipate that enterprises will adopt one of three broad strategies:
- Embed social signals and context inside existing and new business processes. An example might be Jam from SAP which is being embedded in increasing numbers of application.
- Add a collaborative layer that draws from multiple processes and data sources. An example here might be TIBCO tibbr which I view as the Swiss Army knife of collaboration and which is being adopted across a broad spectrum of industries, some of which we have discussed here.
- A third way would be a continuation of existing practices though expanded to operate across departmental silos. An example might be the way FinancialForce.com and Salesforce.com can use Chatter anywhere inside the business yet relate back to data held in each system.
Regardless of the longer term methods and outcomes, Ms Kemsley already identifies benefit. In her example of the Bank of Tennessee, she talks about the need to eliminate manual processes and improve audit quality in a situation where 'the search for social collaboration and BPM platforms merged.' The results are impressive (see below - from slide 22)
As always there is a caveat and here Ms Kemsley identifies a misalignment between employee incentives and management's outcome goals. She argues that many bonus systems for instance reward on the basis of description and seniority rather than on contributed value and that reward is often based upon individual achievement rather than collaboration. All sounds right and Ms Kemsley provides the requisite recipe for making a start on changing the culture through a nuanced reward system. There is one problem with this approach and I'm not sure there is an easy, workable answer.
Of carrots and sticks
Studies consistently show that roughly 80 percent of people work to pay the bills. They don't see a role for themselves in corporate goal setting or outcomes. They are merely there to do the right things as well as possible. But that's it. This is not the case in every organization, but it is a pervasive model. So, if blanket incentive schemes are to change along the lines suggested than how does a business successfully reward those who do collaborate and contribute positively rather than those who do not? Is it for example feasible to establish a differentiated scale of incentive without creating a schism within the business? How would such schemes be objectively set? What about those outliers that contribute way beyond their pay grade yet have no immediate ambition?
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