No. 1: October 1993
The Unintelligent Enterprise
It often seems that organisations are less intelligent than the humans within them. They make costly mistakes and few survive beyond half a human lifetime. Yet, "more heads are better than one". So what goes wrong?
One problem is that of 'group think' where a certain herd instinct takes over from individual common sense. In the 1980s acquisition mania was in fashion. How many organisations came out with a profit on those 'strategic investments'? What about today's fashions? Will organisations handle these intelligently?
Logically a great idea - you subcontract activities to specialists who do it better and cheaper than you. But all too often, high initial expectations are not realised in practice (read Rudi Hirschheim's book 'Lessons from Outsourcing'). When you outsource you give away some of your in-house knowledge and expertise.
Business Process Redesign (BPR)
Another management revolution with great promise, but as an Economist article in May concluded "the backlash begins". BPR is no quick fix. It is more than a logical rearrangement of information flows. It requires deep insight, organisation re-design and a means of building upon the cumulative 'soft' knowledge of the business held by existing employees and work teams.
The Intelligent Enterprise
James Quinn in his book of this title places great emphasis on leveraging the intellect and knowledge within organisations. He writes of "reconceptualising of business as a series of interconnected knowledge based activities", and of "knowledge growing where it is shared". Therefore organisations need to develop information and knowledge sharing networks and not destroy them when following fashion. Colin Hastings in 'The New Organisation' discusses different ways to help such networking, ways that blend 'hard' (e.g. computer networks) with 'soft' (human networking).
Computers and Intelligence
On a scale of intelligence, computers come out quite low:
Moves towards 'artificial intelligence'. had only marginal success. Today, we realise that what is needed is a shift of emphasis from 'thinking machines' to 'machines that augment human thinking'. Thus, technology such as groupware offers greater scope to increase organisational intelligence.
Newly released figures by the EIA show that the value of on-line services by European hosts increased by 14 per cent in 1991 to 3 BECU (about £2,300 M). Data from the EC IMPACT programme puts the value at 3.3 BECU (billion ECU), but with a lower growth rate of 5%. Both agree that US producers still have the lion's share of world-wide information trade.
It is now so easy to dial-up a US host (at local call rates), to access databases and to order a wide range of goods. CompuServe, for example, now has around 1 million subscribers world wide and 27,000 in the UK. And they grew 34% last year. Other growth areas include CD-ROM titles (27% up at nearly 6,000) and audiotex services (touch-tone phone/voice response systems) - up 25%.
With multiple delivery systems: electronic mail, voice mail, groupware, on-line etc. Jean Bozman writing in Computer World rightly identifies the problem of users trying to cope with torrents of unstructured data. Fortunately solutions are on the horizon.
Q. What has grown 20-fold in 10 years and now has 25 million connections?
- A. The number of electronic mail ports.
- And an increasing proportion of electronic mail users can communicate between organisations via the Internet. It now has an estimated 1 million host computers in 8000 networks connecting 8 million users. Its information access and file transfer capabilities create tremendous opportunities for co-operative networking on a global scale
I referred earlier to fashion. But what techniques have got consistent coverage in the management press over the last three years? My analysis of ABI/INFORM abstracts for over 30 techniques showed the following number of references:
- Just-in-Time: 1,324
- TQM: 496
- Time Management: 442
- Empowerment: 424
- Groupware: 207
- Delphi: 132
I won't tell you how many BPR and outsourcing got! But if you want a list of those that are likely to be important in the 1990s, please email me for a document.
The DTI Innovation Unit has come up with some useful information packs on best practice. Not much new to those who practice our philosophies of the intelligent enterprise. Three of the seven 'proactive management' guidelines are:
- Think and act Globally
- Know the Competition
All of which can be enhanced by IT-enhanced knowledge networks.
New Network Consortium
A new consortium of small businesses and individuals has been formed to focus on the new growth opportunities in the evolving market for networked products and services. Called Management Technology Associates, the consortium conducts consulting and research in this field. It includes Anders Electronics, Ashmount Research, Brameur Limited, Cognosys Partnership and David Skyrme Associates. It's founder and chairman, Horace Mitchell, was the study director of the recently completed DTI Teleworking Study.
Update (Aug 1999) - While MTA continues to trade the consortium has changed in format and membership.
Reports on Teleworking
One of MTA's first offerings is a series of reports on teleworking and teletrade. The first two reports in the series, a strategic briefing, and guidelines for local agencies will be published in early October
Update (Aug 1999) - These reports are no longer available.
Improve Your Insights - Three New Tools
Here are three tools that have impressed me for their ability to improve your insights into your business environment and strategy. Let me know if you have discovered a decision insight tool that deserves mention in these columns.
A PC-based strategy advisor. You input responses to questions about your markets, products, competitors etc. and it provides analyses of strengths, weaknesses and potential strategies.
A PC data-base of synthesised extracts from key publications in the fields of Computing, Communications, Media and Socio-Technologies. It helps you see market trends in context and provides useful summaries based on thousands of source articles (duly referenced). Complete with text retrieval software. From Trend Monitor International.
Update (Aug 1999) - This was published from 1994-6 as Spikes Cavell's Quest4, then replaced by customized and other trend analysis services.
Tool kit with wide variety of peel-off shapes, sizes and colours for use on whiteboards, flipcharts and overheads for use in facilitated workshop sessions. Rapidly stimulates creative insight to build shared understanding and commitment. From KANCEPT International.
End Piece - So What's New?
A recent research study showed that those senior managers who found computer generated information most useful were those where their style of computing was less hands-on and more reliant on an 'information broker'. An earlier IBM sponsored research study in 1971 concluded: "top executives deal through people for information". Perhaps this long ignored truth explains why vendors of Executive Information Systems are 'downsizing' to DSS (decision support systems) for everybody!
© Copyright, 1993. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.
This newsletter is copyright material. In the interests of dissemination of
information, forward circulation is permitted provided it is distributed in
its entirety including these notices, that it is not posted to newsgroups
or distribution lists and that it is not done for commercial gain or part
of a commercial transaction. For other uses please contact the publisher.
I3 UPDATE is a publication of David Skyrme Associates Limited - providers of market studies, consultancy and strategic advice in knowledge
management, knowledge networking and collaborative technologies.