No. 4: October 1995
Now it's time for MPR -
Management Process Engineering
Tools on show at BPR 95
Rail Information Tele-Tip
Marketing on the World Wide Web
News of Associates
The last few years have seen many organisations “reengineer” their business processes. While many have achieved significant breakthroughs in performance, others, according to surveys, have failed to gain the benefits expected. As we have noted before in these newsletters, successful application of IT and change programmes, BPR included, often fail due to inadequate attention to HOF - human and organisational factors - such as role design, skills matching, team effectiveness, and organisational culture.
So, after organisations address these aspects, and really get BPR humming along smoothly: what next? Already the "learning organisation","strategic networks" and "knowledge management" are hovering in the wings, researched by business school gurus, pursued by pioneers and rigorously scrutinised by consultants as the potential next “gravy train”.
However, alongside BPR, which is generally focused on high volume operational processes, why not give some attention to the management processes, those processes concerned with the future development and sustainability of the organisation?
A few examples of management processes include:
These are processes concerning the development of the firm’s infrastructure and the management of its key resources that make a difference in the marketplace - its people, information, knowledge etc. Management processes can also be viewed as the essential processes that underpin the business processes and sustain a firm’s primary value chain. A mainstream process (order fulfillment) is sustained long-term by having a continual flow of new product designs to ship. This requires effective management processes for R&D and new product development. While the business process repeats in short cycles, the NPD process is a longer cycle that relies on developing innovation and creativity capabilities.
Management processes have several obvious differences with business processes. They tend to:
- Be less structured and definable
- Involve fewer people (initially)
- Have a future orientation
- Rely more on specialist skills (vs. procedural knowledge)
- Become effective over longer time periods (which is why “quick fixes” are often not sustainable)
- Be less dependent on logic and analysis, relying on judgement, hunch and intuition
Therefore, it may be argued, management processes are less likely to benefit from computers.We disagree. A new generation of computer based tools and techniques is creating opportunities for creative reengineering of management processes.
Computer Augmented Management
In I3 UPDATE No. 2 we mentioned several computer software packages for problem solving, creative thinking and decision making. More recently we have noted the arrival of several new planning packages on the market. They, unlike their predecessors, are more in tune with the way that managers think and work.
Perhaps the biggest changes we have noted over the last year or so are:
- Packages that combine a structured approach with a degree of flexibility - Strategies for Innovation (SFI) is a good example.
- More user-friendly modelling packages with import and export from other software, such as in Powersim.
- Programmes using neural algorithms, giving insights unavailable to conventional means of analysis (e.g. 4Thought).
- The rapid maturity of the Internet as a source of valuable information for business planning.
Whether it is factual advice on emerging markets or new insights into Total Quality Management, the Internet has now become an essential source of management information.
By taking advantage of these recent software and service developments managers can achieve significant gains in their effectiveness. This is particularly true for the informational and decision making aspects of their role, where computer augmented processes can help with:
- scanning external sources;
- filtering incoming news feeds;
- correlating information;
- improving dissemination.
In the near future we can expect to see other developments take hold, such as intelligent software agents that will scout out vital information, adaptive software that will adjust to your working mode, and better tools for manipulating concepts and information. But, unlike business processes that lend themselves to precise modelling techniques, management processes are a lot more “fuzzy”. Their reengineering will require good process facilitation and a healthy injection of some new management techniques, such as skillful discussion and dialogue (to cite two techniques drawn from The Fifth Discipline of Senge et al.).
However difficult it may be, firms who neglect MPR and do not learn to use new management techniques will fail to sustain any benefits they may derive from today’s BPR.
We shall be working with our associate Phrontis Limited on Stand 250 at BPR 95. Phrontis specialises in Tools for a Complex World. Three such tools being demonstrated are Powersim - a systems dynamics modelling software from ModellData AS of Norway, FlowMap - a deployment flowcharting tool, and Strategies for Innovation from Search Technology.
Have you ever had that frustration ringing British Rail travel enquiries and finding them continually engaged. Recently I did - yet again. Only then I remembered to double click on the ‘Travel’ icon on my PC. It showed me an alternative route to Melton Mowbray, a quicker way from Reading to Brighton and gave me Channel Shuttle times. Only don’t be too clever and type Waterloo (rather than London) to Brussels. You find it’s only a half hour journey - until you remember that Waterloo is also in Belgium! Isn’t it interesting that Deutsche Bundesbahn, who provide the service (as part of your CompuServe subscription) gives a better service that British Rail?!
One marketing manager I talked to recently was enthusing about his company’s presence on the Web, saying what an improvement it was over the original Web site mounted and managed by their R&D group. The 'improvements' were the extensive use of graphics, the chairman’s message and portrait, and other glitzy marketing gimmicks. I told him that the original pages were easy to navigate, and did not waste users’ time by downloading large images without warning.
The key to marketing on the Web is giving information that will be useful to the readers. That is what I have tried to do on my Web pages at:
On these pages you will find a set of Management Insights about key emerging trends of the IT enhanced organisation of the future, such as:
plus much more, including features from earlier I3 UPDATES. Naturally there is information about our products and services, one of which is the Millennium Virtual Bookshop where you can buy Francis Kinsman’s book of that name at a discount.
Update (August 1999) - There are no further stocks of this book. See K-Shop for publications sales.
News of our Associates and Activities
Management Technology Associates
MTA (Management Technology Associates) have put on the World Wide Web a comprehensive resource on telework, teletrade (electronic commerce) Open Electronic Networking (OEN) and online markets at
http://www.mtanet.co.uk/mta_home.htm. Update (August 1999) - This link is no longer active.
European Telework Week
Sponsored by DGXIII of the European Commission, MTA are running online activities associated with European Telework Week (9-16 Nov). Details at http://www.mtanet.co.uk/etw.htm or on the TWEUROPA forum (CompuServe).
Update (August 1999) - This link is not active. ETW now has it's own web site at http://www.etw.org
Team Technology International
Release 2 of Strategies for Innovation (SFI)has been released. Enhanced customisation, more compatibility with Microsoft Project, and audit trails are some of many new features in this release. The software is used for business planning by Rover, Motorola, AT&T, Barclays Bank and many other companies.
Update (August 1999) - Team Technology International is no longer an associate of David Skyrme Associates.
Phrontis Limited continue their work on the DTI CSCW (Computer Supported Cooperative Work) programme, developing models of group cooperation.
Farago Associates have recently developed a guide on the Learning Organisation for an insurance company.
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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.