Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Are you looking for a precedence?

To Well-Established Precedent

One day through the primeval wood
A calf walked home as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew
A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then three hundred years have fled,
And I infer the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hands my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o'er hill and glade.
Through those old woods a path was made.

And many men wound in and out
And dodged and turned and bent about
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because 'twas such a crooked path;

But still they followed do not laugh
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane
That bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in shiftless fleet,
The road became a village street;
And thus, before men were aware,
A city's crowded thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed this zigzag calf about
And o'er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.

A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf path of the mind
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in and forth and back
And still their twisting course pursue
To keep the path that others do
They keep the path a sacred groove
Along which all their lives they move

For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

—Sam Walter Foss (1895)

Thank you for bearing with me and the poem. It will be so nice if you can recall this verse when you look for precedence. Of course there is nothing wrong in looking for precedence. But I feel you earn the right to look for precedence only when you are absolutely confident about etching out your own course. Otherwise using precedence is only an easy way out.

If you are following the best practices of your competitors in business, you are sending the signal that you are only as bad as your competitors. So your customers don’t have a choice. Will this strategy or can this strategy work in today’s business environment. The answer is an emphatic No.

This brings us straight to the subject of Business Process Management. Few years back an exciting slogan was “write once run anywhere” (WORA) which was perfected by Java professionals. Today the slogan has changed to “zero code one click deploy”. When and if IT solutions do not need coding than what will an IT professional do? And if IT professionals have nothing to do then who will offer IT solutions?

Change is accelerating. This implies that solutions must be realized faster. Does a business have enough time to wait for solutions, which IT professional will offer after toiling for six months or more in a project? It’s a distinct possibility that an IT solution, which is relevant today, is no longer meaningful tomorrow. IT professionals may lose their relevance but not the business managers. Business in some form will exist always. Its complexion will change. And it is in this respect that looking for precedence to find solution will not offer the silver bullet.

The first impact of change is in business process. A business manager must know how to create, maintain, and reengineer a business process (without the assistance of IT professionals). He or she has to look for highly innovative business processes. It is these processes that will act as differentiator vis-à-vis the practices of the competitors. The quest for new processes must be eternal. That’s because competitors will soon come up to your level. An existing business process will transform and evolve with time. It may even become a candidate suitable for outsourcing. Finally, we may have to retire a successful business process. At every step of a business process life cycle the process needs to be handled deftly by a business process owner. A business needs designations like Chief Process Officer, Business Engineer, Process Designer, Process Participant, Knowledge Worker, Process Owner, System Architect, and Developer.

You fit into which role?

Prof. Supriyo Chatterji

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What’s the point in studying Information Systems?

Why do we need to know Information Systems (IS) when we study Business Management? Business Management is more about Marketing, H.R., Finance, and other topics like O.R. or Logistics. But knowing about IS is like acquiring the skills of using MS Office. Isn’t it? Already there is a separate breed of people with M.C.A. or B.Tech in Computer Science qualification who are quite conversant with IS. MBAs should be more concerned with managing the business. That’s what is expected from them.

But do you know that, today the customer can left click the mouse a business to bankruptcy? If the home page of an ecommerce site takes five seconds more to display its contents, the disincentive can be enough for customers to do business with somebody else. As a business manager what is your take on that? The age of advertising in its present form is ending. The development of Internet and satellite television has fragmented the audience. This means that now it will cost more to the advertiser to reach the same number of people. Mass customization has replaced mass production. Your customer can’t care less whether you maintain a Marketing Department or Finance Department in your Organization. Customer is only concerned about how efficient your customer order process is. Or for that matter how efficient your after sales service process is.

So, these are the points to which I wish to draw your attention. The practice of business management in its present form has taken a body blow from technology. This has also threatened the career of IT professionals. Today IT professionals are held accountable for the revenue earned by a business. A business should be process centered rather than divided into different functional divisions. It is only from CEOs perspective that a business should have functional divisions. But technology has led to a power shift. The king customer is now a dictator. Gone are those days of Henry Ford when he said “I will give the customer any color of car he wants – so long as it’s black”. From the customers viewpoint, partners viewpoint, or from any outsiders viewpoint the business should be process centered.

That’s the objective of Information Systems in the bigger canvas of Business Management. To equip you with the ability to design and appreciate the blue print of a business. So that business can always remain nimble. Be able to morph very fast, to ensure that business remains sustainable. Information Systems will help you to realize and be part of a Real-time Enterprise.

Globsyn Business School offers you the right ambience towards this end. We have spent more than five years exclusively in the domain of Information Technology, before offering a postgraduate management program. We can talk about how to change and how to do business through IT rather than with IT from a level of confidence. This confidence comes from our transformation and reinvention of ourselves to ensure sustainability.

Wish you Good Luck.

Prof. Supriyo Chatterji