The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Enterprise Automation: a cure for matrix management woes?

 

automated decisions.pngMatrix management came about to increase communications, flexibility and collaboration between the various parts of an organization. In the process, some people view that it has increased the latency in decision making and the ability of organizations to respond quickly to situations.

In a recent HBR article, Tom Peters wrote about moving Beyond the matrix organization. In the article, he talked about the issues matrix organization structures are trying to address and the various unintended consequences.

 

We have new tools today that can address communications, flexibility and collaboration (among other characteristics) that didn’t exist when the concept of matrix management was formed. The article states:

 

“Under the time-honored principle of management by exception, the organization runs itself until divergence from plan triggers off a warning signal. However, in today’s complex organizations, equipped with overly elaborate planning and control systems, warning signals are constantly being triggered. Giving the attention of top management to each (the implicit consequence of matrix structure) means dissipating the company’s sense of direction.”

 

These seems to be exactly the kind of issue that cognitive computing techniques and automation could be applied, sifting through these triggers and handling the ones that are understood and focusing our creativity on those that actually could benefit – we have the compute power. The alerts coming from these systems would not be distractions, but opportunities. We’re seeing exactly these techniques enabling cloud computing, enabling leveraging of large arrays of resources. Now it just needs to be expanded into the rest of the enterprise.

 

 

World quality month

36796-125x125-WQM-14.gifDuring the month of November, organizations around the globe join together to celebrate World Quality Month. The hash tag on twitter is: #wqm14. The goal of WQM is to: “promote the use of quality tools in businesses and communities. Quality tools, such as flowcharts and checklists, reduce mistakes and help produce superior products. Quality principles could reduce headline-making errors, like food safety, toy recalls, and financial disruptions.”

 

Quality is one of those words that the definition is dependent on an individual’s context. Sure you can have SLAs in a contract, but if you’re still not happy at the end of the day, the definition of quality wasn’t quite right.

 

When I talk to technical leaders about their role one of the statements I commonly make about their role and quality is: “Quality is what you’ll put up with.”, since that demonstrates what you’ll accept to others.

 

Transformation, roles and digital technology

leadership.pngA coworker forwarded me an article titled: We Need Better Managers, Not More Technocrats from Harvard Business Review. It seemed a poignant perspective to add to my post yesterday on automation.

 

The article makes the statement: “digital technology is not the true story. Digital transformation is.” To me this means that organizations are going to need more proactive business and technical leaders who are willing to question the very foundation of “we’ve always done it this way” and make transformation happen.

 

The article goes on to state that those companies that get the greatest benefit are those that:

  • Make smart investments in digital technology to innovate theircustomer engagements, and the business processes and business models that support them
  • Build strong leadership capabilities to envision and drive transformationwithin their companies and their cultures

I personally think this is going to take more than just what have been traditionally called managers, since it involves a broader range of stakeholders and interactions than organizations of the past, to take advantage of the range of their employee’s capabilities. Automation should actually enable that focus.

 

Whether the people who lead the effort are ‘managers’, ‘technocrats’ or something else altogether is irrelevant. What is definitely true is change is coming and those that prepare will have an advantage.

The multi-dimensional value of IoT

dimensions.pngThe value and inevitable nature of the Internet of Things can be hard to quantify.

 

It has value in the vertical dimension based on what it can do for a particular industry. For example being able to understand the materials on hand, the machine capability and performance and the product location all can fit together to provide much greater insight. This is one of the reasons the manufacturing industry was an early adopter of IoT techniques.

 

From a breadth perspective, we’re seeing more devices with connectivity as well as more wearables and other ways to communicate. I can easily see a day where my oven reminds me of a meals status much more effectively than the kitchen timer. Or even the act of entering the garage can get dinner started because that’s what would be next on my agenda. Essentially it leads to a much broader range of devices working in collaboration to meet my needs.

 

In a depth sense, various devices that are doing their own thing, for their own reasons can provide a much greater contextual depth of understanding that any single view could provide. This is where the contextual understanding that is derived from multiple pieces of information comes into play.

 

I am sure there are more dimensions beyond these three… What are they for you?

 

IT as outsiders, a luxury no one can afford

 

alone.pngRecently, Terry Bennett (someone from the Dallas area I’ve known for quite a while) wrote a post about Overcoming Your IT Department’s Outsider Reputation. I have finally gotten around to giving it a quick response. In his post he says:

“At a time when all companies need everyone on one team pulling together, IT professionals are often seen by others as ... well ... different.”

 

This seems like a luxury no one can afford. He mentions a number of approaches to shift IT personnel behavior:

  • Change the IT mindset
  • Align goals
  • Show your appreciation
  • Participate in company activities

It really gets down to being aware and involved in the business and its culture and not to look at your role (in IT) as part of a different industry.

 

I sometimes ask people: “If you win and the company doesn’t, did you actually win?”

 

As services becomes an ever increasing part of the economy and the revenue stream for companies, it needs to be sure not to fall into the same trap. This is also a concept those in the outsourcing space need to embrace with the customers – to the extent possible.

 

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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