Gartner Day 1: Peter Schwartz closing keynote

Sessions for the day finished with Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network talking about Scenario Planning — Business and IT Strategies in an Uncertain World. He might seem like a strange choice to speak at a BPM conference, but his job is to help companies to think about the future: something that a lot of people here are obviously thinking about.

He started with an old map of North America that showed California as an island (due to some incomplete exploration at the time), and talked about how this caused some missionaries to head east across California, across the Sierra Nevada, lugging boats along with them so that they could cross the sea that would eventually separate them from the mainland: in other words, they based their processes on an incorrect map of the environment, and suffered for it. Sound familiar in your organization?

He showed Henry Mintzberg‘s concept of emergent strategy, which is when environmental forces impact intended strategy to create something that wasn’t originally envisioned. He introduced the concept of scenario thinking to overcome decision traps, and discussed the challenge that what is not foreseen is unlikely to be seen in time. You need a systematic methodology for developing scenarios, and a deep understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish, the forces impacting the scenario. The test of a good scenario is not whether it is right or wrong, but whether it leads to better decisions. Although Schwartz has been involved in developing scenarios for (mostly) science fiction movies, he has spent much more of his time looking at political scenarios, including predicting the fall of the Soviet Union. As an aeronautical engineer, he assured us that this was not rocket science. 🙂

He discussed how scenario thinking is used as a tool for strategic alignment across an organization in general, then took a crack at scenarios for IT and BPM.

Environmental forces have different impacts at different points in the business process maturity model. First, environmental forces drive changes in BPM and IT: change in BPM is a function of change in customers plus change in technology plus change in competition plus change in business environment:

  • Change in customers is driven by an aging population that is working longer, the long tail effect of stratified preferences, cultural diversification, supply chain integration, preferences for environmentally “green” products and services, and widening income gaps.
  • Change in technology is driven by hardware advances beyond Moore’s law (including orders of magnitude bandwidth increases as well as computing power), convergence of platforms, the shift from broadcast to download, and change accelerated by breakthroughs in related areas such as biotechnology and nanotechnology.
  • Change in competition is driven by new business models, new competitive sets (e.g., Apple in the music business), new nations in a flattening world, new sources of competitive differentiation (e.g., design), consolidation of players, and increasing pressure for innovation.
  • Change in business environment driven by interest and inflation rates, current conversion rates, geopolitical uncertainties and climate change, fluctuations in input costs (e.g., energy, silicon), and ubiquitous high-speed broadband.

He sees three possible scenarios for how BPM is deployed within organizations — slow & moderate change, slow & radical change, and rapid & radical change — and went through how the customer, technology, competition and business environment factors play in these scenarios. Definitely an interesting view on what we’re doing with BPM.

Schwartz was an incredibly captivating speaker, and obviously appreciated by the audience. He even told us an anecdote about where he got his ideas for the scenarios in War Games: he was on node #2 of ARPANET in 1973, and hacked his way through to someone in missile control.

Off to the vendor showcase and reception.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.