Forrester BP&AD Forum Keynote: The Empowered Future

I’m in DC at the Forrest Business Process and Application Delivery Forum – always a good conference in my experience – and Connie Moore opened the event with the morning keynote on business transformation and IT transformation. She showed some really great imagery about agility: a video clip of running water to represent where we should be, moving easily within a fluid environment, then a still shot of boot-covered feet mired in concrete. Also a good quote from someone at Linklaters:

Business transformation is not a series of discrete process improvement efforts.

That’s a great point, since we sometimes get too focused on a specific process improvement project and lose sight of the bigger picture of improving our entire organization.

Up next were John Rymer and Mike Gualtieri to talk about succeeding – and leading – in the empowered future. Empowerment is a big theme here, which I’m sure isn’t exactly a coincidence, given the recent release of Empowerment by Forrester’s Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler. They talked about the rise of social media in empowerment, such as how Heather Armstrong kicked Whirlpool’s butt over a new broken washing machine via her hugely popular blog (although they neglected to mention why she ended up with 1.5 million Twitter followers, which is a great story on its own), and about finding the empowered people within your company and your customer base. They point out that empowered people accelerate everything; by creating crises (I admit to doing that sometimes myself 🙂 ) and by publicly promoting those who respond appropriately. We need to have empowered (or rather, empowering) technology and empowered employees in order to properly engage with empowered customers; otherwise, we risk missing out on the conversation altogether and allowing an empowered competitor to take over.

For many organizations, the old non-agile ways haven’t been working all that well. Business is going around IT to get things done, and innovation is at a standstill. They have four recommendations for achieving a newer, more responsive organization:

  1. Design for faster change. This allows you to change at the pace that the business requires it, which virtually assures business-IT alignment. The keys here are flexible platforms and tools that enable continuous transformation, and allow business professionals to share the responsibility of delivery. Create ever-evolving programs that deliver streams of value.
  2. Get passionate about people experience. Experiences need to be useful, usable and desirable, allowing people to accomplish their goals, easily perform tasks, and enjoy their tasks. That’s right, enjoyment of the experience actually makes a difference, both for your customers and your employees.
  3. Deliver smart solutions. This is about creating solutions that have a lot of flexibility built in to allow the business people to configure and extend them, through goal-driven processes rather than strictly structured processes. Events and analytics have a big part of this, by delivering key information at the right time to process participants, using suggestions for guided experiences as well as awareness of the process context. The result: huge productivity gains, both for IT (who do less development) and business (who can do more without having to wait for IT to change the applications).
  4. Make proposals to the business. Innovation comes from a combination of business and technology knowledge, and IT needs to learn the business in a very deep way in order to be able to recommend new technologes that will really make a difference. I can personally attest to this: my work with clients, which is a lot about helping implement BPM technology, relies on me having a deep understanding of what the business does; otherwise, I can’t visualize a solution that will have a significant impact on their business. That means that by the end of a project, I can do the job of half the people in the business area: knowledge that I’m unlikely to use everyday, but invaluable in helping them to innovate their business. To generalize, the right combination of analytic skills, technology know-how and business knowledge allows IT professionals to propose breakthrough innovations that the business just won’t come up with on their own because they didn’t even know that they were possible.

They were directly addressing the IT professionals in the crowd; given that this is also a conference on business process, I’m not sure that’s all who’s here, but great suggestions nonetheless.

They finished with some thoughts on changing language from the old school IT speak as part of creating the new empowered ways:

  • “User” becomes “Person” to stop some of the alienation between business and IT
  • “Project” becomes “Program”, which requires a change in focus as well as language
  • “Application” becomes “Business capability”, since the iPhone has ruined the word “app” for us 😉
  • “IT (Information Technology)” becomes “BT (Business Technology)”, since it’s really about the business, not just the information underlying the business
  • Industrial metaphors becomes creative metaphors, since we’re not just cogs in the wheels of business – a message on the Twitter stream suggested that we do away with “Lean” while we’re at it

This was a call to arms for IT to do things better, and lead us to the empowered future.

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