For some time now, Dennis Howlett has been calling BS on some of the wilder claims for Enterprise2.0, particularly those claims that suggest that it obviates the need for business process. Dennis cheerfully admits to being a cantankerous naysayer at times, mainly to counter the excesses of the utopians he often argues against.

A recent post on his ZDNet blog was actually a well-balanced and thoughtful look at the opposing viewpoints and how they might be reconciled … however the title of the post posited a somewhat binary position, implying that it was a "people vs process" argument, rather than a "people AND process" situation, and that process should be pre-eminent.

Longer-term readers here will probably know that I subscribe to Alistair Cockburn's thought that people are key variables in any project, problem or process (Cockburn's article is directed at software development, but I believe it is generalizable to most if not all "knowledge work"), so I tend to think "people over process" anyway, but my response to Dennis' post was via Twitter, where I said that I was tiring of the binary "people or process" argument – notably I was tiring of BOTH sides; I think the framing is wrong, it should be "people AND process". Dennis very kindly added an update to the post, acknowledging the perhaps inflammatory nature of the post title.

I came back to it this morning, and made a bad attempt to explain myself via Twitter – Dennis asked for a comment on the post, but I've decided this is a better form for it. The tweets today:

I think this is a discussion that has legs (it will go on for some time yet, I feel) and value – I think working through some of the difficulties of demonstrating value to enterprises will get us to a much better implementation model for "social business" where the hype and charlatans are stripped away, and tools are put to the best use.

At the moment we "Enterprise2.0 utopians" need Dennis to make us clarify our own thinking – he plays an incredibly valuable role.

5 thoughts on “No – it’s “people AND process”

  1. @dennis .. re: bored, I agree .. but (some of) the core assumptions that (probably) need to change are pretty deeply embedded.
    I do appreciate indeed your bringing people back to some sense re: the clearly-established utility of well-designed business processes.
    For me a core question are customers made to follow business processes, or when market dynamics / tastes make significant change, do those markets / customers lead business process change ?
    That is one of the arenas where it’s (I think) clearly people-AND-process in roughly equal measure.
    SAP was getting pretty nervous, if I recall correctly, until they modularized and introduced newer and more flexible capability like MySAP .. no ? Thingamy plays in that area, if I have understood correctly, the BRP. Will there become more and more BRP’s ?
    We’ll see, of course …

  2. I think this is a discussion that has legs (it will go on for some time yet, I feel) and value – I think working through some of the difficulties of demonstrating value to enterprises will get us to a much better implementation model for “social business” where the hype and charlatans are stripped away, and tools are put to the best use.
    The next 20 years, I’d venture to bet 😉

  3. SAP (and all the other ERP vendors) play quite correctly in the “established process” space – the well-defined business processes (and this is almost by definition) that run the business “today”. Thingamy plays in the white space around and between those processes: the exceptions, the new business opportunities … poorly-defined but potentially rich veins of activity that Thingamy captures and turns into “tomorrow’s” processes.

  4. Like Dennis, I hope not too … but it’s certainly not a trivial problem, and as optimistic as I am, I don’t underestimate the effort involved in
    a) getting the model right, and
    b) getting the message right

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