Category: ‘Strategy’

Go with the flow, and flow with the go…

Friday, June 25th, 2010

I have to be honest here, when Google came out with “Google Wave” I didn’t get it.  I thought it was just another collaboration tool much like Backpack or Basecamp from 37Signals.  And, since I’ve been using 37Signals for over a year now I didn’t think much of Wave…   But now I get it and I get why Google called it “Wave”.

About 8 years ago, Howard Smith and Peter Fingar wrote a book called “Business Process Management:  The Third Wave”, regarded as a manifesto for radical business change based on business process management (BPM) technology.  Queue SOA – Service Oriented Architecture and it’s big brother the Enterprise Service Bus, which combines SOA with MOM Message Oriented Middleware.  Now ESB is pretty much an industry standard and it’s had some success, and some very expensive failures, but now though, says Fingar:

“the time is already right to prepare for a new, and potentially even more radical wave of business automation – human interaction management systems (HIMS)”.

Enter – Google Wave.  What Fingar goes on to say is:

“The real future, if you look at business process management – the key part of it that has not been fully addressed – is human to human interaction”.

Okay, so what does this mean?  And, how does Google Wave represent the Fourth Wave in collaborative information management tools?  Let’s take email a form of communication, albeit very old and archaic in technology years, and its distant cousin the forums, which provide collaboration.  Lets add the latest in Web2.0 such as Facebook, Twiki, Blogs…  and a whole host of other one to one, one to many and many to many mediums and before you know it, half your time is spent reading, organising and shifting through vast amounts of information.

Not very productive are we?

What Google has realised is that how we work and how we become productive requires a fundamental shift in the way we deal with other humans.  And, whilst ESB’s and other business process management and automation solution take care of routine tasks and reduce operational overhead they don’t directly support the way people actually accomplish their work.   Some may argue however, that you can implement human tasks in a BPM or workflow solution, but here we’re retrofitting humans to systems, treating people as cogs in an assembly line.

Reality is, we don’t work that way and our most creative endeavours need to be a little more free flowing and dynamic.  So we can’t flowchart in advance how, for example, we’ll come up with an innovation or a new product line, or how we can reduce unemployment or address climate change.  In the real world of business, people communicate, research, think, consult, negotiate, argue, cry, okay, maybe not cry, but get excited and get passionate, which are all in themselves very organic processes.

So naturally, the tools that carry out knowledge work, decision making and collaboration need to shift with the times.  To achieve this shift, a new kind of software system is required, one based on how we work as individuals and as teams.  This new shift has to be more then just Social Networking it must embrace a truly collaborative environment – in real time – enabling us to perform a number of creative tasks in a loose but structure manner.  Stuff like:

  • Special Events
  • Research
  • New Marketing Campaigns
  • Customer Self-Service
  • Case Management
  • Opening New Global Markets
  • Planning a Massive Rave
  • Refurbishing a House
  • Designing an Online Game
  • Dealing with a Crisis

So anyway, check out this pdf. Fingar calls it “Work2.0″.  He goes into a lot more in his doco then I do here and given that Google is taking a leaf out of his book, it might be worthwhile checking out, especially if your work and play involves collaborating with people, local and far away.

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