Author: Megan Shipley

Thank you for checking out Part 2 of 4 of our Evolution of Modern Work series.  If you’re just tuning in, check out Part 1 – The Good Ole Days, where we introduced the pre-Digital Revolution concept of work and how it fundamentally transformed with the introduction of digital technology. Today, we explore 2 phases of Enterprise Work Management that aimed to address the challenges of modern work but didn’t quite get us there. 

Enterprise Work Management 1.0

Organizations adopted one of two approaches in hopes of harnessing the power of IT to adapt to the new world of work:  behemoth proprietary solutions or rigid and complex custom development.

The behemoth solutions offered a wholesale approach – covering commonplace business functions like Human Resources, Finance, Marketing, and more – and customization through configuration.  The singular platform was beneficial in that it anchored the organization – in the same way, the conference room did in The Good Ole Days – with a common frame of reference for strategy, priorities, and changing conditions.

But the solutions were “an inch deep and a mile wide,” offering “good enough” business process automation.  And because these big-box solutions were once seen as the linchpin to the modern work conundrum, vendors were able to – and even to this day in many organizations – lock buyers into expensive, complex licensing agreements.

The custom development option offered more customization but at the expense of “recreating the wheel” for very common, fundamental features and functions.  Custom development was also time/resource intensive; and in particular, during the Waterfall days, development could take months if not longer – and then, often failed to meet the intent of business requirements defined much earlier in the software development life cycle.

Both options offered pros and cons, but neither achieved what organizations were truly after:  a common frame of reference for work across the organization, configured with the fundamental business processes and configurable for the unique nuances of the organization.

 

Enterprise Work Management 2.0: Best of breed Systems

Enter the era of best of breeds:  in the “there’s an app for that” age, we’ve seen SaaS companies with deep understanding of a specific business function (e.g. Human Resources, Finance, etc.) developing highly customizable solutions built on a solid foundation of out-of-the-box functionality for optimizing the automation of common business processes.

Rather than recreate the wheel, organizations can use the SaaS foundation as a springboard for optimizing their business processes and automation, and then customize as needed through codeless or code-lite configuration. Best of breed systems also enable a modular technology ecosystem.  Modularity has two benefits:

  • Swap-In, Swap-Out Agility: Technology evolves rapidly and in the same way that an organization doesn’t want to be beholden to one of the wholesale platforms, it shouldn’t be obliged to stick with a best of breed when a better best in breed emerges.
  • Best (Fit) of Breed: The implied meaning of best of breed is something along the lines of “this is the best system for X of all the systems that do X”.  In that context, one might visit a Gartner Magic Quadrant report to find the Leaders in a particular area – these are the best of breeds.

But best of breed can also mean the best fit.  An organization may need the Leader for a customer relationship management system but may need a Niche Player product for its contract management system because of its business model.  Best of breed modularity allows organizations to pick and choose the right tools for their business needs, budget, risk-appetite, etc.

In some cases, best of breeds have received a bad rap for creating functional silos. There are two reasons for the accusation:

  • Technology Sprawl: or the uncontrolled proliferation of technology within an organization, is an environment where best of breed solutions thrive:  someone identifies a need, finds a simple app to fulfill the need, and installs the app – no questions are asked. In more recent years, the IT community at large has a collective light-bulb moment that technology sprawl was not the fault any particular technology, but of missing enterprise IT governance – where needs and proposed solutions for those needs are evaluated in a much more holistic context before decisions are made and acted upon.
  • Limited Integrations: Until more recently, the technical agility for connecting a nearly infinite number of apps and applets was nonexistent.  If organizations wanted to connect systems, custom integrations were the only option.  But that’s no longer the case…

 

 

 

Stay tuned for Part 3 of our Evolution of Modern Work series, where we uncover that best of Breeds systems, when paired with intelligent integrations and something called an Operational System of Record, is the answer to the challenges of modern work.  Catching up? Read part 1 – The Good Ole Days

Thank you for checking out Part 1 of 4 of our Evolution of Modern Work series.  By the end of the series, we’ll be back here in 2019 and even peeking into 2020 and beyond, talking about what it takes to survive and thrive in this era of modern work. 

But today, our journey begins pre-Digital Revolution, pre-internet, pre-“I have 37 notification icons blinking at me right now on 3 different devices”, or better known as The Good Ole Days. 

The Good Ole Days

The idea that all business processes across an enterprise share a single mission was once an obvious concept; picture the Mad Men office where everyone from the C-suite to the front line was connected through highly-structured, yet fairly primitive communication and execution mechanisms because technology had not yet enabled more complex and expeditious methods of getting things done.

With teams fairly centralized, and the typewriter and rotary phone the keystones of modern workplace technology, staying focused on the mission-critical priorities was nowhere near the quagmire it is today.

Since this scene is so far removed from what we experience in the workplace today, it may be hard to imagine how anything got done; even though everyone may have been quite literally sitting at the table, they didn’t have the tools we consider essential to doing work today.

But there was much accomplished.  Think post-World War II –men were returning home and to work, women were contributing to the workforce in unprecedented numbers – the economy was booming, consumer confidence and national morale soaring.  The Civil Rights movement began, the structure of DNA was uncovered, the polio vaccine and the first organ transplants was bringing hope to the afflicted.  And the computer, which would forever change the way we work, made the leap from exclusive science labs and war rooms to the business office.

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” Editor of Prentice Hall business books, 1957

 

Problems + Solutions = More Problems

Throughout the dawning of the Digital Revolution, as technology evolved more rapidly and adoption expanded with innovations becoming more accessible and affordable, the modern workplace, too, evolved.

Among other fundamental shifts, the very characterization of “team” changed – geographically dispersed teammates, connected by global networks (and able to visit in-person more easily thanks to parallel technology advances in the travel industry) were able to collaborate quickly and around the clock.

Similarly, the concept of “work” was entirely reimagined, where the physical became digital.  Where “work” was once a tangible object – definable, measurable, and repeatable, it became abstract – a new and strange concept where the workforce simply ushered information from one place to another.

In this new world, where the bottom line was hinged upon these dispersed teams, collaborating (faster than ever before) to shepherd information, a new problem emerged:  the old administration mechanisms couldn’t keep up with this new world of work.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Evolution of Modern Work series, where we introduce the 2 phases of Enterprise Work Management that aimed to address the challenges of modern work but didn’t quite get us there.