Thank you for checking out Part 3 of our Evolution of Modern Work series. If you’re not caught up, check out Part 1 and Part 2. In these two parts, we introduced the pre-Digital Revolution concept of work and how it fundamentally transformed with the introduction of technology. We then explored the two phases of Enterprise Work Management that aimed to address the challenges of modern work but didn’t quite get us there.
Modern Work, Mastered
Today, we’ll see how the adoption of best of breed systems was a significant first step in addressing the challenges of modern work. But to bring your A-Game, your systems must be paired with Intelligent Integrations, and something called an Operational System of Record.
If we think back to what organizations were trying to accomplish with big-box systems and custom development – “a common frame of reference for work across the organization.” – It becomes evident that disconnected best of breeds don’t make the cut.
It is not by chance, then, that incredibly agile integration technologies are flourishing in the best of breed era. There are four best practices, depending on the integration scenario:
1. Application Program Interfaces (APIs): An API is a connection between two systems for very specific purposes (e.g., pulling a Customer ID from System A for use in System B). Out-of-the-box APIs are incredibly common in nearly all SaaS. Particularly in best of breed systems so that they can “talk” to other systems to create a more seamless user experience across platforms.
2. Integration Platform As A Service (iPaaS): iPaaS is identical to APIs in purpose and outcome, but they offer extreme, codeless agility in connecting any Cloud-based systems – whether they have existing APIs or not.
3. Custom Integrations: Custom integrations remain an option, particularly in complex integrations or when integration involves any system that is not Cloud-based – some on-premise and legacy systems.
4. Robotics Process Automation (RPA): RPA is an appropriate option when the integration involves automating a highly repeatable process that occurs frequently and requires human interaction.
But let’s return to the example from APIs. Let’s say that the Customer ID pulled from System A for use in System B is then used by an Analyst to do a lookup on a public website. If she is performing 500 Customer ID searches a day, this is an excellent use case for RPA – automating the process and opening up the Analyst’s time for higher-value work.
But merely connecting the best of breed systems is not enough. In the same way that the human body operates through a complex neural network and all governed from a central command – our integrated best of breed network must also be connected and governed from a central command.
Operational System of Record
Every major asset of an organization has a dedicated system of record to administer, track, and manage the asset: human resource management systems for employees, customer relationship management systems for prospects and customers, financial management systems for money and transactions, contracts management systems for contracts, and so on. But what about work?
Work as an Asset
If we recall the characterization of work in the modern workplace, it’s the shepherding of information from one place to another. Information as an asset is not a new concept. The likes of Gartner and even the current US Federal Government Administration have laid out strategies for leveraging data as a strategic asset and championed the resurrection of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) role.
Another compelling case for work as an asset come from Harvard Business Review. They note that small ideas, borne at the proverbial water cooler, often make their way into business processes. And over time, more and more of these small ideas create a sort of intangible intellectual property – one that wouldn’t be showcased in a product or service or documented in a patent. These ideas become powerful differentiators that are extremely difficult for competitors to replicate.
Work is an invaluable asset on-par in value with, if not greater than, all other corporate assets. Institutional investors, who make investments based on hard, tangible, qualitative measures are looking at softer, more intangible measures because of a rather shocking discovery: “The most valuable aspects of jobs are now, ‘the most essentially human tasks: Sensing, judging, creating, and building relationships.’ A great deal of a company’s value now lies ‘between the ears of its employees.’ And this means that when someone leaves a company, he takes his value with him – more often than not, straight to the competition.”
Work Management “Systems”
Whether we acknowledge work as an asset or not, we are tracking it. Both structured work (e.g., planned project tasks) and unstructured work (e.g., an instant message conversation) are both tracked in systems, in documents, and our heads. We’ve even connected many of these tracking mechanisms through the integration methods described above. But connecting the dots still hasn’t revealed the big picture: Are the right people enabled by the right tools? And are they working on the right things, at the right time in the right way to achieve the right business outcomes?
Operational System of Record
The Operational System of Record (OSR) is the central command of our work neural network, the dedicated system of record for work. Work itself may be carried out in the connected best of breed systems. The OSR’s role is to create a virtuous circle, where tightly aligned strategy, operations, and tactics are planned, executed, measured, and adjusted in the context of enterprise business outcomes. The OSR achieves the organizational alignment of the Good Ole Days while capitalizing on the very best technology has to offer.
Stay tuned for Part 4 of our Evolution of Modern Work series. In Part 4, we’ll delve into why mastering modern work is incredibly important. Additionally, I’ll introduce you to some of the organizations that are at the top of their game – the A-Game – in mastering modern work.