Systems, Support Process

September 29, 2010

In the technology part of our businesses, words – and I mean simple words can be be confusing.

How about the word system?

First there are the definitions that we know from a standard dictionary.

Then there is the word System in the context  of  Systems Theory, which states that while individual parts may be independent, they also are interacting, therefor problems in one input can affect other outputs further down the value chain. (Which is a lot of the basis behind Theory of Constraints process modeling)

And finally, a common usage in business technology; a System being the computer server, storage, and/or software that provides a particular resource. As an example we talk of an E-Mail System, or ERP System.

All of these uses of the word are completely in line with the definitions that we have in our trusty dictionary, but what will get your technology projects, investments and communications into trouble is the over use of the word system in relation to the business process that your system is trying to help.

I found an excellent article by Bob Lewis titled; Business change methodology gaps. The article is written about business change, but one quote demonstrates how often we abuse the word system when used in relation to technology supported business process changes;

Most organizations are still stuck thinking in terms of system deployments rather than process changes. Don’t believe me? How many companies title their projects something like <System Name> Implementation? When the project title misses the point, how likely is it the organizational change will be on target?

Do your sales staff give a damn about a CRM System?

No – they don’t.

Your sales staff have issues ranging from managing communications to effectively managing the pipeline. They need a business process that alleviates the pain points in managing their communications and improve that pipeline management.

Managing those communications or pipeline issues requires looking at the business process. And asking how that process can be improved. And then leading the change for that process.

Once the process is looked at and understood, and a new process designed, can technology help? Certainly.

Technology can then help you standardize or automate parts of that business process.

The SMB Takeaway

I believe it is time that we seriously reduce our use of the word System when it comes to any corporate IT enabled project, change or initiative.

As Mr. Lewis states, lets call it what it is. It is business process. It may be process changes. But calling it a System just confuses the issue.


I was recently talking with the president of a SMB, and during that conversation he mentioned some technologies he was thinking about implementing to improve some of his internal processes.

It is a constant refrain.

Prize Ribbons

Technology Takes Last Place

Technology should be a distant last place in your considerations.

Technology is a tool that can be used by people.

A tool used by people to generate business results by following business processes.

Read these two reviews by John Caddel, and Bob Sutton referencing the same study on improving medication processes in hospitals. To quote Mr. Caddel;

I’ve seen both these situations in action: the ability of front-line personnel to understand and fix problems with the processes they use, and the effectiveness of often-overlooked simple and low-tech solutions.

The SMB Takeaway

Technology tools can help standardize, they can help speed up existing business processes. But if those processes don’t even exist right now. Don’t think (or let vendors convince you) that a software tool will be a magic bullet that can do it all for you.

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Photo Credit bunchofpants via flickr

Processes Are Not Chains

October 22, 2008

I love this quote by Wendell Hicken in a post titled How to Abuse Your Customers;

I understand why a computer would do such a thing, but surely people can be smarter than that.

In covering various concepts on this blog I have talked quite a lot about corporate process.

Defining the processes in your organization is an excellent tool. (in more ways than one)

But be aware processes are not chains.

Process, Not Chains

Process, Not Chains

You can improve them.

You can change them.

In fact I recommend that you review them regularly, blow off the dust and see if it is  providing value, or just providing bureaucracy.
Photo Credit

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