Tattoo decisions – and science tattoos

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 23.55.20

READ TIME: 2 mins

Tattoo decisions. We don’t make many of them in life of business. But when we do make them we need to make sure that they are right. Because any reversing the changes are very painful. Here is a very funny spoof advert for Turlingtons Tattoo Removal Cream.

In business there are relatively few tattoo decisions. These involve a key decision, and then telling lots of people about it (like that Tramp Stamp tattoo):

Pretty much everything else you can reverse or change; choice of CEO, product pricing, product functionality, distribution partnerships, website design, company branding.

Interestingly in life there are even fewer tattoo decisions – except of course – actually getting a tattoo. Even getting married is probably not a tattoo decision any more. Probably the biggest tattoo decision is having children, or robbing a bank (and getting caught).  Just thought of another one – getting a turtle as a pet. They live to 60 years old. Max, my son, has 2 of them and if they survive time at college with him they will outlive me.

Every other decision (that is legal) is not a tattoo decision; where to live, which school to send your kids to, which course to take, what job to accept, what hobby to take up, what car to buy.

So why do people procrastinate about make all these decisions?  They are putting their life on hold whilst they try and decide. So, make a decision and then work to make the best of that decision.

Interesting side note. There is a genre of tattoos I heard about today: science tattoos.  Here is an Pinterest feed of science tattoos.  Quite remarkable.

Making a first impression – the perfect handshake #leadership #managing

You do it 15,000 times in you lifetime, but what is the initial impression you leave with the other person?

Wimpy-limp wrist. Damp fish and clammy. Overly aggressive. Creepy-hold-on-too-long.  Insincere.  All this conveyed in less than 2 seconds.

It has been traditional greeting, a symbol of peace and a key part of business deals for thousands of years.  But today scientists announced that they have created a formula for the perfect handshake after it was revealed that more than 70 per cent of people said they lacked confidence when it came to performing the gesture, according to a survey for Chevrolet. Les Turton, from Chevrolet, added: ‘It is easy to overlook everyday rituals, but as the handshake is used to complete agreements it is important our staff are well trained so they can pass on trust and reassurance to our customers.’

Another poll found 19 per cent hated the act and were unsure how to do it properly. The biggest problems were sweaty palms, limp wrist, gripping too hard and lack of eye contact.

Professor Geoffrey Beattie, head of psychological sciences at the University of Manchester, devised the equation taking into account 12 key measures – such as vigour, eye contact, hand temperature, positioning and length – needed to convey respect and trust to the recipient. He said: ‘The human handshake is one of the most crucial elements of impression formation and is used as a source of information for making a judgment about another person. ‘A handshake reveals aspects of the personality of the person giving it – for example, a soft handshake can indicate insecurity, whilst a quick-to-let-go handshake can suggest arrogance – so it is surprising that up until now there has not been a guide showing people how they should shake hands.’

How to do the perfect handshake

  • Use right hand, a complete grip and a firm squeeze (but not too strong)
  • Ensure fingers are under the receiving palm
  • Position hand in a mid-point position between yourself and the other person
  • A cool and dry palm, approximately three shakes, with a medium level of vigour
  • Hold for no longer than two to three seconds
  • Keep eye contact throughout


Happy staff!! I run a business not a bloody holiday camp #hr #leadership #happy #recruitment

Screen Shot 2012-10-26 at 19.57.35

I was horrified when talking recently to CEO (name withheld) about the economy when he said “The best thing about the recession is I can treat by staff like sH!t as they have nowhere else to go”.   Not only is it short sighted and it fails the ‘would I want to be treated like that’ test, but it is morally wrong.

Do the math. We all spend a significant percentage of our lives at work. And based on this poster by Charles Schwab and the state of the Government’s finances, we are all going to be working even longer.  So as leaders it is our role to make sure that the lives of our staff is valuable and rewarding, if not fun.

People have incredible levels of drive, ability and enthusiasm as the staggering video in the blog People are Awesome shows. We need to harness that.

Thought: why is happy hour just an hour and happens after work?

There has been a lot of research recently that is showing that (wait for it…) happy employees are more productive. I guess we knew that instinctively, but now studies are putting some data behind the feeling.

As long ago as 2007 people like Alexander Kjerulf, who bills himself as Chief Happiness Officer have been writing and talking about the effects of a happy workplace on productivity.   He has written a book called Happy Hour is 9 to 5 which has been published by Lulu or you can read it for free online.

University of Warwick’s Economic Research Institute discovered that happier workers were 12% more productive, unhappier workers were 10% less productive.”

The team, led by Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at Warwick Business School and a leading authority on the relationship between economics and mental health, said its research has important implications for the worlds of politics and business.

“We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity,” the team said. “Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions have the opposite effect.”

A article It Pays To Be Happy At Work by Vicki Salemi summed it up well –  Happiness at work doesn’t just boost morale, it leads to better reviews, faster promotion, fatter salaries and higher productivity.  Vicki has written an number of articles highlighting the link between happiness and performance.  The Forbes article highlighted a British company iOpener headed up by  Jessica Pryce-Jones, author of Happiness at Work.

Which leads me to a recent blog Making Work Easier, Faster and More Valuable by Mike Gammage where he talks about the Nimbus mission statement which was adopted  earlier this year:

We want to make work easier, faster and more valuable for millions of people.

Interestingly he is most proud about the ‘more valuable’. ‘Easier and faster’ is where the focus has traditionally been. It’s time-and-motion and automation, and links direct to the bottom line. It will always be important. But he says that ‘more valuable’  is where it gets interesting. Intuitively that being involved is energizing, but he  doesn’t have any hard evidence.  Maybe because he is having too much fun and not looking hard enough!!!  There is a strong body of evidence that is growing that staff who happier are more productive.

But what does happier mean?   Feeling valuable, achieving, being rewarded is the positive side – which should be reinforced.  The negative side we should be eliminating feeling embarrassed, confused, unworthy, wasted, uninvolved.

A surprising number of these can be influenced by letting people know what they should be doing, how they should be doing it and how well they are doing.   Process & Metrics.  Who would have thought processes were a route to happiness?

Listen to the final quote on this short  Carphone Warehouse video.  Enough said.

Psychos in the Boardroom (or Government). Fascinating stats.

Screen Shot 2012-09-30 at 23.20.10

Psychopaths lack empathy, are pathological liars, have an enormous sense of self-worth, are impulsive, irresponsible and won’t accept responsibility for their own actions.

They make up 1% of the total population, 25% of the criminal population. But do you recognize the traits.  Perhaps in the upper reaches of your corporation or our Governments?

The Psy-Fi Blog in their blog Is your CEO a Psychopath? puts a strong case for as high as 4% of corporate boardrooms have psychopaths as inmates.

Here are some traits to watch out for, or maybe aspire to if you want to make it to the top of the corporate world.

  • They have superficial charm: They are a smooth talker and very charming.
  • They are self-centered and think they are way more important than others, even if in reality they aren’t.
  • They have a need for stimulation and is prone to boredom.
  • Their behavior is deceptive: They lie and cheat without difficulty. They don’t mind being caught.
  • They manipulate others for personal gain.
  • They show little remorse or guilt. Sometimes They’ll say there sorry, just so others will stop bugging her/him.
  • Their emotional response is shallow.
  • They are callous with a lack of empathy. They feels no pity.
  • They lives off others or has a predatory attitude.
  • They have poor self-control.
  • They are promiscuous.
  • They had behavioral problems at an early age already.
  • They lacks the ability to set realistic long term goals.
  • They have an impulsive lifestyle. They are a risk-taker.
  • They behave irresponsibly.
  • They always blame others for their behavior.
  • They can only commit to short term relationships.

As this presentation from the UK’s Institute of Risk Management suggests there are a range of possible problems with psychopaths in the boardroom.  These include risky decision making, unethical behavior and a lack of loyalty to the company and stakeholders: does this sound familiar?  One of the problems with these people is they’re very good at managing upwards – they charm superiors, manipulate peers and abuse subordinates.  Once they get in senior positions it’s easy to see how problems could escalate.

So the argument is that the rise of the mantra of value maximisation, increased corporate instability and the ever increasing turnover of staff has allowed corporate psychopaths to flourish, further reinforced by the desire of the media to find ‘media-friendly CEOs.  Recent examples are the late Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Richard Branson and Alan Sugar who by all accounts are not cuddly, empathetic leaders. They are ruthless and driven.

And it appears it is fine line between the focused, driven leader and the psychopath.

The toughest of tests: what businesses can learn from Olympians #bpm #london2012

Screen Shot 2012-09-29 at 21.15.59

To really excel and beat the competition requires more than a spark of inspiration and talent. It requires focused effort.  The sporting world has shown that, brought into sharp relief when you hear the personal stories of the medallists over the last 2 weeks of the Olympics.

Better practice = better performance

The coaching and training techniques have been refined and improved which is part of the reason that we are seeing World and Olympic records shattered. And whilst advanced and novel training techniques are not limited to sports, they do have one common theme; they all make the activity more difficult than it is for real.  Let me give you a couple of examples:

Football; one of the reasons that Brazilian footballers are so good, is not natural talent or the poor economic conditions, but they all play futsal. It is played with a smaller, heavier ball and a smaller pitch. The maths tells a story. Futsal players touch the ball far more often than soccer players – six times more often per minute. The smaller, heavier ball demands and rewards more precise ball control. “No time plus no space equals better skills”.

Table tennis; multi-ball coaching techniques brought in by the Chinese. Simply put, multi-ball is the training technique that has coach use a number of balls to set up a training drill for the player who is doing the practicing. Most players think of multiball almost as a torture technique, where the trainee is reduced to a small puddle of sweat as the feeder keeps him constantly moving all over the table chasing the ball and gasping for breath. And while using multi-ball to build fitness is one aspect of the technique, there are several other benefits; technique, footwork, decision making and psychological strength.

Better business practice

In business we do not ‘practice’. Every day we go to work we are ‘in the game’, rarely with a coach, a game plan or any time to reflect on our performance.

But business is not a zero-sum game. In sport to win, your opponent needs to lose. In business that is not the case. If an individual can raise their game it can be replicated to other team members. The collective performance gains can be huge. So why are proven techniques from sport not used in business?

As one business expert put it “Very few businesses have put the principles of ‘purposeful practice’ into the workplace. Sure, the hours may be long in some jobs, but the tasks are often repetitive and boring and fail to push employees to their creative limits beyond. There is little coaching and objective feedback is virtually non-existent, often compromising little more than a half-hearted annual review.”

BPM= Business Practice Management?

Some businesses are starting to take management of business activities seriously. It is being called Business Process Management (BPM). But it is pretty patchy across companies, with some exceptions. Companies like Nestle take process very seriously and consequently are some of the most successful on the planet.  But there is a critical role that clearly documented and managed businesses gives you; a basis for feedback.

Feedback is rocket fuel

In the words of a sports coach, “If you don;t know what you are doing wrong, you can never know what you are doing right”.

BPM allows companies to define a baseline against which improvements can be measured. Without a clear definition of process it is impossible to work out why something has gone wrong. There is too much “noise”. Quite often sports have feedback built in. Play a bad shot and and you are in a bunker or out of bounds. But business often has a longer feedback cycle so it is difficult or impossible to link action to result. BPM helps make the link clearer and removes the noise.

Raising the game

But there are other ways that businesses can make sure that they are at the top of their game. Whilst it might be easier to pick a market with weak competitors and forgiving customers, that does you no good in the longer term. You only have to look at the defence industry which got fat on Cost-Plus Government contracts. As those contracts dried up and they had to compete for commercial work they found they were hopelessly uncompetitive. Many simply went out of business taking their small suppliers down with them.

Our alternative approach when we set up Nimbus was to compete in the toughest market and the most demanding customers. That was the food and pharma market. Regulated by the FDA, these companies are tough to satisfy; they want to see proven results before the purchase, they drive hard price negotiation, and they conduct quarterly company audits. But once you have established yourself as a credible supplier, then there is a huge barrier to entry for your competitors.

Pick the toughest markets

Likewise with we are looking to satisfy the most complex projects; large numbers of invited individuals, huge numbers of posts and photos, with complex sharing with multiple businesses and their sub-contractors and their sub-contractors.

“Pick the toughest and most complex market and everything else will be easy.”

So we could have picked one of the first projects to be organising a small village party. But no!

We have picked the most complex and nerve-wracking party of all. A wedding.  But not a simple wedding in a church in England with a few friends. A wedding in Sydney, organized by the happy couple in London and the rest of the family between here and Australia. is perfect for home improvement projects. Installing a new kitchen. A new conservatory. Updating a bathroom.  For any of these projects, will enable you to keep on top of the admin – the quotes, invoices, photos and ideas – and a financial dashboard to keep in control.

But those projects are simple compared with one of the first projects for, which is a new build of a large contemporary house. This will engage architects, surveyors, arborists, builders, interior designs, landscape designers… and the (expensive) list goes on.

More than medals at stake

So, we can’t wait to get out into the market. We are being told by everyone we talk to about the concept that we are on to a winner.  As an investor it fees like there is a lot more at stake than a medal.

Smart Casual – how to avoid getting frocked up #culture #funny #dresscode

Relaxed, yet professional

We at Nimbus are ‘relaxed, yet professional’ and that hasn’t really changed since being acquired by TIBCO. That’s what our staff tell us. That’s what our clients tell us. That’s the exact wording in our company values statement . In the office, from the CEO down we wear jeans, polo shirts and sneakers. Or whatever people want to wear.  But when we go to clients we wear what the client wears – suit and tie at Nestlé, smart shirt and chinos at Microsoft.

Smart Casual – how to avoid getting frocked up

But it is tricky when an invite to an event for a company that you don’t really understand their culture says Smart Casual. How smart? How casual? Maybe this video has a clue so you aren’t “frocking up” unnecessarily.

Does dress code drive culture, or culture drive dress code?

So our culture has driven our dress code. In fact our dress code has relaxed over the last 10 years. But we have a strong company culture. In a recent staff survey it was identified as one of the reasons people enjoy working for Nimbus.  It is one of the things that people will fight to protect. So it is one our 3 key priorities as we grow around the world – “Maintain our company culture”.

In our case at Nimbus, our culture has driven our dress code. But is the reverse true? Does a suit and tie dress code breed a stuffy, over-important culture or a very professional attitude.  By contrast is a t-shirt and jeans dress code, or even no dress code, symptomatic of a chaotic and slovenly business? I remember when I was IT Director at a major UK Government Department we had very large teams who were under-performing and came to work looking a mess.  But those same people would put on a smart shirt and tailored trousers as it was the entry requirement for the local nightclub.  So we imposed that as the minimum dress code.  Did it change the culture?  Slightly, but only slightly.

My view: Culture sets the dress code. Senior role models demonstrate both the culture and dress code. Dress code reinforces the culture, particularly for those new to the organisation.

What’s your experience?

Why can’t Lotus Cars make a profit?

Lotus Cars, alongside Aston Martin, is one of the UK’s success stories in terms of building desirable sports cars. Aston Martin exudes sophistication and style – and their V8 and V12 engines sound awesome – but nothing compares to the driving experience of a Lotus. You don’ so much sit in a Lotus, but more you “wear it”. Light and nimble, you feel so connected with the road.

This is due to a philosophy which has been behind Lotus cars since the days of the late Colin Chapman, called “value engineering”. Remove weight wherever you can. This is a virtuous circle. Make the body lighter and therefore the suspension can be lighter as there is less weight to carry around, and as there is less weight engine can be smaller to get the same performance, and as there is less weight to slow down the brakes don’t need to be servo assisted eliminating more heavy components. So now the suspension can be even lighter. And so on and so on.  And the end result is a “fantastic driving experience” with “reasonable running costs”

So if a Lotus has “less car” and in this case  “less is definitely more” how come they can’t make a profit? Their loss making over the years has now put a huge question mark over their long term viability.

The latest edition of Evo Magazine devoted a page to desperate plight of Lotus, but also pitted the new Lotus Exige S against cars twice its price. And it came out the winner. But with a Malaysian owner who has recently sold its stake onto another Malaysian company, DRB-Hicom, the future of the company is very uncertain.

But the root of the problem is a lack of profitability. Here are some questions that need answering. And they are not engineering questions but core business and marketing questions:

  • Is the market niche that they are targeting too competitive?
  • Do they not have the volume to be able to make the cars for the right price?
  • Is it that they cannot design and make cars cheaply enough?
  • Do they keep changing the models so they are constantly in design mode and never sell enough of a model to recoup the design costs?
  • Are they being too ambitious with the mouth-watering range of cars that they are aiming to launch? The new Esprit, Elite, Elise, Eterne  Marketing 101: announcing a new product stalls the sales of the existing ones. Evora resale vales have fallen off a cliff, so why would you buy new – which starves company of vital cashflow.
  • Are they not charging enough, or too much, which takes back to the market positioning? The latest Exige S is £50,000 and Evora S is over £60,000 which puts them in Porsche 911 territory. And the entry level Elise is nearly £30,000.
  • Or are they wasting money on ego-driven F1, IndyCar and huge range of other motorsport?

It is not that small volume manufacturers are not profitable. At the top end you have Pagani who makes very few cars, but the prices of a new Pagani have moved from £180,000 to £1.5m since the first car was launched. And, apparently, they have had offers of over £200m for the company.

So what will happen to Lotus, and what will change? It cannot continue to lurch from year to year losing money and hoping to stay in business – no matter how good the cars are. As a famous philosopher once said

“Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results”

(BTW I am a committed Lotus fan with an 1986 Lotus Excel and 199 Lotus Elise, but we need to look at Lotus as a business, not a rich man’s plaything)










UPDATE: CEO Dany Bahar has been suspended

So, looking at his school report for the end of term:

BusinessStrategy101 – failed; didn’t really seem to understand what we needed here
Engineering101 – pass with distinction; has a natural talent here which comes through in all the assignments
Sales101 – failed; great products but really didn’t come up to expectation and never hit the numbers
PR101 – failed; too little ie none, too late

Overall; showed great promise but failed to focus on what was important.

Leadership is overrated. You need followers. #PEX #leadership #inspired

I am presenting the final keynote at the British Quality Foundation Annual Leadership Conference and drafting an article for the Process Excellence Network which is focusing on Leadership for February.  So it got me thinking.

A huge number of books have been written on the traits of a leader, the role of a leader and becoming a leader. Here is an alternative list. But it is sometimes interesting is to look down the other end of the telescope.



What is it like to be a follower? Followers are critical to validate the raison d’etre of the leader?  In this inspirational video by Derek Sivers he explains the critical relationship between leader and follower and how together you can make a difference.


TIBCO acquired Nimbus; 10 weeks on it gets emotional

TIBCO acquired Nimbus at the end of August and there was the inevitable post-M&A activity. Now for those cynics who have been through this before, they will tell you that M&A stands for Murder and Attrition.

So what has it really been like? That’s what every one asks me.

Firstly TIBCO acquired a company with a stable product, strong revenues, fiercely loyal customers, and a clear vision for growth. So it was not a distressed technology purchase that could be neatly slotted into a product portfolio. TIBCO recognized that Nimbus’ value proposition could take TIBCO to the business audience in clients. Remember, TIBCO had been insanely successful with the IT audience and had grown revenue to over $800m. But they have ambitions to provide the software that enable businesses to achieve operational excellence. That means addressing both business and IT audiences.

Secondly, the core of the Nimbus executive team have elected to stay and drive Nimbus as a standalone business unit within TIBCO. We are all excited about the potential that TIBCO gives Nimbus, in effect supercharging growth. How? By raising Nimbus’ credibility, by enabling engagement with the IT organization, and by opening up access to TIBCO’s existing client base.

So there has been some integration of back office functions which has resulted in a few, but inevitable, job losses. It has been sad to see colleagues leave who have been with Nimbus for 5-10 years, but TIBCO has been very generous and the people leave with very marketable skills and fond memories.

The most critical business development activity has been the programme of educating TIBCOs existing field force of account managers and professional services teams. Which is where it has got emotional. We had great concerns that few of them would “get it” as they are very good at addressing IT departmental needs, but have been very pleasantly surprised. Not only do they understand the proposition but are happy to work with us to open up new opportunities in their clients. Inevitably there will be squabbling over account control, but a sensible commission plan (i.e. money) sorts that out.

So what has the reaction been? In a word – emotional. Here’s the reaction from one of the TIBCO ‘s top Solution Consultants having watched Nimbus Control in action at a client:

” I fell in love, don’t tell my wife, I have been working with Claes for a week now capturing a business process requirements at a new customer. Everyone in the company, no matter what the solution can capture detailed information on pain points, opportunities, risks and value for every step in a business process, then when done, you get a spreadsheet that you can sort on the captured data like in risk (high, Medium, Low), Opportunity (high, Medium, Low). This can be used to decide what the best opportunity is for a phased implementation. Nimbus is also ideal for providing technical implementation teams requirements.”
Another comment from one of the senior TIBCO team;

“Nimbus approach is exclusively at business level and much more superior. I recommend everyone at TIBCO sales should sit through a Nimbus discovery session at a customer site. I wish I had done a recording of discovery session at Nimbus. It was a beautiful thing to watch.”

Maybe Nimbus is the Apple of process management software, when terms like “fell in love” and “beautiful to watch” are associated with it? Certainly our clients are passionate about what it does for them. And therefore the critical part of TIBCO’s acquisition strategy for Nimbus is giving us the space to continue to do what we do. Which is exactly what they are doing.

That means the investment in R&D will continue, the exemplary support for customer will continue, and the Nimbus brand will continue.

Which is why we are so excited to be part of the TIBCO family.  Now I am getting all emotional.

Leadership books – but not your normal list #Leadership

Here is a list of leadership books many of which take a ‘sidelong glance’ at leadership

If you want to make good laugh, show him your business plan by Barry Gibbons
What do leaders really do?  by Jeff Grout
The Unfolding Now by A.H. Almaas
Leading with Kindness by William Baker & Michael O’Malley
The Everyday Work of Art by Eric Booth
Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee
Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
Leadership is an Art by Max DePree
The Values of Belonging by Carol Lee Flinders
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Power vs. Force by David Hawkins
The Tao of Leadership by John Heider
Conscious Business by Fred Kofman
Solving Tough Problems by Adam Kahane
A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini & Richard Lannon
The Sacred Art of Listening by Kay Lindahl
Leading with Questions by Michael Marquardt
Creating with Others by Shaun McNiff
The Active Life by Parker Palmer
Leadership Can Be Taught by Sharon Daloz Parks
A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
Out of our Minds by Ken Robinson
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
Inspire! by Lance Secretan
Leadership for the Disillusioned by Amanda Sinclair
The Ethic of Care and Empathy by Michael Slote
The Tending Instinct by Shelley Taylor

Understanding Social BPM (or at least setting some context) #socbiz #social #bpm

Often the problem with widespread adoption of anything is ‘what is it called’ and ‘what will it do for me’.

Social software in the enterprise and particularly when related to BPM, coined SocialBPM is in this camp.

Nimbus does not sell a social software platform, but has implemented a 3rd party application internally and is actively looking at the market requirements for SocialBPM. So this is  my  perspective rather than a thinly veiled sales pitch. So, please read on.

SocialBPM was explained by Elise Olding in a recent research paper, which sadly is only available to Gartner clients, called “Social BPM: Design by Doing”. She did a great job of starting to explain what SocialBPM by highlighting 2 very different perspectives, to which I have added a 3rd, which I have described below with some of the issues I see.

1. Social by Design: Collaboration around process improvement

Example: The process for getting a client case study developed and signed off.

This is the discussion between people about how to improve a particular step or related content in a process flow. The initial discovery of processes is often in workshops, but once deployed and executed, then it is critical that there is a feedback mechanism so those actually using the processes can identify issues or suggest improvements. Typically this is ‘send the process owner an email’.

With SocialBPM the discussion is all linked to the automated or manual process step, related document, form, system, metric or compliance statement. Feedback could be simply a rating, or it could be suggesting improvements. To make it work, the collaboration needs this structure, and the recent Harvard Business Review article Want Value From Social? Add Structure echoes the point. The structure is the connection to a process or process related content. Also, this should be as simple and intuitive as using Facebook. After all 750 millions users can’t be wrong.

Simply starting a discussion topic called “How do I get a case study written’ and hoping that people will pitch in or ‘swarm’ may help to get the case study written, but is not the best use of valuable resources. Someone may suggest the correct way of doing it, or perhaps sidestep some critical governance steps. But it certainly won’t improve the overall collective intelligence of the organization or help others who have the same problem in the future.

This was at the heart of my article Social technology is lipstick on a pig. So until the “Yammer crowd*” (Yammer, Jive Software, SocialText, CubeTree, …. ) genre of social software, which is ‘standalone social technology’, is tightly integrated into BPM modeling and execution software it is making life worse not better in the long term. Although for some end users it feels like short term pain relief. But for others it is yet another place to check for messages.

*I have used Yammer as an example as they have managed to raise their profile very effectively as “Twitter for the enterprise”, but there a large number of software vendors with social functionality with Jive Software leading the pack in terms of revenue according to Gartner’s research paper “Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace” which lists the top 40 vendors.

2. Design by Doing; Collaboration around ‘getting a job done’

For example: The team working to get the case study for a client, Novartis, created and signed off.

This is not about improvement, but getting a number of people together to get a particular problem solved – ie a specific instance of a process. It may be the desperate, ad-hoc fire fighting to get a problem fixed or it may be the normal step in an orderly process which requires a collaborative effort. In both cases social technology can reduce the friction, but also include what might be described as the “unexpected experts”. The person whose role, job spec, position in the organisation and biography does not suggest their expertise and the value that they can give. This is the hidden value that social networking software can uncover, provided it is instrumented correctly i.e. the right metrics are being collected for later analysis. But there is another important aspect to this form of collaboration.

These discussions are more than just discussions or chatter  – they are on-line meetings – with decisions and actions. So any social networking software needs the capability to create, assign or track actions. Otherwise these critical discussions are no better than the quick coffee machine or corridor conversations. Interesting, but they don’t move the game on. Again the current software offerings are still evolving and many still don’t have the full range of capabilities to really be effective.

This is the area where I am seeing most implementations and the business case for “social is the new way of working – forget processes”. Which sounds so refreshing unless you are in a regulated industry or have compliance requirements. So that excludes food, pharma, oil & gas, financial services and any US quoted company with Sarbanes Oxley demands. Ouch!!

3. Social Network: Social networking within the organization

For example: The Wednesday evening mountain biking club in the UK office

This is using social software to enable better social connections within the organization, but it also has a business benefit. We are all now subjected to internal email spam. Distribution lists and inconsiderate use of CC means that we are included on emails that have no relevance.

In the example, I may be a member of the UK office, but actually work from home most days and have no interest in mountain biking, but still get the email each Wednesday afternoon telling me where they are going and when they are meeting. I don’t care. It is not relevant. But I don’t want to be taken off the “All-UK-employees” distribution list. Our own internal implementation of social media eliminated 7% of email in the first month.

I have heard suggestions of “no email Fridays” to get people into the habit of posting to the social media app rather then turning to email. Now this is one area where the “Yammer crowd” do have the functionality, but it is hard to make a business case for a global rollout on the basis of better social interaction at work.

Unformed and uninformed

The challenge is that this market is unformed and uninformed. There are case studies and business cases which show how the benefits of social software in the enterprise. But few of these cover the SocialBPM angles described above, or if they do they are short term fixes masking longer term problems. What is clear is that cloud based social software is being “brought into” (ie being setup and used) organisations by stealth by business users, with the CIO unaware until a problem occurs or a license fee is required to get control of the data.

So, organisations need to start defining what they are trying to achieve and therefore what they need from a social software solution before they pile in with a ‘limited trial’ that suddenly becomes the defacto standard, running roughshod over formal process and procedure. Now I am not a process bigot. I welcome innovation, but also understand that governed process has a vital part to play in driving up the effectiveness and performance of companies.

Social technology has a vital part to play, but needs to be dovetailed into the fabric of the organization and ‘implemented’ correctly. Not another bolt-on fad.

“No one reads process documentation” – 6.2 million reasons why that is wrong #bpm

Adam Deane raised some excellent points in a recent blog BPM : Process Documentation. He lamented that most process documentation is rarely read. And he is right. Call it process documentation and no one will read it. Not even the most enthusiastic process geek.

But it is clear that you need people to follow processes, particularly in highly regulated industries. In pharmaceutical companies people need to followed detailed processes and procedures in certain areas, such as clinical trials.

But in every industry, there is a need when staff are new to the company, new to the role or performing a task which they haven’t done for a while they need guidance. But if that guidance is buried in textual document hidden in a document management database, then Adam’s point is a far one. No-one will read it. And mistakes will be made, some with dire consequences. Just look at the oil and gas industry and Deepwater Horizon where clearly process failures played a part in the the disaster.

So a couple of things need to change:

1. call it something emotive; brand it: How2, PACE, MyToyota, HitchHikersGuide)
2. make it intuitive, easy, relevant and useful; i.e. not process diagrams or flowcharts but guidance that is built on / re-purposes process documentation
3. make it easy to find, first time; personalised and delivered onto the device the user wants; web, iPad, iPhone
4. make sure it is up to date; process ownership delegated down the organisation and friction-free governance

Can that change behaviour?  Absolutely.  One client we have gets 6.2m hits per year on the ‘process documentation’.  That is 4 hits per day PER PERSON in the entire organisation. Many of our clients are rolling out their process content, using our software, to every employee, which is a significant cost. How do they justify that? Because the departmental or division-wide projects have proven that there is a positive ROI.

So Adam’s conclusion is “Process documentation needs a revamp. Surely it can be done better than it is done today…” is correct.

It is and it has been, but don’t look at the Business Analysis tools for inspiration. They are targeting different audience – process analysts and professionals. Forget Visio, brown paper and stickies. Yes, these are still be used!!!

There is a new breed of process vendors who care about end user engagement. The future is already here, and it is called Nimbus Control.  You call it what works for you.

I have just met the future CIO – and he doesn’t work for IT #CIO #BPM

I have an interesting call with Ken McGee, VP and Gartner Fellow, yesterday who focuses on CIOs and not BPM. We met at the Gartner BPM conference where he delivered an excellent, thought provoking keynote on the Why BPM and BI have strong future together. He was researching how the role of the CIO was changing to be measured by “revenue generation” rather than “keeping the lights on” and this was a key theme of his keynote.

He wanted to tak to Nimbus because we are having great success with very tangible project ROIs  e.g. Carphone Warehouse Best Buy ROI was 1100%. He was interested if this was valuable data in his “CIO driven by value” research. Sadly he left the discussion empty handed interms of CIO data, but we both discovered an interesting insight.

The challenge with BPM when seen through the eyes of the CIO is that it is an automation technology to be installed. If you look through the eyes of the senior business transformation sponsor (COO, VP Business Operations, Hd of Business Excellence, VP Business Transformation…) then they look at BPM as a major transformation approach, where IT plays a supporting role. These individuals ARE motivated by how BPM can drive up revenues as well as improve efficiency.

What came out of the conversation is that the future CIO will not have a career path that comes up through IT, but will have a financial, product or operational background. The leading search and recruitment firms are seeing that when they are being asked to recruit CIOs, having a technical or computing background is not mandatory. What their clients is asking for is a strong business knowledge and how IT can help the business.

So the BPM sponsors or champions, our clients, are the potential CIOs of the future.

When the CIO has a change of focus (career direction, measurement, remuneration) from IT to business then BPM will gather greater momentum and remove many of the barriers to successful transformation.

Maybe when I say “We don’t sell to the CIO”, I should be saying “We don’t sell to the current CIO”.

BPM – the movie. Could be a blockbuster #bpm #film #ebook

Stage plays entertained Kings and Queens throughout the ages – and anyone else wealthy enough. Think about the film Shakespeare in Love. Playwrights were impoverished artists who did it for the love and recognition. They were the ultimate story tellers.

Then came the film, with the first public screening of a film in 1895. The early films were no more than capturing onto celluloid a stage play originally with sub-titles. Roll the clock forward to 1927 and film The Jazz Singer. Suddenly films became very different from a stage play. They were set in real locations, with multiple cameras taking different perspectives. They cleverness of the words, the emotion of the storyline and the imagery were replaced with so-so dialogue and fantastic sets.Jump forward to today and a film is interactive. Don’t like the ending? Choose another. Take a look behind the scenes. See how it was made and what the Director decided was suitable only for the cutting room floor.

Wikipedia: History of Film

Books (and magazines) are going through their own evolution. The first major breakthrough was the printing press coupled with and increasing literacy. Books are now making their way into the 21st century. Currently most eBooks are simple electronic copies of paper books with a little reformatting to make them readable on the wide range of ebook readers. The ePub standard has potential, but limited take up, to allow books to be interactive but there is still the DRM (Digital Rights Management) hurdle to get over. The publishing industry hasn’t learnt from the music industry that DRM ultimately fails because it becomes too unwieldy and discourages wide spread take up.  But I digress. eBooks have still some way to go, and possibly they should look at the magazine industry.

Magazines in many ways are more advanced. Perhaps because many quickly went online to save costs, increase distribution and get wider advertising coverage. Computer Weekly which started in 1966 this week stopped its print edition. Advertising in the print copy had dwindled and this of course is why magazines exist. Surprisingly, subscriptions of some print glossy magazines is on the increase in parallel with the take up of the online access.

There are some great examples of some really interactive magazines and these have been spawned by the iPad.  Magazines designed to run as iPad applications. Examples are Evo , the fantastic car magazine (yes I am a petrolhead) and companies like Zinio are offering a platform to help magazine publishers up their game. This means combining different media – text, video, audio – with popups and rollovers to give further information. Making reading exploration nd fun rather than linear.

If we take a look inside a corporate and the way employees consume information, particularly how they do their job (processes) we are virtually back to the world of playwrights and storytelling. And the script is pretty sketchy with continuity issues in “film industry speak”; continuity is the consistency of the characteristics of persons, plot, objects, places and events seen by the reader or viewer over some period of time.

In some companies we have seen processes and the supporting information (documents, applications, metrics) move to the early days of film. Process, Quality or compliance documentation is simply an electronic representation of the paper based equivalent. Now it gathers dust on a hard disk somewhere rather than on the shelves.

However in the most process mature companies, such as Carphone Warehouse / Best Buy Europe, they have caught up with the best that film and magazines can offer. An interactive view of a process, tailored for the individual, with links to other media. The ability to collaborate or interact. And they can view it when or where they want to – on-line or off-line on a variety of devices.

This has not gone un-noticed. Gartner has just awarded Carphone Warehouse / Best Buy Europe their coveted “Best use of BPM Technology” award which will be presented at the end of April at their BPM Summit  – the Oscars of BPM.

Everything is in place to make BPM a blockbuster.

  • Technology platform – web, tablets and smartphones.
  • Demand – cutting costs, improving staff effectivenss, supporting compliance
  • Audience – over 240 million employees in companies with greater than 500 staff around the world

We even have a storyline that has twists and turns, plenty of politics, moments of exhilaration and complete dispair, and can appeal to the young and old no matter what level of seniority:

Making work easier faster and more valuable for millions of people.

Will it be a happy ending? For many the story is still unfolding.