Sig and the art of Barely Repeatable Processes

I had a great session yesterday with Sigurd Rinde on the latest version of Thingamy. We've been part of Sig's ecosystem of consultants and partners working with his innovative business modelling solution for some time. Sig was showing off the product's new interface and talking through the latest prototype he had been demoing at a media company while he has been in the UK. That demo crosses over with some of our own thoughts on creativity, because it was all to do with creating a repository for ideas to be captured, developed and actioned through to the point that they add value to the organization. It's the kind of thing every organization does to a lesser or greater extent. Thingamy

Sig's philosophy on business is too radical for some who are entrenched in the transaction oriented systems we are all used to. Sig would argue that the reason that businesses are rooted to complexity goes back to 1494 and Luca Pacioli's double entry bookkeeping. From that point on we've been obsessed with creating entries in the ledger book, pieces of paper for filing, or records within transactional software that add unnecessary objects and steps in to the business process. As you add each of these the complexity starts to increase exponentially, and the procedures become way too rigid for the way real business happens in the workplace. Sig's thinking gets to the heart of what a business actually is - a social group with a purpose, and then cuts through the clutter to focus on the real value chain involved rather than the accepted way of doing things.

Sig talks about ERP as Easily Repeatable Processes and begrudgingly sees how conventional systems might work for some parts of the sales, distribution and manufacturing processes in certain enterprises. It's very difficult for most organisations to "get it" and want to go back to basics to re-invent their systems from scratch. With the complete market for business systems and application sectors to aim at with Thingamy, he is quite rightly focussing on the kind of knowledge work that there is a lot of attention on at the moment. As has been widely reported and discussed, Forrester has released a report indicating that Enterprise 2.0 spending will reach $4.6 billion by 2013 - a healthy market! Andrew P. McAfee of Harvard Business School says:
"Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers. "

In this environment, Sig argues that Thingamy comes in to its own, because of the ease with which it tackles Barely Repeatable Processes or BRP. This kind of knowledge work is all about ad hoc processes that change and are adapted over time. It's the sort of thing that, in the web 1.0 world, would be supported by emails trapped in your inbox, or semi manual systems based around Excel spreadsheets with macros. Most organizations still use this kind of approach for the gaps between their main ERP style systems. Sig says it barely scratches the surface of what is required, and it's exactly why the use of social media tools like blogs and wikis are on the rise. However, he argues that this approach is still wrong:
"These are single task tools that are just used as a sandbox. You can throw out an idea, but without a process or accountability, most of the time nobody bothers. "

We can see that in the way that the success of adoption of these kinds of social media solutions is still variable, and heavily dependent on the expertise of the implementation team. Many organisations don't understand the culture changes required to make this blog and wiki type of approach work well.

The best way of highlighting the difference in Sig's approach, is to talk through the demo he created. This was built for a media company to place ideas in a repository, allowing all of the team's dialogue around each one to be captured. This is the kind of thing you could easily do in a blog or a wiki, but Thingamy allows much more to be done. You can record the progress of the idea through different phases or statuses. You can add whatever process steps you need to route the idea to the right people, or alert others to add input. You can connect the idea to other concepts you might add, like the company strategy, and all of this can be adapted and changed as necessary as the requirements evolve - easily handling BRP. You get the proper accountability that Sig is looking for. His demo took no more than an hour to create from a blank canvass to a working prototype, but it's more than a prototype - it's a working solution that could be put in to operation by that company straight away.

All of us enterprise 2.0 providers need to take a leaf out of Sig's book. We're producing tools that support the capture and distribution of knowledge, as well as the dialogue that adds value, along with other content that we can bring in from external sources via RSS and other means. We are providing tools for team collaboration and real time communication. We need to start to putting the (barely repeatable) business process at the heart of our solutions.