Managing Change in the Digital Business Era

Jim Sinur

Jim Sinur and Peter Schooff continue to discuss digital business. In this excerpt from the podcast, they talk about how to manage change in key and legacy systems. Jim Sinur is an independent thought leader in applying business process management. His blog may be found here. He's also one of the authors of the book, "BPM: The Next Wave."

Peter: Now to anyone listening to this, they're probably thinking, that sounds like a lot of change. What would say is the key to change management in an organization?

Jim: Well the key to change management in my mind is how you treat people and how you let them know what your expectations are. There's a cycle around change which I documented on the blog that talks about a cycle. Learning how to go through the cycle iteratively and quickly is crucial. One is you have to identify the change. You have to change perspectives of all the people that are involved. You have to motivate the change to rewards. You have to align the priorities to make sure that everything is out of peoples way. You need to make and measure the change, and you need to reward and repeat. Being able to basically change that cycle and go through that cycle quickly is crucial and the companies that learn how to deal with that will probably deal better with he evolution of digital. It is an evolving game.

Peter: Definitely. Now with change, that means there's often a lot of legacy. What are the key ways companies can overcome their legacy systems?

Jim: Well legacy is always a dirty word, but there really are some invasive, slightly invasive approaches, and a number of non-invasive approaches to leveraging legacy and reusing it. Remember I talked about those standard transactions, that's generally what our legacy is. At the end of the day you still have to update operational data. What you do is, you put a new wrapper, you surround your existing transactions whether it's in whole chunks or small chunks. You put a new interaction and you leverage that. That's the most common way and non-invasive way. The most common invasive way is to make more rules explicit or more perimeters so that you can shift the way and uncrucial rules how the old application behaves. There are hotspots inside each of the applications that are susceptible to change and so if you do some slight like surgery you can identify those rules and those hotspots and make them explicit so that people can change them whether it's IT or business or both.

Peter: Interesting. I know on your blog, I think you call it in your summation, you call it the net net, right? What would you say is one of the key take-aways or the net net for companies considering this digital business?

Jim: Keep in mind that it is an evolution and it's going to go in two major steps. One is where the control is a bit more central. As the internet of things starts evolving and we start trusting individual pieces of a process or an application to control our own destiny. You may have cognitive assists for your knowledge workers that give them a boost to give them the knowledge to do the job. Whatever work is front of them. Particularly it's very knowledge based and highly collaborative. You'll be collaborating with a machine. Some of that is in that centrally controlled, centrally orchestrated, centrally composed approach. That's going to be first part of digital.

The second and more difficult part, particularly for us to get our hands on is the notion of autonomous pieces of technology that will actually arrive at a goal. You set, as a manager, you set the goals. You set the constraints that say, "Well look you got to stay within these guidelines so don't go over this boundary. This is what I call the swarming agent approach where the the technology and the people, all the resources will swarm to a common set of goals and they know their constraints. Now you've pushed the control out to the edge. People have been talking about moving control and decision making to the edge. We're going to do that no only with people, but we're going to do that with technology. That's that second big phase.

Now each of those phases of digital have an evolution inside of them. The first big step is happening now, the second big step, I'm not going to predict to say that it's five years from now, but as cognitive computing takes off and we start trusting machines with more and more work, you're going to see some of that.

Peter: Fantastic. These are definitely interesting times aren't they?

Jim: Very exciting. I think the times will outlive me, so I'm going to enjoy watching while it's evolving.

Peter Schooff