Tuesday, January 11, 2011

From Silo to .....

The shift from being a silo focussed Enterprise, to a Deperimeterised one is NOT a simple task. The primary reason for this is that it involves a tectonic shift in all the key components of an organisation, including all those that relate to each of the major domains of People, Process and Technology, in short everything must change.
The Culture of the organisation must change from top to bottom, this shift involves moving from a "Do It Ourselves" to a "Do It Collaboratively" approach. In Information terms this means moving from keeping Information to ourselves, to sharing information with others. This leads to the need of a fundamental shift in governance systems, meaning that the systems that govern the direction of, and behaviours in an organisation often need to be reversed, and certainly re-designed. The implications of the importance of this part of the "shift" can be seen in the failure of many organisations trying to make the shift. Business Leaders making this change understandably feel nervous and as a result resort to taking up the governance reins, hoping that they will be able to effectively steer their organisation throughout the change. Empowerment is the first thing to suffer with this approach, as this behaviour is observed and replicated down through the leadership ranks, and yet Empowerment is one of the most important success factors in making this change. This results in a failure to appreciate which of the many unknown processes in an organisation are key and which can be eliminated. My own view of the failure of Michael Hammer's Re-Engineering of Enterprises in the 1980's stemmed from the basic fact that the Leaders of an organisation of any reasonable size have no way of being able to understand all of it's processes. Especially as so many of those processes are "unknown" and certainly undocumented. (The most successful re-engineering exercise I was ever involved in occurred in France, where an enlightened leader, whilst using an external consultant, insisted that all of his staff were involved in the re-engineering exercise, unfortunately the effort were supplanted by a "Top Down" change that was Global resulting in a 400% loss of productivity.) Changing the business processes of a silo based organisation to deliver the needs of a Deperimetersed one, is not a trivial exercise, and certainly not one that can be achieved incrementally. For few organisations understand all the processes that they operate, let alone the Information Assets that are key to these processes. Our inability to manage the vast amounts of information that modern Enterprises produce inevitably leads to the use of Information Technology, and here-in lies the tail that wags the Corporate Dog. Advances Information Technology has lead to an amazingly powerful tension driving organisations towards Deperimeterisation. Cloud based services, being simply the latest of these advances. Consumerisation is another of these technology mediated tensions.

I am reminded of a challenge in one of the many corporate team building exercises that I have had the pleasure of engaging in. This one had me dressed up in massive amounts of padding, connected to bungy cord and then told run up a padded aisle to see how far I could get. The weird experience of having the bungy cord decide that I had come far enough and drag me flailing back to the start must have been designed to teach me something, though I can't remember what.
in the case of the Silo based Enterprise, the bungy cord is Deperimeterisation, and no, it is not connected to the other side of the Grand Canyon but to the Moon. in the words of Eric and Ernie, "Get out of THAT without moving!"

The good news is that Mankind has demonstrated our ability to get to the Moon and back. Is your organisation ready to demonstrate the capabilities needed to achieve this shift? If it is small and agile, then likely yes, if you are in a large organisation here's hoping you have a charismatic leadership team with Vision, who believe in Empowerment.

To those expecting the word security to appear in the body of this article, on September 12th 1962 did Kennedy use the word Security in announcing the endeavour that relied upon Security at every step?

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.". http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/jfk-space.htm

Will your organisation choose to go to the Moon or will it be dragged there flailing? One thing I will say is; your ability to treat Information as a valuable asset is going to be fundamental to your success, with a rethink of "Identity, Entitlement and Access Management" being a crucial early step, but that's another blog!

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