That’s right. An e-mail message from “CIO Magazine” snuck past my spam filter and plopped right into my in-box. “The CIO as Chief Process Officer” was the lead story. Happened just after breakfast, too, and sent me into peptic distress.
Call it what you want – refusal to learn, deep denial of truth, failure to learn from experience – when are they going to “get it” that technology does not drive process – and neither do technologists?
Think about the process/technology relationship from a customer-alignment model. We start by aligning strategies with customers. Then we align business process with strategies. And last, we align technology with process. That’s the only way customer-alignment works. And that’s the only way business process outside of manufacturing contributes up to its potential.
CRM implementers spent years learning this lesson the hard way, as behind-the-curve companies experienced train wreck after train wreck trying to implement CRM “technology-first.” And not to limit this issue to CRM, similarly uneducated companies and software vendors brought about similar carnage trying to implement ERP software with technology driving process.
Ironically, not too long ago SAP offered a wonderful white paper advising companies never to lead process with technology on this very site. SAP gets it. But apparently “CIO Magazine” – and many others – don’t.
Okay, suppose I misinterpreted the title. After all, I didn’t have the stomach to read it. Maybe the premise was that CIOs can think in process terms better than other people. After all, systems and process are both technical, aren’t they?
This interpretation doesn’t fly, either. Even manufacturing process can be more conceptual than technical. Think about Lean. At its core, Lean is visual. It’s about mapping. But when you leave manufacturing and go to variable environments where the majority of employees in developed economies work, That’s where you really see why most CIOs shouldn’t have their hands anywhere near the process steering wheel. And that’s not a criticism of CIOs. Think about how many Chief Customer Officers would function well in a technical environment.
Process design in variable environments requires very heavy right brain activity. It’s much more creative and conceptual than left-brain technical. It’s about understanding people, understanding how business functions interact with each other; and having the imagination to see how things could be different – and better.
Nonetheless, over and over again we see companies assigning process design to IT management, which delegates it to business analysts, usually the low folks on the totem pole. This misassignment keeps recurring because corporate management persists in seeing process as a technical issue, when out of the manufacturing environment it’s anything but.
That’s unfortunate, because the financial losses caused by companies working ineffectively and inefficiently off the shop floor are staggering. And the opportunities to improve company performance by redesigning variable process are equally staggering.