A (Data) Revolution bogged down in Organizing Busywork


via CarScoops.com, 06/10

Sure, we need to organize our world to make sense out of it and to manage it.

We started with standardizing and labeling physical goods – everything that came out of the first factories in industrial Britain. When that started paying for itself in efficiencies, Frederick Taylor decided to take a closer look at the things we do – the processes in an enterprise. The famous (or infamous) Time and Motion studies started the business process improvement movement leading to the modern Business Process Management with other associated streams of quality management.

Now that processes have been organized and (mostly) automated, the search is on for the next quantum of improvement -the next revolution. After dealing with and settling the management of physical goods and the physical actions, what is left to improve?

People? Yes, social media has empowered them but creativity and innovation have a difficult time dodging the giant wheels of automated processes and do get crushed far too often. In any case, human resource management and Catbert have been trying to ‘improve’ people for a while now. And we would rather not talk about all that stuff for now.

After physical goods, physical actions – and the people – we are left with the virtual stuff, the data and information that we have been collecting over the years as our processes spewed them out. The byproduct of automation is data. Lots and lots of it. Not surprisingly, data is being seen as the next frontier for competitive advantage.

And being the good little organizers that we are, we have set out to organize all our data with a vengeance. Shiny, new dashboards with pretty colored graphs and scientifically researched user interfaces; brand new ‘big data’ infrastructure that can keep data ‘in memory’ and in the ‘cloud’; and quite a few of us are mining this data now to get to that rare insight that the silly fallible humans miss.

All of this data (or Big Data) activity seems to be useful – and in some cases it does move the ball a few yards forward. But the promise of revolution is still out there – a promise. There is no doubt that better insights are being served up to the human decision makers and even if there is no evidence that it is resulting in better business decisions, let us stipulate that decisions are indeed getting better. This still leaves open the question of scaling the human decision making to an industrial level. Remember the silly humans are squishy and unpredictable. So, data is being organized but not being used.

The missing element to unite them all is Decision Management. This is a formal mechanism to automate operational decisions using (big and small) data analytics and (human) subject-matter defined business rules. You use data and people to automate decisions required by your automated processes. Automated decisions embedded in your operations (processes) enable you to scale tremendously to attain the promise of the data revolution.

Decisions-First thinking forces you to organize decisions formally. Data organization follows naturally, now with an actionable purpose behind it. All revolutions need a purpose and now the data revolution has one.

Happy revolutioning!


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