Revive the capacity to innovate, says business chief

At the Cranfield School of Management's IT Director's Forum, Ashley Braganza led a session on how companies can achieve...

At the Cranfield School of Management's IT Director's Forum, Ashley Braganza led a session on how companies can achieve innovation through business process orientation

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word innovate means "to make a change; to introduce new ideas, methods and so on". Much of the organisational activity related to process orientation has focused upon changes to the organisation.

However, these changes rarely introduced new ideas or activities. Often the "visioning" workshops, "out-of-the-box" thinking, and "clean sheet" maps resulted in redesigned processes that appeared on paper to be significantly different from the existing process. Yet, when considered, the changes were not new. Managers often labelled redesigned processes as "new" because people in the organisation were unfamiliar with aspects of each process.

Many organisations have switched-off their capacity and capability to innovate, relying on copying competitors and being a "me-too" player. This strategy was tenable while competitors played by the same rules. Yet with the changes brought about by e-business, knowledge-based competition, and industry consolidation, it's time to rekindle innovation through process orientation.

Braganza's process

This initial day was spent discussing the importance of thinking through the potential changes to business processes that might have to be made if a company is going to embrace e-business.

Braganza says that the obsession with e-business has lead many companies to focus on the "e" rather than the business strategy. "Organisations are rushing into 'e' without knowing where they want to end up," he says. Rather than just drifting up the line (see diagram), try and put together a distinct model for change."

To achieve this, Braganza says that companies should think through the full implications of "e". Inevitably, this will mean setting in motion a series of "e" initiatives, which might include changes to people, systems, strategy, routines and trading relationships. He says that organisations are just a collection of business processes, which will also be impacted upon by the "e" initiatives. This might cause an organisation to add new processes or change existing processes. It may also be that some companies will not have to change their business processes model at all.

According to Braganza, it is vital that we break away from thinking about e-business merely in terms of business-to-business or business- to-consumer. This obsession blinds us to seeing that an organisation must satisfy the needs of many other "stakeholders" such as suppliers, employees, shareholders and regulators. How will changes to processes affect these people? What are their expectations? Can they be improved by "e"?

Your organisation must strike a balance between the "e" initiatives, the business processes and satisfying the "stakeholders" inside and outside the company.

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