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Simplicity is an acquired taste. Mankind, left free, instinctively complicates life.

This is not a blog around a sermon on how we need to live as humans. I came across this quote today morning in a mail forwarded from a friend of mine who herself has 1 blackberry, 1 iPhone, an iPad, a laptop, a desktop at home and a desktop in office…and maybe more - that I do not know; what an irony!

However, most important point is that this triggered my thoughts around what we do in business day in and day out. Some of the thoughts here are disconnected and since I am myself not clear of the ‘right’ way; you will find certain level of cross movements.

The idea of any IT system is to simplify the business processing for the end users while making the end product which will provide real ‘value’ to them. This ‘Value’ is what need to be thought through; is this –

  • Cost of running a transaction
  • Time taken to complete the transaction
  • Effort spend in completing the transaction
  • Number of people involved in completing the transaction
  • Manual steps and ‘out-of-system’ steps involved in completing the transactions
  • Complexity of doing the transaction

I think the last one is actually a summary of all the aspects above that. Anything which takes more time, cost and effort and involves number of people or ‘out-of-system’ steps basically add complexity to the transaction. So, I would focus my thoughts on ‘Complexity’ as of now.

If I have realized the disease, how do I treat it?

While treating a disease, we need to first get the diagnosis right. Here the symptoms are known and are quite apparent; but does that means the solution is also simple. Maybe not!

In an organization running a big business the software solutions (be it ERP, CRM, Custom built, best of breed, On Demand, etc.) are meant to help ‘streamline’ the processes. Out of these the ERP packages have over time become so industry focused that they have kind of built in ‘rigidity’ in the name of ‘industry best practices’. If these ‘industry best practices’ are the way to solve the business issues (which is akin to a ‘template driven solution’ – you have headache, take aspirin), then the ‘competitive advantage’ and ‘USP’ are contradictory paradigms. I have blogged on similar thoughts earlier that you can see here.

There is a need to identify each client as an individual and the business that they run as their ‘own’. The processes and organization traits are the DNA of that client and the solution should be such that it does not alter this DNA. The medication need not have side effects. In some of our clients, we have seen the continuous tussle between ‘best practice’ and ‘my practice’. Once the basic organizational maturity of running business has been established, the software solutions are meant to just help them in achieving ‘improvements’ and not the ‘best practices’. The best practices should be left to be discussed and only the one which are ‘relevant’ need to be included. This brings to the point of bringing the ‘application closer to the business’.

In Microsoft Dynamics space, I have seen that the ‘framework’ nature of the product (I had blogged on this too earlier; you can check that here) can help a lot in helping client achieving this objective of simplicity. There is a need to respect the business for the things that do it the best. The simplicity needs to be maintained so that all end users accept the new system and do not see it as a hurdle in the path of them doing their business.

How many times have you heard this (specially in service oriented organizations; which by the way none of the industries are untouched with) –

  • There is no way I can transfer this till the manager closes this in systemworkflows and approvals should not be taken to extreme in fast turnaround times and need to have an exception path
  • Your name is not here; please send your details and we need to create you as our customer to give you this special discountthis is because the customer creation process needs to capture 30 fields and I front desk person is not aware of that. A simple email registration with delayed update in the process step can help
  • Please tell me the complaint reference number and time of call to help you with the resolutionthe tagging in the system should be with case number; but then at least hear the person out and have a process of email follow-up and which need to be tied with the case finally
  • I have the stock in Inbay; but there is no reference document receiving process need to be flexible to allow temporary storage before put away and matching with PO. In real business, there could be situations where there is a lost PO / Delivery receipt

Point is, have you foreseen the scenarios and seen what matters to your business the most. What are the business values that you need to maintain and then you define your processes (and the flexibility in it too) and let the software solution be the ‘enabler’ in making life simpler for you. I am sure each business would have its own set of desired level for this ‘simplicity’ in the organization DNA.

Are you game for this new paradigm?

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