Focused Processes and IT: Lock in Simplicity

Why do conventional solutions to process and IT issues regularly come up short? The reason is that processes and IT are rarely the main problem. Nearly always, process and IT troubles reflect complexity elsewhere in the company—in strategy, in business and product portfolios, and in the organization itself. The complexity may show up first in process breakdown or system proliferation, but its root causes often lie elsewhere. That’s why the benefits of fixing processes or systems alone rarely live up to expectations. Functional units usually see themselves as service organizations, responsible for supporting the company’s other functions and operations. They can streamline themselves, but they rarely question the demands of their customers.

Some companies have developed a different approach. Rather than try to fix processes solely through functional excellence or fix IT solely through systems modernization, they work the interfaces or nodes where business units and functions intersect. They address not just the process or system itself but also the root causes of complexity in the overall framework. The payoff from this kind of cross-boundary approach is substantial. Not only do the companies solve their immediate problem—they lock in simplification throughout the organization. They may begin with processes and systems, but they wind up with a more focused company.

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