Michael Porter, a former Harvard professor, is one of the founding fathers of business strategy. He lent credence to the field by developing several ideas, frameworks, and theories around strategy that have been utilized, debated, and taught for four decades now. You may be familiar with his 5 Forces model, which is used to analyze the competitive landscape of a given industry, or his course titled “Competition and Strategy”, a requirement for all first-year Harvard MBAs. Though his ideas and theories are certainly not perfect and have evolved over the years, they laid the groundwork for modern businesses to think about their strategy, their position in the market, and their ability to move forward.
And when you think about it, it’s weird that some consider enterprise service management to be a new business process management trend. Let me explain.
In 1985, Porter co-authored an article with Victor E. Millar in the Harvard Business Review titled “How Information Gives You Competitive Advantage”. In it, he laid out a central argument that said with the explosion of computer usage, companies would have access to a ton of information, flowing freely through the organization, that would allow managers to make more informed decisions faster. This, Porter argued, would fundamentally change how business was done and provide new ways for companies to stay ahead of their competitors.
Consider this excerpt from Porter’s article:
“The value a company creates is measured by the amount that buyers are willing to pay for a product or service. A business is profitable if the value it creates exceeds the cost of performing the value activities. To gain competitive advantage over its rivals, a company must either perform these activities at a lower cost or perform them in a way that leads to differentiation and a premium price (more value).”
In other words, to gain an advantage over competitors, companies must perform their value activities at a lower cost or in a way that adds more value. Porter foresaw the drastic increase of information that would be available to businesses with the shepherding of the digital era. He logically concluded that such information, if used and communicated correctly, could be advantageous to managers looking to make decisions around the value-added activities in which their business engages.
The prediction of a sharp increase in the amount of information has certainly come true. In the era of big data, companies gather, store, process, and use more data than ever before. The problem is that typically this information is siloed, only about one particular subject, or only accessible and understandable to a few highly-skilled workers. This is the problem that enterprise service management will solve to bring Porter’s 35-year-old vision to fruition once and for all.
Enterprise service management (ESM) holds that the (mostly digital) processes that have been championed and used to gain efficiencies by IT teams for so long apply to the business as a whole, as seen by the adoption of similar processes and technologies in departments like HR, Facilities, and Procurement. ESM suggests that an organization should have a tool, which typically takes the form of a piece of software, that allows information to flow easily, quickly, and freely through the organization (sound familiar?). At Praecipio Consulting we have grown fond of referring to this as an operating system for business - one central piece of software that is used nearly ubiquitously in the organization, one that allows work to flow from division to division, team to team, teammate to teammate, with no loss of information and an attached, rich history.
Consider the typical lifecycle of the development of a new offering by a business - whether that be a software feature, physical product, or a new service offering. Marketing will research the market and determine where gains can be made. They will pass intel along to Product, which will develop these insights into a new product idea. The Product team will work with Development to create requirements, Dev will build it, QA will test it, and then it will be released to the market. Along the way, Marketing will generate buzz, Sales will sell, Legal will validate legality, HR will manage employees working on the offering, so on and so forth. In short - it takes a village, a coordinated effort among teams from different parts of the organization to deliver the new offering to market.
The logic of a single system which transmits work in this lifecycle with no loss of info and rich history is apparent, as is the cost savings garnered from a single license paid to a single vendor, maintenance and training for one system instead of several, and usage of an efficient process unmarred by clunky handoffs to other systems.
To achieve this business process nirvana, we have long advocated for the usage of Atlassian’s Jira, Jira Service Desk, and Confluence products. Similar to Apple, Atlassian set out to develop products that work together seamlessly, but unlike Apple, Atlassian has retained that characteristic and further developed it to the point that these three products work together in harmony. The malleable and flexible nature of these products has helped them evolve from those used exclusively by software development teams for bug tracking to those used by IT, HR, Legal, Marketing, Customer Service, and several other business units. The ability of these products to merge these disparate units within a business shows an exciting step forward and potentially a culmination in Porter’s vision of a connected and integrated business.
In the next two articles that will form part of this ESM blog series, we will further explore the logic and numbers behind enterprise service management, and why and how it can help your company.