Perspective #1: Governance, Operations & Change Management
Traditional organizations tend to utilize separately developed management frameworks, operations and change processes to achieve their vision and purpose.
Based on the natural tendency to stick with what we know, the comprehensive partnerships and collaborations being assembled to achieve outcomes not possible within traditional organizations acting alone will tend to stay with these same frameworks and processes.
But traditional organizations and communities are fundamentally different. Organizations are closed, and directly manage behaviour and processes to get things done; communities tend to be open networks that co-ordinate activities among peer groups. Large communities are richer, more complex and volatile environments than similar sized organizations.
Small and closed communities may be able to get by with a traditional management and process orientation, but larger and more open communities will need to directly address culture, governance, and supporting technologies. This need may not immediately be apparent, it only becomes so as communities grow. The early focus fades, participants change, collective memory is lost, and member priorities shift in undisclosed ways. Only then will a lack of appropriate culture, governance and supporting technologies undermine community trust, integrity and focus.
Culture, governance and management fundamentals, along with process and technology choices, need to be factored into community development early on. They are tough to add later.
The strength of established, vertically-integrated organizations is their governance and accountability regimes, physical proximity and institutional memory. If we link these structures together and attempt to operate them in a traditional way, we will eventually stress them to the point of failure.
And if emerging community stresses are contained using maintenance “patches”, this will add to their complexity. Such overlays will increase community costs and complexity and will reduce agility and the capacity to evolve, thereby accelerating eventual community failure.
Without the development of an appropriate mix of community culture, governance and management capacity, and process and technology choices capable of protecting community integrity and responsiveness, the size and complexity of future partnerships and collaborations must necessarily be contained.
New approaches to governance and accountability are needed. Inherited management styles and process-oriented application systems simply cannot cope with emerging challenges. The executive cadres responsible for new communities cannot rely on past experience to make appropriate choices; the challenges are too new.
Over time, we must integrate culture, governance, management, operations and technology in new ways if larger and more complex interactive and interoperable communities are to be viable. We need a new, wholistic emphasis on community design and business architecture to establish the linkages and flows necessary to protect community integrity, agility and scalability, but we also need to understand the window of opportunity before institutional failure becomes a real risk.
Perspective #2: Communities and Services
Comprehensive service environments have typically been first created by provider sponsored “intermediaries” that directly manage the provider-user relationship and content using content-management systems that publish information and host user transactions.
But as communities expand, service intermediation will increasingly be seen as intrusive. Service intermediaries will need to become service managers, shifting away from content management, and instead develop platforms and hosting tools that enable providers to publish their own information in accessible formats by levering relevant applications and tools.
This separation of platforms and tools from content will better protect confidentiality and commercial sensitivity, an essential feature if communities are to grow with confidence from provider-oriented intermediaries to truly become host environments for user innovation.
It will promote information currency, transaction scope and integrity and give community members better control over evolving needs and opportunities.
Communities with the necessary internal cohesion will codify their new roles and relationships in platform, application- and tool-based governance frameworks and will rapidly and cost effectively transform their ongoing relationships accordingly. Migration away from service intermediation can create tension over control and value extraction. But resisting migration could result in a community evaporating over concerns about privacy and confidentiality, innovation and agility, complexity and potential growth and member empowerment.
The role of service management will be to focus on articulating governance frameworks and enabling platforms, applications and tools that empower community members. Empowered providers, users and their agents can then more freely exchange narrative and data to support their relationships, thereby creating new value and opportunities with increasing confidence.
If you are involved with service intermediation, your biggest challenge will be investing in a balanced approach that protects present relationships while planning and executing a migration to more formal community relationships, complete with the governance models and platforms necessary to sustain them.
Perspective #3: The Evolution of Services
Service innovation redefines the role of the presentation layer in public and private sector legacy systems. The separation of presentation layers from their legacy back-ends and their consolidation to create service portals establishes new partnerships, often without addressing the need for a governance mechanism.
Early service portals facilitated the flow of information and two-way dialogue in support of legacy transactions. This “capture and transmit” functionality was conceptually straightforward, hosted by “values neutral” platforms that utilized reverse-engineered code from legacy presentation layers. They provided legacy back-ends outreach that offered clients convenience as a “value add” while remaining an agent of legacy system hosts. These service portals were frequently operated by the same organization as the now aggregated legacy back-ends.
Over time the operation of service portals has become detached from legacy system operation and have increasingly hosted more complex information and data exchanges with legacy back-ends. But notwithstanding the increased “value add” to end users, they remain a beneficiary, not a participant. The scope of what they can do is regulated by the governance features embedded in the partnerships presentation and legacy system layers.
These shifts in role relationships require a more sophisticated approach to governance - we have already seen what happens to social networks when we do not enhance our “values neutral” platforms. Governance now needs to more fully define and regulate the relationship of the now separated service portals with the legacy system hosts, a significant shift from governance as an element of internal management responsibility within a closed organization.
And if present day end-users becomes intermediaries in the larger scheme of things and the real end-user is one layer further out, they need to be embraced by the partnership. Without such an extension of the governance structure this larger entity will take us back to the wild-west.
This is probably the next frontier, but it is not a logical extension of present day information delivery or transaction hosting. Its development does not trickle down from host domains; but will most likely bubble up from user engagement.
Those engaged with provider-based, user-centric, services and deliverables need to be very clear how far they can scale and extend their present business models before new relationships and governance capacities and approaches will be needed.
Perspective #4: Working Together
Business, governments and civil society will increasingly work together in an array of symbiotic partnerships and collaborations that innovatively address complex issues, create opportunities, and achieve efficiencies that cannot be gained in isolation.
Working together has always been an option, both for people and organizations. But historically, vertically integrated organizations and ownership were the default for developing strategies, policies, accountability and maintaining control. Communities had to demonstrate relative advantage on a case-by-case basis. Increasingly, because of the scale of our challenges, and as the viability of networks to address them increases, peer-community approaches are increasingly considered, and other forms of organization will have to demonstrate advantage before adoption.
Because partnerships and collaborations to date have tended to be outreach efforts from established entities, they have focused primarily on strategy,standards and policy harmonization, and on deploying legacy application code in community settings; with the determination of who-does-what dictated by participant size, seniority and influence.
But new partnerships and collaborations are making progress in removing barriers, creating new opportunities and improving efficiencies. While they may still favour the more influential participants and constrain the least influential, these next-generation communities are taking on larger, more complex and volatile challenges, deploying significant innovation and achieving imaginative policy, governance and operational outcomes in a way that is becoming the new norm.
Early partnerships and collaborations, with relatively few and well connected participants, took on limited and well defined challenges using inherited governance practices and application code. New larger and increasingly symbiotic peer-groupings of participants are addressing more complex, diverse and fragmented issues and opportunities in considerably more volatile enviroments. And they tend to utilize enduring and evolving platforms, open standards, methodologies and shareable tools to populate and manage their relationships, information and exchanges with transparency and integrity. The desired governance characteristics are increasingly embedded in the associated processes to ensure the continued integrity of outcomes.
The development of community mechanisms capable of managing member behaviour, commitments and needs through disclosure, contribution and feedback mechanisms is part of an effort to be responsive to increasingly complex and volatile situations requiring high integrity solutions. Previously, process only had a limited influence on successfully channeling desired behaviour while fully defining inputs, choices and outcomes. But now, considerably more of the governance framework must be fully embedded in methodologies and tools that enable applicable processes hosted by values neutral platforms assembled as needed by users. Quite different.
As our future partnerships and collaborations work to address larger, more complex, volatile and multi-faceted issues, they will need both top-down frameworks and bottom-up platforms, methodologies and tools to be successful. The deployment of strategic thinking that does not facilitate member innovation will increase costs, maintain rigidities and uncertainty, and diminish outcomes.
Perspective #5: Business and their Technologists need a common understanding
Information technologists look to business requirements to develop and deliver solutions. If the capacity of the business and technology participants is not well aligned there is pushback and resistance, typically resulting in a failed deliverable. The development of technology to support emerging partnerships and communities may well suffer from such a lack of collective understanding and capacity.
Partnerships and collaborations increasingly deployed within and across sectors depend on the tenacity and cohesion of business participants from widely varying backgrounds. Their technologists from within traditional organizations where they have already developed local solutions, are not necessarily the ones future communities need.
The risk is that inherited technologies from organizations with unified and well focused strategies, policies, designs and deliverables, together with their associated authority and reward structures, get embedded in next generation community deliverables.
Because peer-to-peer communities often lack these structures, they need more agile and scalable technologies and tools to share community governance, plans, membership disclosures and implementation progress such that community focus and integrity can be maintained. Established technologies and tools may not support these new business aspirations. So if they are the basis of proposed community operations, their membership is already at a disadvantage.
The gap between business designs for a proposed community, and technology practitioner implementation preferences, can be very real. At their core, they are a failure to understand that peer-to-peer communities need full-lifecycle technology support, not fragmented approaches that only address some parts of that lifecycle.
Community business leadership may not understand this point well enough to insist on appropriate technology architectures and designs; and perhaps their technologists may only know how to architect operations, not governance and development.
We risk having peer-to-peer communities needing a capacity for dialogue being supported by task- and solution-oriented implementations that can only manage monologues! When we neglect to fully define business requirements, and tolerate inappropriate IT solutions, community purpose and objectives are undermined.
Business leaders are strategy and policy focused. Their acceptance of traditional statements of business requirements, inspite of the advocacy of their on-the ground community activists, will lead to the deployment of inappropriate technology approaches. This is not just a casual oversight, it has systemic roots. We need something more between high-level strategies and policies and published architecture to frame our IT platforms, directions and services.
We need a “Concept of Operations” to express community purpose and activities, its need for governance, a common language and vocabulary, standards and processes, and technology support for design and maintenance in addition to operation. The aim must be to better identify the scope of the technology required to support the full lifecycle of community activity.
We should not be waiting for technology cost and implementation overruns, and policy distortions and rigidities to appear before we question the approaches we presently take. We already know enough to pay more attention to community definition, and to ensure we can better support the present narrative, future dialogue and how it all evolves. Tools are readily available to support future interactivity, and standards and technologies are available to support future interoperability, we need to deploy them.
The transformation from traditional operational solutions to more robust peer-to-peer community approaches needs more than vanilla business requirements detuned to be viable with existing technology solutions.
We need a comprehensive business specification of the community perspective, one which is taken seriously by technology practitioners. More appropriate technology platforms need to be deployed, and the capacity, much of it presently below “sea level”, needs to be openly explored and validated with community business practitioners.
Perspective #6: Innovation and productivity
Entity and community hosting strategies that support collaboration may be stifling the outcomes they strive to achieve. With an increasing array of dialogues and exchanges, our capacity to engage may constrain, rather than enable desired outcomes. Maybe we need to better understand what we are about.
Collaborative clusters are typically deployed to focus thinking and advance outcomes within shared visions and objectives. They typically use predefined platforms to engage participants in a range of exploratory “peer exchange” dialogues and product and service development efforts. When these dialogues and efforts are focused and tightly managed, their innovative capacity can suffer. And when they are fragmented and lack a unifying structure, the productive implementation of ideas may be affected. Since we typically want both the capacity to innovate and productive implementations, we may need to rethink how we get both from a single unified approach.
When we examine participant behaviour we tend to see that, within common interest frameworks, speciality interest sub-groups emerge (e.g. the open source experience). New product or service offerings may be spawned that offer increased granularity, or expand the range of community interests (e.g. typically described as branching).
This is all natural enough, but historically we have also gone through eras where experimentation and innovation has been most influential (through the reach of the Internet), and other times where the productivity of our efforts has been the major focus (the vertically integrated industrial age, globalization etc.). Ideally, both persectives need to co-exist.
If we want the benefits of (typically small group) innovative exchanges and the enabling characteristics of (large scale) deployments, we need an architecture that connects a strong community governance capacity and the ability to manage a continuing stream of change and fragmentation activities. The concept of “stable state” will be a thing of the past!
This need for co-ordinated and strengthened innovative and development capacities within entities and communities is a critical governance and management responsibility that is not well understood. We are barely beyond large, stable, organizational entities focusing all of their management efforts on directing well planned and long scheduled entity outcomes and deliverables. Sensitizing entities and communities to rapidly evolving end-user needs on a continuing basis is beyond many present day infrastructures, regardless of their creativity and deployment capacity - which are seldom integrated.Traditional entities geared to sensing future product and service demands have seldom devoted much attention to an architecture capable of integrating the full activity life cycle! Whether it is traditional entities coming together to collaborate, or open source communities responding to that challenge, future strategies and infrastructures need a full lifecycle architecture capable of supporting stronger governance and management capacities in support of innovation and the deployment of deliverables speedily and on a continuing basis. Not easy, but those that can will win!
Transformation is about radical change, and shifting from a closed silo orientation to working in open partnerships and collaborations definitely qualifies as radical. There are many societal, business- and technology-related “traps” that await transformational efforts. Many have been touched on in these Perspectives, but here are some additional and critical framework issues.
Typically, change is about focus and timing. We have been known to describe reorganization and continuous improvement as transformation, which they are not; thereby deferring real transformation when we should be getting on with it! This tendancy is largely about culture, capacity, risk and power. Ultimately, we have a bias for the status quo, even when there is a clear case for action.
Effective transformation requires us to think about systems and outcomes from a larger perspective. Historically this is how we have made progress, by raising our sights. Viewing the larger context also helps us to better understand the cultural prospects of success: and whether or not our innovative capacity enables, discourages or is neutral to our ambition. In this way we can take a more disciplined approach to assessing the potential of a transformational outcome. This is about more than assessing our own capacity, it is also about the broader the cultural setting. When creative forces are unleashed a multiplicity of outcomes and directions are possible. Does this matter, or are their limits to our own interests?
The diagram (to the right) depicts whole systems thinking as a migration to a higher level of abstraction; in community terms, this involves shifting our focus to a platform orientation from previous task or solution orientations. In emerging peer-to-peer community environments, if we work within existing boundaries and frameworks, we are hanging back at a lower level of abstraction. This leads to the continued application of existing solution sets when the need may be for more radical thinking.
“Dumbing down” the design and architectural scope is typically a management decision, frequently made to maintain continuity and reduce organizational risk. By contrast, when we unleash peer community thinking we may get a larger range of new ideas! We need to appreciate whether this represents an opportunity or a more confused outcome.
The higher the level of abstraction that we are operating at, the less likely this is to be an issue. A platform orientation can facilitate many opportunities, but a solution orientation forces us to focus.
Transformation is therefore, typically a blend of societal and/or business pressure and technological opportunity. New technologies tend to shift influence and capacity from provider organizations utilizing closed process infrastructures to end users and their open networks. This trend refocuses institutional effort away from directly attending to opportunities and deliverables to providing platforms and tools that enable others to attend to them, thereby broadening the base of transformational creativity and innovation.
Being transformational releases new energy and creates new choices and opportunities, but also requires attention ensuring future integrity and avoiding performance degradation.
The most significant retardants to transformation are denial, the risks and unknowns associated with new thinking, and a reluctance to take on a new mix of cultural, governance and process influences associated with working at higher levels of abstraction.
Dominant players may well have the luxury of rationalizing that “this is not the time”, but those who rationalize the status quo too often will eventually be displaced by those who are prepared to transform their agendas and infrastructures.