Why Some Business Innovations Can't Get Off The Ground

I want to draw your attention to an excellent article by Andrew McAfee from the Harvard Business School about the interaction between IT and business process.

Andrew gives a great example of a business process that has been altered, implemented, and failed all as a result of the lack of user involvement and ability to manage the change. As a result the situation is exactly the same as it was before the change but now with a higher overhead.

His contention is that IT is an enabler for business process implementation in as much as it allows changes to be made which don't stretch the user base enough to cause non-compliance - in this case adding an extra layer of segregation to airline passengers at the gate.

So let's play with this a little: Is he saying that business process change can only occur through the use of IT? I don't think so (at least I hope not). Whilst it is obvious that using IT as a means of enforcing a business process change is generally a sound thing to do, there are occasions when only the human intervention will suffice. This is the time when the human touch is needed to ensure good customer service for example. This is the time when following process is wrong. This can also lead to process glitches occurring.

On the other hand it is also worth remembering that a large majority of process improvement through product innovation occurred as a result of implementing systems to speed up production.

Ultimately the use of IT to support a business process relies on understanding the potential impact of the process change on the customer and end user to ensure that negative results do not occur.

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