When we talk about the information economy, to me, it's really about operating a business based on real time information used in a sense and respond process loop. Making business decisions based on data, who could argue that that's not a good thing, but. it's not that easy in an data overloaded world. The end goal is better, faster and more accurate business decisions executed in an iterative loop that learns and refines itself over time. The problem, though, is that most of the supporting IT systems are not optimized to support the sense and respond loop.
Step back and look at where our systems are today to understand the gap. The majority of IT systems today are what I call systems of transaction (also referred to as systems of record). These systems are designed to automate business processes and execute transactions. Their goal was to remove humans from the loop as much as possible (automate) and only push to humans exceptions to the automated processes. Over time we've succeeded in automating an increasing number of processes and in fact, are in many areas starting to reach the limit of automation, at least based on current technology. In the future as technology matures perhaps the automation line will move up, but for now, in many functional areas we're squeezing as much productivity out of the system as possible.
This leaves employees with the critical functions of solving exceptions and in driving business strategy, things that fall out of the systems. In a different world, one that wasn't hyper-connected and didn't have the disruptive Internet platform to open up new levels of competition, strategy was based on creating unchanging, repeatable processes. This is changing though, and companies are realizing that they have to have flexible and changing strategies that respond in near real time to changing market conditions. New competitors and/or new innovations can occur overnight and disrupt an entire industry, and in that environment flexibility is the key. Today it's about bringing the right resources around a decision to quickly find a resolution.
Ad hoc decision support then, is about getting the "right" resources around the issue with the contextual data to support a fast but accurate resolution. Today, for the most part, this happens outside of IT systems. It's also quite difficult to do this in real time based on both collaboration tool limitations and on limitations in the analytic systems. How do I find and communicate with the "right" experts and how do I retrieve the relevant data from the growing pile of big data?
This is where two additional system types must be brought to bear, systems of relationship and systems of decision. Systems of relationship are the systems, like enterprise social networks (ESN) that provide the framework for finding the "right" experts and for communicating, sharing and collaborating on the decision process. The system of decision is the technology frame work or platform that surfaces the "right" data to support the decision process in real time and in context to the current workflow activity. Now we're talking about these systems like they're 3 distinct layers, and today they start out that way, just based on system limitations. But in the future these 3 functions have to work together in an integrated fashion, transactions, decisions and relationships. In effect what I'm saying is that we have to find ways to systematize ad hoc decision making, something that occurs outside of the systems today.
I don't want to oversimplify, because what I'm talking about is technically not easy by any means. But at the core of the new way of working it's about people and data, and finding ways to systematically identify and bring these resources together in real time in some business context to collaboratively make the business decisions necessary to operate and be competitive in the current business environment. Real Time sense and respond in an iterative loop with the relevant people and data working together to make business decisions and craft flexible business strategies is the operational model for businesses in the information economy.