by: Sigurd Rinde

Business is about process, typically starting with a customer calling, then proceeding through a sequence of tasks and activities ending with the delivery of some value.

No process exists unless there is a framework. And for that reason business have a framework, an old and proven one. Here's a condensed list of it's most important parts and how they work, in no particular order:

Meetings:

So we can get together, listen and pounce on presentations or remarks made by those we do not like. Actually meant to be a place where work is distributed and then later dissected.

Budgets:

AKA the elevator. This nickname is due to the fact that the boss wants higher sales and lower costs while you want higher costs and lower sales to make your life easier. Thus the budget process involves sending up, sending down, sending up, until you agree on something in the middle that nobody will be happy with. The result usually have a "© Walt Disney Inc" in invisible ink in the bottom right hand corner.

Deadlines:

This is important so you can keep your eyes focused at the end of a process and avoid having to focus on the beginning of a process as this might lead to immediate action that will ruin your already busy schedule (emailing, meetings, creating charts and bullets). Beside the excellent time-wasting method of meetings this is one of the best ways to limit profits, it's built in.

Business rules:

This allows the top managers to avoid unauthorised thinking among subordinates knowing that all purchase requests over ten grand will pass through their inbox, or that no credit check applies to returning customers. The credo being; less thinking is good for the company.

Organisational charts:

Maps out who can direct who, who's to talk to who and other dream-like concepts regarding human behaviour.

Here's a good example from Fortune magazine in June 2006, left side is the official dream-world chart, right side maps the actual interactions over time:

Now, add a sprinkling of important support tools and you'll have the business-in-a-nutshell:

Email:

If we're not in meetings we receive and distribute work per email. Sometimes we cc to bosses so they can see how busy we are, or to remind the recipient that the "boss is looking". The Inbox is where about 1730 unread emails are kept safe as we usually read mails under the table on a BlackBerry while in meetings or at dinners.

Spreadsheets:

This is how we try to make sense of data. All programs and large systems that produces data have a spigot on the side into which you can connect your spreadsheet program and suck out meaningless data. Then you can apply some meaning to the data, your own meaning of course, before you go to a meeting to show the resulting fancy pie charts. Then somebody will hook up their spreadsheets to the projector and show more and very different charts, made from the same data but with their instead of your meaning applied. Jolly good fun.

Powerpoint:

This is when you'd like to convince a group of people. Very useful as most such programs comes with templates. Just fill in the blanks with sentences you'll find in other places and charts from your spreadsheets. Then at the meeting you can keep your back to the audience and recite from the bullets, no eye-contact nor rehearsing required.

Accounting:

A method where incoming papers regarding any kind of money - going out or coming in - is read and interpreted by highly trained people in the so-called accounting department. When they have made up their minds, they slot the amount into a specific "drawer" called an "account". Every now and then an outside interpreter arrives to see if the right drawers were chosen. More frequently the managers of other departments pays them a visit and try to convince them that certain sums should be in different drawers. This because the change will make them look better and give them extra bonus. Sometimes they're able to talk the accounting staff into it, sometimes not, it's after all a matter of guesstimating inside very elaborate and vague rules written in non-human-compatible languages.

In sum, despite the light hearted tone, this is in fact the very core of the business framework. If I suggest it's a buggy framework I would be off the mark. In truth it's truly, sincerely bad.Worse, this is the framework accepted as the basis for most business software, believe it or not. Frame-working a bad framework is the result.

If you consider implementing some enterprise software, do the acid test: Does it reflect the organisational chart? Does it have business rules? Does it pivot around meetings? Does it interact with email? Does it rely on dumping data to spreadsheets to make sense? Any yes would indicate you have a system at hand that will try to manage a bad framework in order to manage a process, that's like driving a car by driving the driver. Not smart.

Are there better ways you might ask. To which I say, yes, there is.

Simple; business software shall model reality not the existing non-IT-based model.

Original Post: http://thingamy.typepad.com/sigs_blog/2008/11/business-framework-explained-the-true-version.html

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