Monday, April 26, 2004

The Big Picture??

Dear all,

Here are my thoughts about the Big Picture, which I hope will energise us all into creating an explanatory framework which we can all buy into and which Bill's work fits into:


1) Workplace stress costs the economy billions of pounds a year. The costs are in time off work and in people falling so ill that they become a burden on the state, because they require medical intervention and may end up retiring early.

2) One of the causes of the increase in workplace stress over the last twenty years is the demand for ever-increasing accountability to meet managerial and legal requirements. For example, in schools in the UK the teaching staff typically have to spend about 20% of their work time just dealing with paperwork.

3) ICT systems are supposed to support work, but in practice they are a burden to operational staff because they are incomprehensible, badly designed and demand that they submit information which appears to be a pointless waste of their time.

4) Because staff perceive the ICT system as their enemy, they avoid using it, unless forced to so. They then "cheat" by inputting whatever they can get away with. Management then make decisions based on inaccurate data. When they occasionally discover this to be the case, their reaction is to try to force staff to be more compliant, by demanding even more "pointless" form-filling.

5) The fashion for outsourcing ICT provision just makes matters worse, because it puts additional layers between the staff on the ground trying to do their jobs and the suppliers of the systems they are supposed to use to do their jobs.

The solution to this mess is as follows:

1) Technology which facilitates designing and building information frameworks which are a perfect fit for real-world work tasks.

2) The expertise and the will to provide these information frameworks to the real people doing the real jobs.

3) If the systems are designed properly, all the data needed to establish accountability can be obtained as a side effect of people doing their work. It is no longer necessary to impose a burden of bureaucracy on operational staff. This enables productivity to increase, because people can concentrate on doing the job in hand.

4) The ability to build systems in this way means that compliance to corporate governance standards is automatic. Corporate governance is no longer a matter of retrospectively demonstrating that standards have been met by quarterly or annual audits, which only show history. If standards are being violated, current methods of establishing compliance only allow regulators to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Adaptive Business Systems has been founded to exploit a set of ICT tools and techniques which we have developed, based upon over two decades of research into problem-solving, the social dynamics of organisations and database systems. The techniques cover the following areas:

1) Methods for in-depth investigation of the real-world tasks people carry out at work.

2) Methods for on-the-fly building of information frameworks which support those tasks.

3) Methods for integrating the different information frameworks into a coherent ICT infrastructure for all levels of the organisation.

4) Ability to evolve towards improved ICT infra-structure without a "Big Bang". This enables change by evolution, not revolution, hence reducing risk and preserving investment in current ICT systems.

5) Intelligent Auditing - a method for efficient capture of information required to measure accountability at all levels of the organisation in real-time.

These techniques, combined with established techniques of statistical analysis, make it possible to demonstrate compliance to standards of corporate governance in real time and to flag early warning of questionable activities which may require attention from managers or regulators, at any level of the organisation.

Compliance to standards of corporate governance no longer needs to be viewed as a "red tape" overhead, since the implementation of such an ICT infrastructure makes gathering of the necessary data unobtrusive and improves productivity by removing bureaucratic overheads.

Please let me know whether this rings bells for you all.