Bypass Surgery for Businesses with Constricted Information Flow

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Implementing new technology can be a useful exercise for companies that want to improve their ability to accomplish measurable business objectives.  Unfortunately, that same technology can be frustrating to work with as companies that want to customize their software are met with passive resistance from vendors who want to keep that software standardized. What can a company do when it possesses the underlying data in its network of systems, but cannot effectively extract it?  We compare the options with those utilized by heart surgeons to treat heart disease.  In many cases, for both patients and businesses, bypass surgery is the best option.  We then explain how bypass surgery works to correct constricted information flows.  We encourage and greatly appreciate your comments!

Over 50 years ago, a remarkable medical procedure called Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery (CABG) was introduced that has saved numerous lives since.  In fact, the procedure is so common today that it is performed around 500,000 times each year in the United States.  To understand why the procedure is performed, we must first remember how the heart functions.  The heart pumps oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.  To function well, the heart itself must be supplied with oxygen and nutrients, which is done through coronary arteries.  Over time, these coronary arteries may become constricted due to a variety of causes resulting in plaque buildup within the interior walls.  At a certain point, a heart specialist makes a decision that correcting the problem either through medication or by widening / stenting the artery (angioplasty) will be less effective than bypassing the coronary artery itself.  When CABG is performed, an artery from another part of the body is grafted to portions of one or more coronary arteries to bypass the narrowings.  The end result is improved blood supply to the heart and more reliable circulation in general.

Just as the heart nourishes the body by pumping oxygen and nutrients through the circulatory system, companies use software systems to circulate information and feedback throughout their organizations.  The information circulatory system not only carries information from the strategic apex (where senior leadership resides) to the rest of the organization, but also collects information from the organizational structure comprised of divisions and departments and returns it to the strategic apex.  The primary role of an information system is to nourish the organization with the right information at the right time for the right people so they can make the right decisions.

What does a company do when it has the underlying data in its network of systems, but cannot effectively extract it?

Some companies fruitlessly attempt to work with their existing software vendors to improve decision-making capability only to find those vendors are not in the business of customizing their software.  The unspoken truth is these vendors just don’t make enough revenue catering to the custom needs of clients; their money is in the standardization of the information workflows.  They need their customer base to pay recurring license fees based on standardized functionality.  Companies that want to improve their ability to extract meaningful information by working with their existing software vendors often do so in vain.  In our heart metaphor, this is akin to an angioplasty or medication option when the bypass option would have been more effective.

Often for companies that have constricted information flows, the recommended procedure is bypass surgery.   Rather than declare the software system dead and in need of replacement—we recognize the software limitations and then we bypass those limitations.  Due to the inability and lack of desire of many software providers to solve these data integration problems, a whole host of companies have cropped up that gather data, combine it in uniquely meaningful ways, and serve that information back to those who need it most.  Prior to the surgery, we ensure the organization is aligned correctly and measuring the right behaviors.  During the surgery, we graft in the 3rd-party software that specializes in data extraction and use that software to integrate that data from disparate databases and create effective data visualizations.

In a recent example, we encountered a company that had compartmentalized information into nine silos – [1] order fulfillment and production scheduling, [2] time management, [3] hr / payroll, [4] inventory, [5] production quality, [6] fuel system, [7] GPS tracking and delivery quality, [8] repair & maintenance, and [9] finance and accounting.  As part of our project with them, we demonstrated the value of tying metrics together from different subsystems so that better decisions could be made.  The diagnosis was made and the bypass surgery was scheduled, but we still had to implement.   Although the implementation is not yet complete, we have begun to realize a dramatic increase in their company net profit—from 7 percent to 12 percent.  That means for every $100 dollars in revenue, the company now makes $12 dollars in profit instead of $7 dollars.

Constricted Information bypass surgery is a relatively new procedure and carries business disruption risks, but done by the right team of business surgeons, the disruptions can be managed and even eliminated.  If you know of a business that has constricted information flow, then we would appreciate an opportunity to diagnose and treat the condition.

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