Uncertainty: The Business Survival Game

Business uncertainty is the unknown in the organization and in the field of business relevant to company operation. While uncertainty cannot be measured, a business can take steps to protect the future of its employees and customers.

The Business Environment and Evolution

With the on-going – or should I say, never-ending? – Brexit debate (…end October 2019 was not it, after all!), and the uncertainty in the way this story is yet to evolve, it is no surprise that markets dealing with British business environments are somewhat cautious. But of course, this is only one aspect of current affairs we have all heard about, that is a cause for uncertainty.

Moving on to the business environment, regularly changing operational and market demands, updates to regulations and legislation, changes in public or enterprise policies, changes in the leadership of organisations, and other similar situations bring on the need for a constant catch-up game.

In response, organisations need to review strategies and objectives, and subsequently process activities. Some of these changes are responded to reactively, other organisations try to be smarter and tend to treat this more proactively. This turmoil and demand for evolutionary development only make matters more difficult to manage.

One of the typical symptoms is that people get scuffled in keeping up with what is expected of them. A few identified risks are an inevitable deterioration of performance and an experience of difficulty in keeping up; leading to potential frustration…perhaps also the resignation of key personnel. This no doubt creates voids and weaknesses within the structure. That is when competitors get on the strike! When your organisation is drained of the right resources (and the expertise they carry with them as a result of years of loyalty and experience building).

Organisations need to maintain a rolling, constantly reviewed plan of action. Perhaps a five-year plan may be too long reaching? A shorter-term plan that is more plausible? A plan which is regularly reviewed and updated to ensure it is continually aligned with ever-changing requirements.

The Effect of Gen Y in the Workforce

One of the more concerning issues being identified by local entrepreneurs is the knock-on effect of the Gen Y and expat culture in terms of job-hopping opportunities being sought.

Deloitte surveyed 10,455 Gen Y – born between 1983 and December 1994 from 36 countries – and found that 43 per cent of millennials plan to leave their current jobs within two years and only 28 per cent have plans to stay beyond five years.

Today’s workforce is becoming highly diluted, unlike in the past where training employees would span a few weeks, but employers knew they could possibly retain them for years, if not decades. Most Gen Y abandons their employer before they had the time to return the maximum value. Hence the importance for companies to have processes and systems that can adapt to the high turnover, retain knowledge and guarantee business continuity.

With the exodus being a constant battle to fight, possible mitigation is to seek ways to retain business information and to make tasks as independent of an individual as possible. In an ideal scenario, a new employee could seamlessly resume the work of his/her predecessor almost instantaneously.

The keywords here are process simplification and standardisation. As a result of this trend business managers should no longer rely on the loyalty of employees but on the soundness of their internal systems.

Uncertainty, fluidity and transformation

Immaterial of the executional model of the business, the value and quality of the ultimate service/product offering must not affect the customer experience. Maximising on efficiency and effectiveness of the operations are significant factors for success.

With the constant factor of change and turnover of workforce discussed above, acting against sustained stability, the uncertainty and fluidity status within the business environment calls for careful management of the situation at hand.

It is high time that organisations realise the need to transform their business model, not only to one that is more aligned with the current demands, but furthermore: a model that is capable to evolve to the other unknowns brought about by the future state. Holding on to the traditional business model is a fate that sees its days being counted out fast.

Top management needs to accept the fact that operational activities need constant review and evolution to the everchanging environment. We feel that the simplification of processes and restricting these to the core value-adding activities simplifies the effort of evolution. When it comes to the technology component, legacy solutions may be a challenge to move around, make changes or adaptations. However, through the application of more flexible technology tools, a mixed integration model may facilitate the automation of specific activities and tasks. With simplified methodologies, fully defined and streamlined processes to optimise execution effort, and with the right level of technology to facilitate the operational aspects, future organisational survival stands a better chance.

At BEAT, we believe in bringing value where it matters. Through our approaches and methodologies, we work with the clients to introduce the right level of transformation best suited to the business.

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by Ing. Joseph Micallef, Chief Operations Officer / Partner at BEAT Limited

Leveraging blockchain for competitive business models

It is safe to say that to date, the success of most blockchain applications in the international market has proven elusive.

Over the last years, thousands of coin offerings have plunged to their death sucking in millions of dollars in investment, in what can easily be referred to as bogus concepts. One might, therefore, be forgiven for dismissing blockchain technology as the latest fad destined to lose its lustre in the foreseeable future.

However, nothing is further from the truth. Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt not only the fundamentals of how business is done but also the basic building blocks of civilisation.

Let’s take a step back and remind ourselves what blockchain is really about. Essentially, blockchain technology uses distributed (not decentralised – which are two completely different things) ledger technology to create a trust-based network that greatly minimises transaction costs, flattening layers of hierarchical decision-making to bring the process in line with the highly dynamic external environment that organisations face.

Unfortunately, most blockchain applications have failed to exploit this basic and phenomenal opportunity to undertake such a paradigm shift. Many applications claim to ‘disrupt industry’ while doing nothing more than applying the same business models using a different technology.  In fact, parallels are often drawn with the dot.com bubble experienced in 2001, during which several internet models failed simply because they emulated brick and mortar business models in an electronic format. It was only after a considerably painful shakeout that successful on-line businesses, such as Amazon and eBay, emerged as winners in the Internet revolution.

I believe that it is only a matter of time until we see similarly successful business models maximising the benefits of blockchain technology to create a competitive advantage. This will only happen, however, if businesses are open to viewing things from a completely different perspective.

In my opinion, the best blockchain applications of the future in business will be those that create a genuine democratisation process amongst customers, suppliers and employees of the company. Such applications will essentially devolve power to these stakeholders in order to transact business without significant intervention from the centre.  Take as an example a basic traditional health care business model, wherein a patient calls up a hospital for a doctor’s appointment: nowadays, the hospital schedules the appointment, the doctor retrieves the patient’s data from a central database, visits the patient, and registers the visit in the system.  The hospital then charges the patient for the visit.

Through distributed ledger technology, this concept can be literally turned on its head, wherein the personal data would be owned by the patient, who would schedule an appointment with his doctor of choice and share the data solely with the doctor. Fees would be settled directly. This process essentially gives power to both the patient and the doctor to transact business and share data between them. All of this would be carried out within the framework of a trusted network, without the intervention of an expensive intermediary, whilst guaranteeing confidentiality and the ownership of patient data throughout the process.

When could all this happen? The pace of transition from centralised to distributed systems remains in question, with limitations being more of a cultural nature as opposed to technological factors. Is management ready to concede power to its employees, customers and even suppliers, thereby creating a distributed decision-making process that is faster, closer to source and less exposed to corruption (due to a lack of single point of failure)?  More importantly, can organisations trust an algorithm – in the form of a smart contract – to process a complex maze of transactions without the intervention of a ‘big brother’ overseeing the entire process?

Only time will tell whether human nature can overcome its urge for emphatic control, long embedded in our DNA since the birth of civilisation, and adopt unprecedented democratic decision making processes that will yield significantly faster and more effective decisions. Processes which could lead to the creation of agile, highly innovative and closely knitted organisation ecosystems, enabled by distributed ledger technologies and smart contract applications.

Click here to learn more about our advisory services or send us an email.

by David Galea, Chief Executive Officer / Founder at BEAT Limited

BEAT awarded ISO Quality Management System certification

BEAT Limited has been awarded the prestigious ISO9001:2015 certification for its Quality Management System.

Commenting on this milestone for the Group, BEAT Chief Operating Officer Ing. Joseph Micallef explained that the third party certification audit of the firm’s Quality Management Systems by SGS Italia S.p.A., “follows months of intensive work, during which all mandated and required systems were laid out and subsequently implemented as part of our daily operations over a period of time.”

BEAT Limited’s CEO, David Galea, stated that “This formal acknowledgement of the high standards of our Quality Management System – something which is relatively rare in the consulting and advisory sector – further sustains our reputation as a leading provider of dynamic, innovative, and value-driven solutions. Having a Quality Management System certified to an internationally acclaimed standard demonstrates the commitment to quality, as well as consistency in delivery through well-defined and structured organisational processes and operations.”

The evolution of Business Process Management

Despite the uptake of Business Process Management across the business spectrum around the world, there is still some confusion on how BPM works and what is expected of it. Over the past years, the term Business Process Management has become somewhat of a buzzword, and we do hear a lot of different definitions of what this discipline should be about. Some may define it as automation, others as process mapping, still others may be something different altogether.

Rather than restricting BPM to the confines of an ‘improvement method’, a ‘software system’ or of ‘knowledgeable people’, we should see BPM in the light of its capability to combine these three (and more) to produce value for the organisation. As to what BPM does, we can then move on to specify that BPM is a capability that identifies, designs, documents, monitors, optimises and assists in the execution of an organisation’s processes. And how is this capability achieved? For BPM to take root and be effective, one needs enabling policies, methods, metrics, roles and technologies. This is a tall order indeed, and that is why doing BPM well is challenging, takes time, and requires particular skills and managerial qualities from those who lead it.

Intelligent Business Process Management

In recent years, we have been seeing the emergence of the concept of Intelligent Business Process Management, otherwise known as iBPM. Again, we are in the presence of another evolving concept. The differences between BPM software and iBPM software are few, as one is the extension of the other. BPM is a tool used for designing and executing business processes, whereas iBPM is a subcategory of BPM that leverages BPM’s analytics and intelligence capabilities. What renders iBPM more complete as a concept, however, is that it combines BPM with a decision management strategy that allows for rules-based and analytical decision-making to be embedded in a process, adding in the ingredients of analytics and big data to established BPM methodologies, and giving BPM that added dynamism.

The evolution of BPM

How did this evolution occur? By the mid-1980s, the business world was witnessing two important developments that gave a jolt to process thinking. First, personal computers were heading towards widespread use as a tool that would greatly decrease the cost of producing and conveying information. Just as importantly, we saw the emergence of Total Quality Management, or TQM, which led to the widespread adoption of quality improvement initiatives within organisations.

In the 1990s, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, and the discipline of Supply Chain Management, once again changed the process landscape. ERPs led to the embedding of transactional processes into computer programmes, and Supply Chain Management led to thinking about planning processes that required communications in data flow across organisational boundaries. By the beginning of the new millennium, both the Lean Six Sigma methodology, that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste and reducing variation, and the concept of Operational Excellence, with its envisaged rigorous attention to processes, would have a strongly positive impact through the following decade.

The latest pieces of the BPM puzzle began coming together with the introduction of commercial BPM software products. The evolution of BPM technology, like most technology, has happened quickly. Within the industry, we have seen great strides and early adopters who have undertaken the exploitation of such ‘capability building blocks’ and have come along on that journey to see truly revolutionary advances. Meanwhile, BPM and BPM tools, or BPMS as they are commonly known (Business Process Management Suites) continue to evolve as a result of organisational demands to increase process definition flexibility, rapidness to evolve, and to meet ever-increasing quality demands in a timely and proactive manner. As more enterprises look at streamlining processes and building leaner, more efficient business models, so must BPM technology become more effective and responsive to such changing demands

Looking ahead

Finally, we need to keep in mind what does not represent the totality of BPM. BPM is not just automation and it is not just about technology. It certainly isn’t something that should be confined to the IT Department. Essentially, effective BPM requires bringing together the people who will be driving the change, with the methodologies and BPM tools, including technology, which will facilitate the process. All this should be spurred by a vision with clear goals and strategies, with a BP champion to lead the effort within the team or the company.

These champions, or leaders, need to ensure that the right transformational, operational and technical competence is in place across the BPM programme team, in order to improve cross-functional performance and achieve the set goals. They also need to communicate effectively how BPM projects will dovetail with strategic business outcomes, so that process participants can understand and appreciate the benefits. Ultimately, these champions and BPM practitioners will prove critical towards crafting a discipline with the same characteristics of flexibility, transparency and adaptability that corporate businesses wish to establish by utilising BPM.

Many of today’s management veterans remember the days when processes were stored inside people’s heads. Apart from the inherent inconsistency in execution this generated, time was wasted creating and conveying information. Work got done, but productivity was much lower than it is now, and unfortunately, more undesirable incidents such as errors, injuries and other ‘mishaps’ occurred. Since those early days, we have seen great strides in new technology and approaches to management that have transformed the ‘process landscape’. These spurred the evolution of a customer-centric and process-centric approach to improving business results that has come to be known as Business Process Management (BPM).

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