The future of enterprise : a matter of service

Summary : nothing better than thinking about service when imagining the future of enterprise. Because it’s both the foundation of new economic models. Because these models force us to rethink how our organizations work toward more agility and adaptability and see people and competences as services. Last because because providing people with a work environment that fits this new context will turn social tools as unifying front-ends that will use and combine all other applications…as services.

When we talk about the foundations on which organizations will lie, we often mention transparency, sharing and many other founding principles. As for me, rather then endless inventories, I think that’s there’s a single central concept on which everything should lie and clearly shows the direction we should follow.

This principle is : service(s).

Why ?

Because service is at the core of economic activities. I’m not talking about the fact service activities are prevailing in our economies but that any good or service will be sold, bought and consumed as a service. Even manufactured goods. People won’t buy cars but mobility and I recently read an article about a company that stopped selling manufacturing machines to their customers but a given level of production and productivity. That has a major impact on organization, management, decision making, autonomy etc. Autonomy and initiative must get closer to the fiels.

That’s a shift from a system when thinking happens at the top and execution at the bottom to a system when organization must be able to think and act in front of the customer with the support of the hierarchical lane. Remember my former posts on services managementt, turning the management lane upside down or empowerment.

Because employees are services. If we acknowledge than the sequenced and linear production model does not work anymore that that we need smarter and adaptive processes and that case management and “adhoc” are the new normal, the concern changes. It becomes about mobilizing the right competences and information at the right place and time to make a decision, find a solution. In this context, from an HR standpoint, people are not defined anymore by their position and job description but by something wider : their general background (past experiences, competences they have outside of the scope of their job, knowledge of a given field…). From specialized (or even locked-in) resources they’ll become a potential from problem solving that should be mobilized when needed.

Tomorrow what will make the difference between good managers and others will be how talented they’ll be at mobilizing and making the required services work jointly in a system where one’s role won’t be to execute a sequence predefined actions, without initiative, but meet internal customers’ needs. What refers to service oriented organizations.

Because employees’ tools are services. Employees mobilize services to achieve their mission. These services are made of people, as seen above, and tools. We know these tools : social networks, collaboration tools, business applications (crm, erp, project management tool….) etc. The many discussions about social networks, their place in the work environment, what they are or aren’t, have one purpose : making tools work together and not build another silo. Since we can predict that in a couple of years email and social networks will merge into a digital collaboration hub aggregating signals and information from any source and making it easy to act and collaborate upon them, we can see what “social” really means. That’s not an adjective applying to networking platform but the link between scattered applications and services and those who use them, the whole leading to a global and collaborative front end.

This need for coherence, to bring the information and functionalities one use in a single and unified environment even if they’re scattered in many applications will lead to ability to work in a single context without needing to switch tools depending on the information people need, action they need to perform or people they need to access.

Maybe you’re thinking there’s nothing new there. That’s called SOA and is so complicated that it rarely kept its promises in the past. By the way that’s funny to notice the that post where Andrew McAfee coined the term “enterprise 2.0″ for the first time was titled Enterprise 2.0 vs. SOA. But while SOA was more about architecture and low layers, social platforms will favor service and front-end focused approaches. I find Jeff Schick’s words on social platforms as “SOA for the front office” very insightful.

Anyway. These are 3 goods reasons for a service-based approach to business.