Innovating then and Now

Download Innovating then and Now

Post on 14-Apr-2017

213 views

Category:

Documents

1 download

TRANSCRIPT

  • This article was downloaded by: [Univ of Louisiana at Lafayette]On: 20 December 2014, At: 05:43Publisher: Taylor & FrancisInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Information Systems ManagementPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/uism20

    Innovating then and NowPaul Gray aa School of Information Science, Claremont Graduate University , Claremont, CaliforniaPublished online: 21 Dec 2006.

    To cite this article: Paul Gray (2006) Innovating then and Now, Information Systems Management, 23:4, 80-84, DOI:10.1201/1078.10580530/46352.23.4.20060901/95117.11

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1201/1078.10580530/46352.23.4.20060901/95117.11

    PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE

    Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable forany losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use ofthe Content.

    This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

    http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/uism20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1201/1078.10580530/46352.23.4.20060901/95117.11http://dx.doi.org/10.1201/1078.10580530/46352.23.4.20060901/95117.11http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • 80 W W W . I S M - J O U R N A L . C O MF A L L 2 0 0 6

    INNOVATING THEN AND NOW

    Paul Gray

    Steven Alter. The Work SystemMethod: Combining People, Pro-cesses, and IT for Business Results.Larkspur, CA: Work System Press,2006, 280 pp.

    Stanley Bing. Rome Inc.: The Riseand Fall of the First MultinationalCorporation . New York: W.W.Norton & Co., 2006, 197 pp.

    Victor Fey and Eugene Rivin. Inno-vation on Demand: New ProductDevelopment Using TRIZ. Cam-bridge University Press, 2005, 242pp.

    Jay Liebowitz. Strategic Intelligence:Business Intelligence, CompetitiveIntelligence, and Knowledge Man-agement. Boca Raton, FL: AuerbachPublications, 2006, 223 pp.

    LL FOUR OF THE BOOKS RE-viewed for this column reflectthe reality that IS managementissues are intertwined with

    management trends, as IT is becom-ing a more routine part of doing busi-ness. In two cases (Bing in Rome, Inc.and Fey and Rivin in Innovation), thebooks do not target IS managementreaders but contain valuable lessonsfor us all.

    (One of the books reviewed, Stra-tegic Intelligence: Business Intelli-gence, Competitive Intelligence, andKnowledge Management by Jay Lie-bowitz is published by Auerbach Pub-lications, which publishes this

    journal. It was selected because of thesubjects it covers and the authorship,not because of its publisher. A previ-ous book by the same author, Knowl-edge Management Handbook, alsopublished by Auerbach, was reviewedhere in 1999.)

    WORK SYSTEMSFor more than a decade, Steven Alterhas been working on the appropriateway to think about and describe infor-mation systems. He is that rare individ-ual whose work background includeseight years as a vice president for alarge Silicon Valley company; he holdsa Ph.D. in the management of informa-tion systems from MITs Sloan School;and he is now a professor in San Fran-cisco. What he does in The Work Sys-tem Method is present an importantsystemic, integrated way of approach-ing the underlying concepts of theMIS field.

    Alter argues that systems in organi-zations are best viewed as work sys-tems. He defines a work system as asystem in which human participantsand/or machines perform work usinginformation, technology, and other re-sources to produce products and/orservices for internal or external cus-tomers. Work systems can be any ac-tivity, whether it be approving loansin a bank, finding and qualifying salesprospects, buying gifts on a Web site,or developing software. Thus, worksystems focus on more than IT, butIT is an integral part of most work

    systems today. By changing our viewabout IT from being an entity unto it-self to being embedded in work sys-tems, Alter changes the way we thinkabout what it is we do.

    Alter creates a work system frame-work consisting of nine elements, asshown in Figure 1 (taken from thebook). At the base are participants, in-formation, and technologies, whichinteract with work practices. Workpractices, in turn, affect products andservices, which interact with custom-ers. All are affected by infrastructure,environment, and strategies. Con-ceived in this way, the frameworkhelps summarize almost all systems inan organization.

    The work system method can beused in three levels:

    Identifying the systems problem Analyzing the work system and find-

    ing possible ways of improving it Recommending and justifying

    changes

    Alter presents chapters dealingwith how to define a specific worksystem, how to identify issues andpossible improvements, how to justifyrecommendations, and the work sys-tem life cycle. In doing so, he enunci-ates 24 work system principles thatsupport the nine-element frameworkin Figure 1. Individually, these princi-ples are straightforward; for example,minimize effort consumed by technol-ogy or provide information where itwill affect action. Their power comeswhen all 24 are applied together,

    PAUL GRAY is professor emeritus at the School of Information Science, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California.

    A

    BOOKISMS

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    v of

    Lou

    isia

    na a

    t Laf

    ayet

    te]

    at 0

    5:43

    20

    Dec

    embe

    r 20

    14

  • 81I N F O R M A T I O N S Y S T E M S M A N A G E M E N TF A L L 2 0 0 6

    BOOKISMS

    because then the full force of theframework comes into play.

    In discussing the work system lifecycle, Alter points out, for example,that the development phase for awork system involves much morethan building the software. Becausechanging the software used in a sys-tem usually changes the work system,business and IT people need to inter-act during the development process.They need to recognize that businessrequirements change once the projectis underway and make sure that whatIT does is aligned with the needs ofthe business.

    Having talked about the conceptu-al aspects of the work system methodas a whole in the first seven chapters,Alter turns to the practical problemsthat need to be solved in the booksremaining eight chapters. He beginswith a detailed analysis of the worksystem for generating a banks loanportfolio, focusing on each of the indi-vidual elements in Figure 1. He thenexamines the elements individually.Because these discussions can bequite complex, Alter often resorts to

    lists and tables to make his points. Hestarts with customers and ends withenvironment and strategies.

    The book concludes by consideringthe work system ideas in a broad con-text. Here Alter considers not only thepositive findings but also the limita-tions of work systems. The work sys-tems approach, although highly usefulin most situations, is not always appro-priate. Among his examples are infra-structure decisions, which should beanalyzed from an enterprise perspec-tive, and organizational politics. Infor-mation systems are a work system thatprocesses information. In some cases(e.g., a dispatching system in a trans-portation company), it supports otherwork systems, and in others, informa-tion is the output (e.g., a business intel-ligence system) and the informationsystem is a work system of its own.Alter categorizes systems for officeautomation, communications, transac-tion processing, management informa-tion, decision support, knowledgemanagement, enterprise requirementsplanning, and customer relationshipplanning, among others, in terms of

    whether they are work systems, partsof other work systems, or somethingelse. For example, enterprise resourceplanning systems are categorized aspart of a firms infrastructure.

    Alters concluding points include:

    A work systems approach can helpeven when a complete analysis isnot needed.

    Business and IT professionals canuse work systems as an organizedway to think about systems (and away to reduce complexity).

    A purely techno-centric approachcan be misleading. Not only does itleave out people i s sues but ,because of its fascination with thelatest technologies, it can lose sightof the continual changes that affectthe way work systems perform.

    A lengthy appendix, which in-cludes analysis checklists and tem-plates, should help practitionersbegin to use the work system method.

    This book is well written and easyto follow. It should appeal both to prac-titioners and to academics because itpresents a different way of thinking

    FIGURE 1 Alters Work System Framework ( Steven Alter, 2006. Reprinted with permission of the author.)

    ST

    RA

    TE

    GI

    ES

    TN

    EM

    NO

    RI

    VN

    E

    I N F R A S T R U C T U R E

    PRODUCTS & SERVICES

    PARTICIPANTS INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES

    WORK PRACTICES

    CUSTOMERS

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    v of

    Lou

    isia

    na a

    t Laf

    ayet

    te]

    at 0

    5:43

    20

    Dec

    embe

    r 20

    14

  • 82 W W W . I S M - J O U R N A L . C O MF A L L 2 0 0 6

    BOOKISMS

    about what information systems areand the role they really play in busi-ness today.

    INTELLIGENCE THE BIG PICTUREOver the last several years, I havelooked at (and in some cases reviewedin this column) books on knowledgemanagement, business intelligence,and occasionally competitive intelli-gence. All these fields are related to oneanother; for example, knowledge man-agement is a prerequisite for businessintelligence and competitive intelli-gence is a subfield of business intelli-gence. Until the appearance of JayLiebowitzs Strategic Intelligence, abook that ties these separate fields to-gether had not been identified by thisreviewer. Liebowitz pulls them togeth-er and argues that they are part of anew I that he calls strategic intelli-gence.

    As is true for many books that in-troduce a new concept, Strategic In-telligence is a small book; it consists of88 pages (including brief cases) writ-ten by the author, plus 119 pages thatcontain nine full cases contributed byothers. Furthermore, many of thechapters and cases deal with the indi-vidual components, and only a smallpercentage of the book deals with thesubject of their convergence. What isnew is the material that deals withconnecting the pieces.

    Liebowitz defines strategic intelli-gence as follows:

    SI is the aggregation of the othertypes of intelligence to provideadded information and knowl-edge toward making organiza-tional strategic decisions.

    He points out that in the military,strategic intelligence is used to refer toknowledge and information that canhelp in high-level decision making.

    As indicated, the strategic intelli-gence process involves knowledgemanagement, business intelligence(in the sense of knowing about yourown company), and competitive intel-ligence (knowing about the externalenvironment). To reach a decision

    also requires assessing the competi-tive strategic risk. Many techniquesare available. The classic SWOT(strengths, weaknesses, opportuni-ties, threats) analysis, usually donequalitatively, is perhaps the simplest.Others include the balanced score-card, scenario planning, social networkanalysis, and the analytic hierarchy pro-cess (AHP).

    Social network analysis involvesdrawing and analyzing the connected-ness between individuals. The basicassumption is that each individual in afirm is connected to others throughrelationships, information exchange,and other forms of mutual support.The extent of the connections rangesfrom individuals who are highly con-nected to others to people who arenearly loners. The same kind of analy-sis can be performed for the connec-tivity with other firms.

    AHP, a simple analytic technique de-veloped by Thomas Saaty of the Univer-sity of Pittsburgh more than 25 yearsago, involves ranking decision ele-ments and then making comparisonsbetween each possible pair. The resultis a weighting of the possible decisionsas well as a consistency ratio that al-lows one to check the consistency ofthe data. Liebowitz describes using theAHP for deciding which of seven docu-ment management tools to select.

    Although discussed only briefly,these techniques are the beginningsof tying together the various elementsof strategic intelligence.

    The case studies deal mostly withthe elements of strategic intelligence.They cover both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. They range fromknowledge management at a nonprof-it foundation to help disadvantagedchildren; to Motorolas use of strategicscenarios; to the use of competitiveintelligence at a telecom, NorthropGrumman Corporation, and an inte-grated chip maker; and to two instanc-es of strategic intelligence studies,one for a highly influential nonprofit(AARP) and one for a biotech compa-ny in Mexico.

    This book is at the leading edge ofa new field. What is striking is that weare just at the beginning of the strate-

    gic intelligence wave. The studies, likethe explication of the concepts, arestill relatively simplistic. Yet it is a di-rection to watch.

    ONCE UPON A TIME IN ROMEThe premise of Stanley Bings RomeInc. is that we can look at the ancientRoman Empire as the original interna-tional mega-corporation. It lasted forapproximately 12 centuries. The booktreats the historical characters as mo-guls who were CEOs of the corpora-tion. Beautifully written, it providesmany insights about the way firms stillwork today. A chapter of the book ap-peared in the March 6 issue of For-tune magazine, for which the authoris a columnist. I was so fascinated bythis sample that I decided to read thebook and review it here to share myimpressions with you.

    Bing believes that Romes rise andfall provides many lessons about mul-tinationals that are still valid today. Heargues that the Mongols and the May-ans (who were also creators of largeempires) did not behave in a corpo-rate fashion, whereas Rome did: ev-eryone who was conquered by Romewas brought into the corporation.Rome sold citizenship to the world.Thus, if you were a minor functionary(read as minor manager) in a corner ofGaul, for example, would you want tobe top dog in your small, local fiefdomor would you rather be given thechance to rise toward the top in a bigfirm such as Rome, where, if you werelucky, you could see the big city, travelmore, get better perks, partake of thebaths, and even meet Caesar?

    Rome, like all major corporations,says Bing, began with a myth in thiscase, of the brothers Romulus and Re-mus, their grandfather, and the grand-fathers brother, who was the currentbad king of an area in Italy. Bing viewsthe bad king as the then (approximate-ly 750 BC) current CEO who had a rightto be paranoid about the brothersbecause they threatened his job ten-ure. The senior officers (vice presi-dents?) of course stayed loyal becausethe only severance offered was theirheads separated from their bodies.

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    v of

    Lou

    isia

    na a

    t Laf

    ayet

    te]

    at 0

    5:43

    20

    Dec

    embe

    r 20

    14

  • 83I N F O R M A T I O N S Y S T E M S M A N A G E M E N TF A L L 2 0 0 6

    BOOKISMS

    Having put their grandfather back inas CEO, the brothers moved down theroad a piece because they were notlikely to get the CEOs job for a while.The result was the founding of Rome,Inc. Needing loyalists, they gave citi-zenship to anyone who wanted it, in-cluding travelers, fugitives, soldiers,debtors, and more. Of course, thebrothers argued (about security andbuilding a wall), and Romulus, losinghis temper, divested the corporationof his brother. Hence the city wasnamed Rome, not Reme. In that onefateful act, he put an irrevocablebrand on the corporation.

    The foregoing paragraph mimicsBings delightful style, which continuesthroughout. Thus, the book is a historyof a long-standing corporation writtentongue-in-cheek from the viewpoint oftodays business environment. Usinghistory from the documents that sur-vived, Bing allows the reader to see theups and downs of the firm.

    For example, Bing views Romulusas an executive personality who es-tablishes a corporate culture. He char-acterizes him as an intelligent,strategic, dynamic individual who issquirrelly with neurotic pride, amor-al with uncontrolled anger and badimpulse control, yet ethical and deci-sive, with little sense of humor abouthimself. Sound familiar?

    Romulus established the corpora-tions base. To keep the rowdies incheck, he required that everyoneserve in the army. Of course therewere incidents, such as stealing theSabine women and the later mergerwith the Sabines. Hiring people awayfrom competitors and then absorbingthem into the corporation is still apresent-day phenomenon. As thecountry progressed over the next sev-eral centuries it became a republicand a well-run corporation. It sufferedfive strikes by the middle class peo-ple who were rich but not born to thenobility. Finally, procedural reformswere introduced to cure the worstills. With the reforms in place and alaw-abiding society, the corporationhad buy-in from the corporate mem-bers to go out and dominate all itscompetitors, who believed they had a

    right to be independent with theirown brands. A series of wars fol-lowed, the most famous of which arethe Punic Wars and the defeat of Han-nibal. Rome found there was no peacewithout continual war.

    Bing devotes a chapter to Marius,whom he claims was the first moguland characterizes as a crazy, juiced upbombastically angry mother whowouldnt stay down, no matterwhat. He then compares Mariusschutzpah to many of our present-day moguls from Walt Disney toJack Welch. Marius got himself electedconsul of Rome for one-year termsseven different times. (So much forterm limits.) Marius eventually died,only to be succeeded by his son andthen by Sulla, both of whom wereeven worse than he was. Bing won-ders what it was in the Roman charac-ter that made murder a business toolaccepted by senior managers. He lik-ens it to business journals congratulat-ing CEOs on their no-nonsenseapproach to headcount cuts.

    As in most firms, Romes bureau-crats grew fat, lazy, and bumbling.They could no longer manage the lifeof their multinational. Eventually, Ju-lius Caesar came along and reinventedthe corporation after a corporate take-over in 50 BC. Rome, Inc. lasted an-other 400 years.

    I could continue telling you aboutthe book, but it would rob you of thepleasure of reading it, as well youshould. Among the lessons for todaythat Bing draws is that Rome survivedas a corporation because it continual-ly reinvented itself. It was blessedwith highly effective, creative, vi-cious executives who had a cre-ative drive and who were willing tokill people by whatever means wereavailable. Corporations willing to killpeople do better than those that donot: if you do overthrow the currentmanagement, make sure the prede-cessors never come back. (Think ofMark Anthony disposing of Brutus,who killed Caesar.) CEOs must have astrong vision for the firm if they are togain the loyalty of senior and middlemanagers. Perpetual growth, al-though needed, also contains a dark

    side. It can be purchased only by con-tinual war, a Pyrrhic price. The core oflongevity is the ability to transform.These and other lessons are still truetoday, whether applied to the corpo-ration as a whole or to the IT depart-ment within it.

    GOING ABOUT INNOVATINGLike Stanley Bings book on Rome, In-novation on Demand, by Victor Feyand Eugene Rivin, is not a book writ-ten specifically for IS managers. Ittalks about a specific method, as itssubtitle, New Product DevelopmentUsing TRIZ, indicates. I decided to re-view it because many of its ideas carryover to our field.

    Conventional wisdom tells us thatunless companies change as the envi-ronment around them changes, theywill die. In most firms, the majorsources of change are innovations thatcome from R&D, from engineering,and from the IT shop. We know thatsoftware is a form of innovation thatcan change the way people and prod-ucts work. For example, think of cam-eras: analog film has been replaced bydigital storage and software comessupplied with each camera.

    Technical innovation can comefrom a disruptive technology (e.g.,the digital camera) or from product orprocedure improvements. Although ITshops are charged with being innova-tive (in addition to all their other du-ties), there is little literature that tells ITmanagers how to go about innovating.

    Fey and Rivin argue that organiza-tions face two stumbling blocks to in-novation: (1) lack of a technologystrategy and (2) the wrong conceptfor development. Selecting a (typical-ly) new technology that the marketwill demand in the future is tricky andrisky. History is littered with opposi-tion to new technologies, such ascomputers (a demand forecast for sixby Watson of IBM) or Bill Gates earlydisdain for the Internet. As to conceptsfor development, Fey and Rivin say weare still mired in a trial-and-errorapproach, a form of psychological iner-tia. As an example of overcoming suchinertia, the authors cite the Soviet

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    v of

    Lou

    isia

    na a

    t Laf

    ayet

    te]

    at 0

    5:43

    20

    Dec

    embe

    r 20

    14

  • 84 W W W . I S M - J O U R N A L . C O MF A L L 2 0 0 6

    BOOKISMS

    Name ________________________________________________

    Title _________________________________________________

    Company _____________________________________________

    Street Address ________________________________________

    City, State, ZIP ________________________________________

    Country/Postal Code ___________________________________

    Phone _______________________________________________

    E-mail Address ________________________________________

    Customers in CA, DC, FL, GA, IL, MA, MO, NJ, NM, NY, and TX, please add

    applicable sales tax. Canadian customers, please add GST.

    1 year (4 issues), $175

    Bill my purchase order # ___________________ attached

    Check for $ _______ enclosed, payable to Taylor & Francis

    Charge my: Visa Mastercard Amex

    Card No. ___________________________ Exp. Date ________

    Signature (required) ___________________________________

    Phone your order to: 1-800-272-7737Fax: 1-800-374-3401

    Mail: Taylor & Francis Group6000 Broken Sound Pkwy, Suite 300Boca Raton, FL 33487

    E-mail: orders@crcpress.com

    Start (or extend) my subscription to Information Systems Management

    Unions unmanned moon-landingproject that was to impact the darkside of the moon. The plan required il-luminating the dark side with a lightbulb. The engineers hit a brick wallwhen they tried to find a glass thatwould not shatter and break thelights vacuum on impact. The prob-lem was resolved when a senior engi-neer pointed out that the atmosphereon the moon was itself a vacuum andhence no glass was needed.

    The book centers around TRIZ, anacronym in Russian for the Theory ofInventive Problem Solving, publishedin 1956 by Genrikh Altshuller, a me-chanical engineer, whose work is onlynow coming to the fore in the UnitedStates. Altshuller received his firstpatent at the age of 16, spent eightyears in a gulag, and was only able topublish his ideas on TRIZ three yearsafter Stalins death. Altshuller lived un-til 1998, creating many disciples, in-cluding the authors of this book.

    The basic idea of TRIZ is that, al-though technology seems to follow arandom path in the short run, over thelong run it follows repeatable patternsthat can be formulated as laws. Thesepatterns can be applied systematicallyto create new technologies. This sys-tems view pervades the book. BecauseTRIZ is tied to models rather than spe-cific artifacts, it can be used to analyzeand synthesize any type of technology.

    TRIZ argues that technologicalsystems exist to perform functions.The definition of a function can betricky and can easily be incorrect. Forexample, it is not hot air that drieshair but hot air that evaporates water;it is not an incandescent bulb that illu-minates a room but an incandescentbulb that emits light. Defining func-tions correctly is critical, because thecustomer buys a system because ofthe functions it performs. In TRIZ, afunction consists of an object (some-thing to be controlled) and a tool thatperforms the control. From the fore-going, you can see the careful defini-tional structure involved to get thingsright. In TRIZ, rather than jumping topotential solutions when a problem isconfronted, the first step is to makesure the problem is formulated cor-rectly. TRIZ provides a series of stepsto improve formulation. Correct formu-lation leads to simplifying the problemand making its solution easier (some-times even to defining a solution).

    In the solution process, the sys-tems designer often encounters sys-tems conflicts. These conflicts arisewhen the improvement of some sys-tem attributes results in the deteriora-tion of other attributes. That is, auseful action simultaneously causes aharmful effect that reduces or elimi-nates the benefit from other features.

    Altshuller devised an algorithm tohelp solve problems innovatively. This

    algorithm, called ARIZ, is based onthree objectives: (1) formulating theproblem, (2) breaking the psychologi-cal inertia, and (3) combining the var-ious tools within TRIZ itself. Forexample, for breaking psychologicalinertia, Alshuller suggests not usingprofessional jargon to describe theproblem because the jargon reflectsthe existing views of the system,which in turn create psychologicalbarriers. Furthermore, rather than try-ing to alleviate system conflicts,Alshuller recommends aggravatingsuch conflicts by driving them to theirextremes. By doing so, the designer isforced to think the problem throughand develop a deeper understanding.

    The book concludes with a set oflaws of technological system evolu-tion. Evolutionary trends can come inproducts, technologies, and process-es. The laws can be used to identifyand develop the next likely technolog-ical innovations. Where there are mul-tiple lines of evolution, the process isrepeated for each line.

    For TRIZ to become applicable ininformation systems will require ex-tensive translation of its methods andlaws to the information environment.More realistically, the book is worthreading for the stimulation it givesmanagers to think about innovation intheir own environments.

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    v of

    Lou

    isia

    na a

    t Laf

    ayet

    te]

    at 0

    5:43

    20

    Dec

    embe

    r 20

    14

    Information Systems ManagementInnovating Then and NowWork SystemsIntelligence - The Big PictureOnce Upon a Time in RomeGoing About Innovating