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Labels, labels, everywhere…

November 17th, 2010 1 comment

Human nature forces people to simplify, to identify items, categorize them, and to put a label on them. I see this when my wife’s rescue organization (Echo Dogs White Shepherd Rescue) gets a new foster dog. “Oh, that looks like a white german shepherd crossed with a yorkie”.

Romeo

Romeo

Do I really know that Romeo (don’t ask) is has Yorkie in him? No, not for sure. But I look at him and see that he’s certainly part WGS and has a shorter nose and curly, downy fur, so I sort through my mental pictures of dog breeds and come back with a touch of Yorkie. In the future, once he’s found a “forever” home (in rescue terms), I’ll remember him using that mix because that makes it easier for me to recall a picture of him.

I often see this phenomenon manifested in enterprise software through the evaluation and purchasing cycles, typically in the form of “I need an XYZ system to solve this problem.” Ironically, software vendors and analysts often compound the problem through labeling of software solutions. Think of all the Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) that you might or might not be familiar with: CRM, ERP, BPM(S), ECM, CEP, BPA, BTM, CAS, BRM(S). Why do we, as members of the community, do this to ourselves and to our customers? More often than not it’s out of a desire to explain that something we have is different than the rest of the solutions out there.

Take Adaptive Case Management as an example. Case Management has been around for quite some time in paper and electronic format, and people who do it understand the concept. However the latest generation of solutions represent a huge step forward in terms of user empowerment, flexibility and productivity. So do you call that Case Management? Or come up with a new term like Adaptive (WfMC), Dynamic (Forrester) or something else entirely (various marketing departments)? For the sake of emphasis, an evolutionary name like Adaptive Case Management is intended to say “hey, this is still Case Management as you’ve known it, but significantly more powerful. And for those of you who don’t manage cases, well, this still might help you because it’s about improving knowledge worker productivity, something many businesses face.”

No sooner do you refer to something that is vaguely familiar with a new name then the religious wars start. “BPM can do that and ACM is a naughty boy.” “Case Management is just a part of my CRM solution.” “No, it has documents so it’s part of Enterprise Content Management.” “We’ve had that and ERP and TPS reports in one solution forever, in fact we invented it!” Not only that but the poor individual who says “gee, I think I have something different here” is strapped to the mast and given 50 lashes!

If I were speaking now rather than writing, and in person rather than behind a keyboard, you’d see I write this with mirth in my voice and a smile on my face rather than frustration and a frown. After all, this IS human nature we’re dealing with here, so it’s completely understandable that people react the way they do.

However there is a real problem with all of these TLAs, which is that they are labels, (il)logical groupings of capabilities created to make it easier to identify solutions to what are perceived as common problems. Do most companies really care what technology is used to drive performance improvements or to realize cost savings? Not in my mind, no. What they care about is that the tools they put in front of their employees, customers and partners don’t handicap their ability to get their job done.

The question I have is how to get around alphabet soup and simply identify and communicate the value of a solution to a business problem? Any thoughts?

Categories: Case Management

The beginning of a long road

November 11th, 2010 No comments

Those of you who have known me for a few years might remember that I ran the NYC Marathon in 2007 with the goal of raising money for Boston Children’s Hospital. The short version of the story is that through the kindness of friends and strangers alike, Children’s received almost $9,000. I held up my end of the deal by finishing in 4 hours and 23 minutes (plus or minus). Not bad considering that my time in 2003 was 4:59 and I was 4 years older (and rounder). All things considered I was very happy with the results since I’m not exactly built like a marathoner.

About a week ago I signed up for the Tough Mudder New England, to be held on May 7, 2011 at Mount Snow in Vermont. You can read more about the event here. I honestly don’t know what got into me, I’m so far from being in the shape I need to be in order to finish the event. I guess age, ego and a desire to do something notable. Perhaps more importantly, I’ll be running for Children’s again. My goal is to raise $2,500 at a minimum, although I do have a secret “stretch” goal (sorry, can’t tell you yet).

If you’re feeling generous, or maybe even if you’re not, feel free to head on over to my fundraising page at the Children’s Hospital site. All the money raised goes to pay for some of the best pediatric care available in the world, and many times helps those that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford care at all.

I’ll tell you more about why I’m doing this shortly, but that’s a topic for another day. In the mean time, I’ve started training this week, and let me tell you, it’s a good thing it’s a long time between now and the event, I need every day of it.

Categories: Charity