Saket’s phrase about extending ERP beyond the flows of time, money and materials seems to resonate loudly in these conversations, but the P stands for planning. We may want to track influences and may indeed plan some, but we clearly don’t plan all of them by any stretch. And I’m not sure influence is a Resource quite like money and materials either.
So we’ve found that we often refer back to some of the biological metaphors that have emerged during our discussions. If there is any planning or controlling or management then it’s analogous to our bodies own nervous system and brain: sensory neurons detect / receive data and information; interneurons transfer and interpret; the brain does what it does; and motor neurons send appropriate instructions / responses.
It sounded a bit odd at first until we realized how many biology related metaphors already pepper our vocabulary: the heart of the business, and the pulse; the lifeblood of the business; getting a project up and running; the ears, eyes and mouth of the business; the muscle and the fat.
John put us more at ease by sending round some quotes by Bill Gates from his 1999 book Business @ the Speed of Thought. Gates refers to “the digital nervous system” of business and calls information flow the lifeblood. We thought if it was good enough for Mr. Gates a dozen years ago, it was good enough for us now.
You have been influenced when you think something you wouldn’t otherwise have thought or do something you wouldn’t otherwise have done.
The report then documents the idea I’d put forward in the planning meeting – about the ‘i’ of IT really being the ‘i’ of influence. So we’ll skip down to Saket’s first major contribution of the day.
Organizations have invested in ERP systems since they emerged in the early-90s, and their preceding technologies before that. Enterprise Resource Planning is all about using IT to track the flows of time, money and materials. However, with the advent of social media and related technologies, and with the extension of today’s social monitoring and analytics services, we increasingly have the nascent facility to track the flow of influence.
Saket described six influence flows:
- Our organization’s influence with stakeholders
- Our stakeholders’ influence with each other with respect to us
- Our stakeholders’ influence with our organization
- Our competitors’ influence with stakeholders
- Stakeholders’ influence with each other with respect to our competitors
- Stakeholders’ influence with our competitors.
I remember BB asking for an explanation of “stakeholder”, although that didn’t make the final report. Perhaps it should have. A stakeholder is anyone with an interest in an organization or something the organization is involved in – a customer, shareholder, employee, local resident, etc.
Saket summed up the value of tracking the flow of influence: “The ease and effectiveness with which we can manage and learn from influence flows is integral to the process by which customers, citizens and all stakeholders interact with organizations to broker mutually valuable, beneficial relationships.”
In plainer English, it’s central to doing business; always has been, always will be, except now we can be better at it, more scientific, more joined up, more disciplined.