Category Archives: Just Jay

The Real-Time Enterprise

This afternoon I read The Real-time Enterprise, a prescient new book by Peter Fingar and Joseph Bellini. This is a management book, not a techie book. It’s subject is executing strategy, not IT.

When I approach a topic that’s on the horizon but not fully evolved, my first question is, “Does it matter?” Here’s the authors’ take on that:

    “This shift to business process management is the biggest change in the use of business automation since the first commercial computer was delivered on June 14, 1951.”


    “Cutting to the chase, what smart companies have learned is that the universal connectivity of the Internet can be applied to how a company accomplishes its work processing and strategy execution to achieve operational innovation by squeezing out time.”


A few paragraphs from the introduction to the book by Dr. Max More

    “Never mind New Economy vs. Old Economy industries. What matters is if your business enjoys intelligently revised and technologically enhanced business processes. Business process innovation is beginning to move in concert with accelerating technological evolution. Say goodbye to the New Economy; meet the Now Economy. We are witnessing the emergence of real-time enterprises (RTEs) that will comprise the bulk of the Now Economy. In the Now Economy, information flows rapidly through supply and demand chains, crossing corporate boundaries, ensuring maximum efficiency and responsiveness.

    The ideal vision of the RTE is one of companies where information moves without hindrance, and business processes are continuously monitored and trigger rapid reactions, usually automated according to embedded business rules. RTEs also sense shifts in tastes and practices and respond by offering new products and services. Automated processes easily traverse corporate boundaries, time zones, media and systems. Batch processes and manual input are minimized by ensuring that real-time information among employees, customers, partners and suppliers is current and coherent. The Now Economy is the instantaneous, frictionless economy of economists’ legend—the mythical beast that may fi-nally be emerging from the mist. The Now Economy is a web of RTEs that form a virtual supply and demand chain continually seeking information, monitoring, and responding, guided by humans, mostly at the highest strategic level.

    The real-time enterprise is crystallizing out of a process-rich brew in which swim Web-enabled customer relationship management, supply-chain event management, enterprise relationship management, partner relationship management, content management, customer analytics, business intelligence, optimization, forecasting and simulation. Into the mix we can throw technologies, including application servers, enterprise application integration, Web services, microservers, event routers, enterprise portals, and digital dashboards—and at the heart is a new category of software, the business process management system.”

Permit me to add that the augmentation of worker performance in all this is called Workflow Learning.

Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Sun, and others are all headed in this direction because the Real-time Enterprise is accompanied by the competitive advantages of:

    – Reduced lead times, improved efficiency and responsiveness;
    – Real-time financial reporting (now demanded by Wall Street);
    – Lower stock levels;
    – Reduced cost per transaction;
    – Superior competitive intelligence and demand information;
    – Increased responsiveness to customers;
    – Reduction in expensive human input;
    – Real-time reengineering of processes;
    – Better decision-making;
    – mproved leveraging of technological improvements;
    – Visibility of the extended supply chain;
    – Optimization of procurement; and
    – Risk management by optimizing purchase decisions under con-ditions of uncertainty.

Any relation to my previous post is entirely intentional.

How could I not like a book that talks about smartifacts like SmartDust?

Exploding the Enterprise

Soundbites from a marvellous panel session at the Supernova conference in Santa Clara last month. Moderator: Phil Windley. Participants: John Hagel III, Halsey Minor, Gordon Eubanks, Darren Lee.

    Impenetrable walls ringed medieval cities to keep invaders out. Once a week, the gates swung open for market day. Want to buy a chicken? Better do it on market day, for Seven-Elevens had not been invented. Stores didn’t appear until catapults breeched city walls.

    Corporations similarly built walls around themselves for protection. Now the walls are tumbling down. It’s more efficient to outsource non-core activities, for example having someone do your payroll or manage your pension fund from outside the old walls. This “deperimiterization” also facilitates trade, coordination, and partnering with other organizations.

    Bringing down the walls will totally change our definition of the enterprise. Instead of protecting commerce, since transaction costs will be dropping through the floor, the job of the enterprise will be to accelerate learning and deepen practices. IT support will be a combination of SOA, grid computing, and social network analysis.

    The net is becoming the IT infrastructure. ( went public the day before.) Outsourcing IT is a tremendous cost saver. Imagine the “global elimination of duplicative effort.” You know the efficiency of keeping a single copy of a document on the web current as opposed to the old way of making and distributing copies? Imagine that applied to business processes. This is the only way to go, for BPM does not scale across enterprises; it would require loose coupling for that.

    The progression of IT from mainframes to minicomputers to PCs to client/server all start on the inside of the organization and only secondarily reach outside. The future will focus on connections rather than nodes, and this means IT will focus on what’s incoming instead of what’s outgoing.

    By the way, outsourcing IT is only the tip of the iceberg. We’re going to see more and more outsourcing that includes talent and equipment, too. Offshoring is not just wage arbitrage; it’s skills arbitrage. You will be able to outsource your entire manufacturing operation to China, for example.

I’ll blog more of the Supernova presentations as I listen to them.

Teachable Moments

Henri Cartier-Bresson has died at 93.

An inspiration for amateurs like me, Cartier-Bresson never used a wide-angle or zoom lens, for he wanted his camera to see what the human eye sees. Nor did he pose scenes or use a studio; much the better to shoot real life, where it happens. To pull this off, he was the absolute master at capturing the “Decisive Moment.” I think of this as a Zen-and-the-Art-of-Archery sort of thing; sometimes I press the shutter while holding the camera waist-high, not looking at the viewfinder.

I don’t know why I remember this, but it comes back to me whenever I eat North African hot sauce. Cartier-Bresson always carried his own tube of Harissa to spice up his meals. I’ve switched to Tabasco, but the thought is the same. And it reminds me to go through life in search of Decisive Moments.

Christopher Alexander Group

Five of us met for several hours this Monday and Tuesday evening at a cafe in Berkeley to discuss Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order.

My notes are a bit of a jumble.

    Need a change of worldview to communicate with others…like Wolfram…easier to be enlightened than to be devout…like Extreme Programming: a message for ordinary people…a shift of lens…no practical way to talk about values…Leibnitz, the last polymath…yin/yang…how would I make a better table?…observe…find resonance…what feels more human?…two jobs: fight fires; put them out…odd number of fish in the print…universality that does not persist…local not global…the Torah is on earth…the chicken is not in the egg…the earth is not a mechanism; it can’t go backwards.

    Let’s get practical…use this to do things better…everything’s connected…just doing the local is satisfying to some…locals, not local: it’s all relative…like Extreme Programming, don’t think too far ahead…look for guidance…give us a vocabulary for going step-by-step without prejudging and thereby limiting the outcome…

We did our own Alexandrian forced-choice comparisons. I’d brought these objects:

For each pair of objects, we chose the one with the most humanity…the most resonant…the one we’re drawn to. The ideal is to make the decision from deep inside, not thinking of categories or past experiences or cultural baggage.

We were unanimous in our feelings about these pairs. Which item do you find more alive?

Modern loupe or military loupe?

Ketchup bottle or salt shaker?

Swiss Army knife or Buck knife?

You must be “in the moment” to make judgments like these; mindful.

Are the binary, forced choices meaningful? The real world always has thousands of things swinging around, not just two. Is there truth in this? Truth?

Our results? We felt more life in the military loupe, the salt shaker, and the Buck knife. Your mileage may vary. This experiment will go up on a wiki soon, and we’ll point people in that direction.

What Counts?

by Jay Cross

CLO Magazine
August 2004

Businesses exist to create value, and the source of value resides outside the learning function. As Peter Drucker has pointed out, “Neither results nor resources exist inside the business. Both exist outside. The customer is the business.”

Try to imagine a business without customers, perhaps an insurance company on a desert island or a manufacturer that never ships. No value, right? What goes on inside an organization is just rearranging the furniture.

Training directors bemoan not being able to demonstrate significant business results. If they remain entirely within the training function, they never will, because they don’t own the yardstick that measures business results. Who owns that yardstick? Generally, it’s training’s sponsor, the person with authority to sign off on large expenditures. This is usually a company officer who can weigh the potential returns and costs of various investments and select those likely to create the highest net value. Since the sponsor decides training programs’ economic fate, it’s worthwhile to contemplate how sponsors typically make decisions.

All business decisions are relative. When assessing value, where you stand depends on where you sit. A training director may measure success in terms of lower costs and more workshops. A line manager is concerned with quarterly targets or higher revenue. A senior executive focuses on organizational flexibility and competitive advantage.

Managerial decision-making is generally more subjective than people recognize. ROI is often a hurdle or a means to focus preliminary cost-benefit analysis to screen out clear losers. When the time comes to make choices, gut feeling and good judgment often win out over formulas.

Training directors sometimes claim that pinpointing training outcomes is impossible because so many other things muddy the results. It’s a weak argument. All business decisions are made with less-than-complete information. Waiting for “enough” information often means ceding thought leadership to the competition.

Sponsors don’t usually back a project unless its economics are so compelling that they can do the math on the back of an envelope. If the odds are good that I’ll get $750,000 in benefits from my $75,000 investment, I don’t need four-place accuracy to decide to spend the money. This is business, not a science experiment. As a Fortune 50 company official recently told me, “We manage this place with sound bites.”

What if the benefits of your proposal are not obviously compelling? Pick another project. Executives are single-minded. They care about one thing: execution. They do not start from the assumption that training is the answer. They refer to people as “customers,” “employees” and “workers.” (We are the only ones who call them “learners.”) If people could master their jobs by taking smart pills, most training departments would close shop.

Not long ago I was addressing the division training managers at a top high-tech company. I suggested they work with their sponsors to identify business requirements and gain their agreement–in writing–on what would constitute success or failure in a training post-mortem. To my amazement and disappointment, many of the training managers rebelled. “To do what you’re asking,” they said, “we’d have to understand the business.” Well, duh. That was precisely what I was saying.

The way to get funding, to make significant contributions, to be recognized by management, to be promoted and to reduce the stress in your life is to make business metrics your yardstick for success and describe what you do in business terms. Here are a few examples to think about:

* Make sales force productive sooner.
* Implement strategic initiatives.
* Educate customers online.
* Increase reach into new markets.
* Decrease staff turnover.
* Reduce cycle time.
* Roll out enterprise processes.
* Speed up time-to-market.
* Keep partners in sync.
* Merge organizations effectively.

is now working here.


I adore maps. This weekend I read You Are Here, Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination.

Few of the 150 or so maps in the book describe roads and highways. These are maps of the anatomy, human emotion, memory, morality, health, chronologies, perspectives, politics, history, fantasy, and imagination.

I’ve decided to map the topic of Workflow Learning, itself a journey through performance, communications, convergence, enterprise, standards, competition, globalization, outsourcing, power structures, the Net, cognition, process models, and more. Without a map, it’s an easy field to get lost in.

This afternoon I was delighted to come upon this map of knowledge by Don Clark.

Maps appeal to me because they show connections and proportions; size indicates importance; getting the lay of the territory is rapid — a gestalt experience. Finally, maps are here to get you where you want to go, a nice meme in a confusing world.

It’s a pity that signs aren’t generally as friendly as maps.

The Nature of Order

A couple of days back I had a very enjoyable lunch with my friend Bob Horn at Greens, my first time back at this vegetarian Mecca in ten years. I asked Bob if he knew the menu; he replied, “This is my company canteen.” Absolutely wonderful food, attentive service, and a great view of the Golden Gate. Bob is a fascinating guy, the inventor of Information Mapping and author of Visual Language. Currently he’s helping governments and organizations solve “wicked problems” through visualization and argumentation mapping.

I’ve started reading Christopher Alexander’s four-book series, The Nature of Life, An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe. I wouldn’t be doing this, at least not now, were it not for a small reading group of very bright and interesting people who are going to dig through the books together.

The story so far: Everything in the universe is alive. Don’t get Cartesian about this; just accept it. Comfortable ordinariness and lack of “image” quality are the main things which produce life in our current situation. Our Western, reductionist thinking assumes the whole is the sum of the parts. This is dead wrong. The Whole is what lives; it creates its own parts. Just look at the world without your cognitive prejudice, and you’ll start to see it.

I’m only a quarter of the way into this volume because I only read it during lunch on my front deck. From where I sit at our redwood table, one other house is clearly visible.

When we moved into our place a dozen years ago, workmen were putting the finishing touches on this raw concrete number. Christopher Alexander built the place.

If you could see the first floor in my photo, you’d be looking right over the sink that appears on page 409 of this first volume. I’ll share a few stories from the neighbors when Alexandrian theory bumps up against Berkeley reality.

Furl and Spurl

Bookmarks are so yesterday. They reside on one machine; I compute on three. Bookmarks are browser-specific; I use Firefox unless MS zealots or lazy designers force me to use IE; my wife uses Opera. And sharing booksmarks with others is not simple.

Two free services have sprung up to address these issues. While Spurl and Furl sound the same, their functions are different.

Spurl is an online links list. Click a button and Spurl saves the URL, page title, and your comment on the web. You can begin by uploading your bookmarks file. You can also download. Or you can create a “directory” and share your finds with others. For example, when redoing a webpage this afternoon, I needed to look up a few things about color combinations and CSS options. When I found my answers, from places I’d ended up on past projects, I Spurled them. Here are my Design Links.

Furl saves entire pages. Its creators describe it as an electronic filing cabinet. Take a look at my public Furl archive. Furl is dedicated to making it easy for users to archive, recall, share, and discover useful information on the Web. You can even set up RSS to notify people when you add to your store of material.

See the difference? Say you read a great article in Wired or the New York Times. To save or share it, you’d use Furl. If your intent was to read Wired or the Times issue after issue, you’d Spurl it. Think “F” for file; hence Furl. Think “S” for subscribe; hence Spurl.

Both Furl and Spurl offer several modes of looking at things. You can have your private view, which simply puts what used to be on your machine and makes it accessible on the web. You can have a public view, where you share what you’ve found. You can look at other people’s selections, or you can look at summary results by popularity.

I love the metaphor of these new tools. They help you individually. They enable you to help others. They are drop-dead simple to install and use. They are free. You can’t ask for much more than that.

For years, before this blog became popular, the most visited page on my sites was the eLearning Jump Page . I may simply convert the links there to Furl and Spurl and shut the sucker down.

After I wrote this, I went ahead and Furled/Spurled the links on my Design Page. This gets tricky. One is six links were dead, abandoned, or FUBAR. A few others were trends that never went anywhere. I lost a few pages I wished I’d Furled while I could.

If I come upon Joe Blow’s neat reference page on the web, do I Furl it or Spurl it? That depends on my confidence that Joe will be around for a while. (Some great stuff has disappeared from the web in the past two or three years). If I expect Joe to be here, I’ll Spurl him, figuring I’ll get new content on my next visit. If I figure Joe’s webpage will disappear, I’ll Furl it, so he doesn’t fall entirely off my radar.

I started cruising around to look at consensus favorites at both Spurl and Furl. That’s something you don’t get from your traditional, orphaned bookmark list.

I took off for an hour to walk Latte the longhaired dachshund through the swirling fog here on the hill. As we walked, I flashed on how if you ask someone where they bank, they usually tell you what bank provides their checking account. That’s because their checking account is used often and is sometimes the interface to their other financial relationships. Most people have much more significant financial relationships with their mortgage company, their broker, and even their credit card issuers than with the bank they identify as theirs.

What brought this to mind was a recording of Doug Kaye talking Tim O’Reilly that I downloaded from the web and into my pociet mp3 player. Tim recounted asking audiences at general conferences, “How many of you use Linux?” and having perhaps one in five raise their hand. Then he’d ask how many use Google or Amazon, everyone raised their hands, and Tim would point out that Google and Amazon both run on Linux.

So too, most of us running Windows on our local machines fail to recognize that an increasing amount of our work is shifting to the net. I’m particularly sensitive to this, what with testing Gmail and an online desktop, being a web junky, and running a number of Linux-housed websites.

Spurl and Furl are just a couple more drops in the bucket of software running “over your machine” instead of inside of it. Sic transit gloria mundi


I can honestly say I never cheated on a test in eighteen years of formal schooling. It didn’t occur to me.

Not that I didn’t take short-cuts. My bookshelves were filled with summaries of the world’s 100 greatest novels, 40 greatest plays, and the predecessors of Cliffs’ Notes. I had a 150 page condensation of the Bible, a similar précis of Crime and Punishment, and a digest of world history.

Whether or not I read the source material, I learned many concepts this way. Without these monographs I would never have fathomed what either Faulkner or Wittgenstein were writing about.

Today the Net is my primary source of understanding. Nonetheless, I’m not ready to give up my favorite reference works:

    The American Heritage Dictionary
    Roget’s Thesaurus
    The People’s Chonology
    Chronoicle of the World
    Barlett’s Quotations
    The Synonym Finder
    The Visual Dictionary
    Business, the Ultimate Resource
    Petit Larousse
    Larousse Gastronomique

I’ve just added another text-tool to the shelf, InfoTool, the All-in-One Business Reference by Vijay Luthra. InfoTool is a multi-disciplinary reference that stuffs more than 20,000 definitions into 776 pages.

I envision a future of convergence wherein specialists will no longer prosper by “knowing more and more about less and less.” The boundaries that once isolated one discipline from another are disolving. To be effective, one must borrow concepts from many different fields.

That’s where InfoTool comes in. Rather than list categories, I’m going to flip open InfoTool to a page at random and simply list the entries I see:

    Mind Mapping
    Mineral Oil Mineral Rights
    Mini Computer
    Mini Landbridge
    Mini Mill
    Minimum Bill of Lading
    Minimum Cash Balance

Got it? I’ll do another column:

    Expected Monetrary Value
    Expects Value
    Expected Value Maximization Principle
    Expediting Expenses
    Expendable Item
    Expenditure Based Budget
    Expense Account
    Expense Behavior

You can look at sample pages on the web.

My one complaint is that this work needs to be in electronic form. Dead-tree books have become a secondary form of reference in my life. The author, having poured ten years into creating InfoTool, is naturally reluctant to chance having his IP pilfered.

Buy directly from the publisher’s site. InfoTool costs $89 in paper/$99 hardcover.