Following on from my last, somewhat dismal post, I wanted to paint an alternative scenario.
Towards the end of last week, Perfect Forms reached out to me with a video featuring Tom Allanson the company's CEO. Following some discussion with the company's PR, I obtained a video file which I've chopped down significantly and published on Vimeo, (2 mins and 16 secs) concentrating on the main message: there are ways to add value to existing applications without it needing to cost the earth. Tom describes a common problem that is often seen as hard to address: form based applications that tie into existing business systems. He recounts his own efforts at GE that ran into 'millions of dollars' that today he claims can be done at a fraction of the cost. In doing so, Tom helped crystallize another of those ah-ha moments.
Let's assume for one moment that those multi-million dollar ERP implementations could be undertaken in a fraction of the time or at least get to baseline functionality. That still leaves the problem Tom outlines. Assuming that solutions like Perfect Forms can deliver - and on the basis of the demos I've seen, a good percentage of ordinary but essential functions can be covered - that would help significantly ease IT budget strain, transferring the responsibility to end user units. The only question remains where the interface between IT and those user departments lays.
That isn't proving to be a barrier to Perfect Forms. In part of the video I excised, he reports that: "In the last ten months...we've signed up 2,636 on demand accounts...HSBC, with a quoted license value of $750,000 which we expect to close in the next 90 days." Not bad for a service costing $30/user/month and a clear demonstration that such applications have their place. That gets a big chunk of IT time and effort out the way, allowing, as Tom says, for IT departments to concentrate on the differentiating solutions needed to create value. What might those look like?
My good friend and fellow Irregular Sigurd Rinde has been trying to fathom this for a while with Thingamy. His radical approach would see a sweeping aside of most that constitutes current IT. That may happen at some point in the future but for the time being we are stuck with 'old' ERP and forms. Imagine if they could live side by side. At least for the time being.
Sig acknowledges that most of the time spent by technology users is around problem solving but he says that in most organizations there is no effective triage process. Inserting triage into a problem creates a fresh dynamic, best expressed by one of Sig's tenets for innovation:
Flow is everything - flow is relationship, flow is knowledge, flow is context and flow creates value. Your business is all about flows, never forget it. Build the flows, then better the flows to better the value and your margins. Do it, then do it again, then do it more. Think extreme Business Planning.
It's a novel idea and one that I can see fitting into the current landscape without necessarily disrupting what is already in place. Sig already has some VBN (Very Big Names) on his roster of companies who are trying out the Thingamy approach. Sig is also talking $30/user/month.
All of which begs the question: if vendors like Perfect Forms and Thingamy can find ways to solve problems easily, quickly and at modest cost then why are companies paying vast amounts of money to automate non value add business processes?