I’ve got some good and bad news about Part 3, which lists my recommendations of technology. The good and bad news are at the bottom of this post – it’s actually great news – but I’ll save it for now because I’m mean and love suspense!!!
Creating the Environment for Information Exchange
Thus far in this series (here’s Part 1!) I have provided a large number of questions that you need to be considering. These questions must be considered before you can look at technology options. Though the list is long they shouldn’t take that long to process as they are intended to be focusing questions – questions that force you to get to the root of the matter and get answers.
So – what technology does an operations centre need?
Slow down – we’re not ready for that yet. Did you really think I’d answer that? If you did I’ll apologize and chuckle a little bit (and yes, I did chuckle when I wrote this).
I’d be happy to give you the technology guidance you are looking for (and I will) but first we need to talk about something.
People and Process
Information exchange, particularly for operations centres, is about your people and the processes that you have in place. Without addressing the people side and looking at your processes you can’t expect technology to help – can you? (If you disagree you may be in the wrong place – and you are likely going to hit a very hard wall if you jump into applying technology to solve problems…)
My Technology In OPS framework (and you’re learning it!) looks at the People, Process, and Tools (technology – lowercase “t”) that can be brought to bear on solving a problem.
So lets talk about your people. They really do come first. Without considering them we can’t make any technology decisions.
I’m assuming that you deal with your people well so I’ll be brief and only bring up the issues that pertain to taking technology into the operations centre.
It’s time for more questions.(I must be a consultant – I still haven’t given you answers – just a few loose pieces of guidance).
When you are considering technology to bring into an operations centre (or frankly, any operational environment):
- Who are your people? Yeah – dumb question but this one is key. Too often people forget about some key clients. Make sure you are thinking about the people that are “in” (literally or virtually sitting in the centre) the operations centre. Also consider the people that move through it from time to time. or virtually operators, analysts, clerks, liaison officers,
- Who is there for day-to-day operations and who is there for crisis operations? This list will change depending on how intense operations are.
- What is the training level of your people? If you have very advanced systems that requires days/weeks of training you will have a small list of people to use (bad for surge/crisis).
- Who can make decisions and at what point?
- How can you train people?
- How can you replace people? Building processes and technology solutions that are “personality driven”, which is my phrase for the guru that is amazing at what they do but can’t be replaced, can be a dangerous approach. If you can’t replace someone you can’t scale.
Process (and Policy)
Deconstructing and reconstructing process is way beyond this article. I won’t dwell here long other than to ask a few questions and give a few guidance points that are aimed at picking technology solutions.
Consider the following questions when you are considering technology for your operations centre. They will help you understand what may need to change as you adopt technology. Many technology providers will tell you that you “don’t need to change to use our technology” but if that is true their technology isn’t giving you any advantage.
- How can you streamline the flow of information? If you need approvals at every level you will slow things down. Do you really need those?
- How can you automate processes?
- What processes don’t make any sense? In every operations centre I have been in (dozens and dozens if not over a hundred) there have been processes that make absolutely no sense. They may have at some point but they have hung around and morphed into something that has a life of its own.
- What processes aren’t in place? Ask your team “when do you get nervous” and you’ll find areas that could use some level of guidance or process to remove or address the concerns that are freaking people out.
- What policies are in place that may need to be adjusted?
- Is information exchange outside of your operations centre important to your core mission? Some operations centres really are the hub of activity and may do more completely inside their walls so information exchange may not be as important. I haven’t seen too many of these though – but they do exist (usually in classified environments).
- Here are a few points to consider. Again, I won’t dwell here and I am raising guidance points that I find have helped a lot in the past when bringing technology into an operations centre.
- Don’t pick a technology that violates your processes and policy. For example, picking a technology that makes sharing of electronic health records (EHR) easy is totally useless if you aren’t allowed to share these records.
- Look at processes that are causing friction and slowing or stopping important information exchange. These are the processes that usually exist for no good reason other than historical.
- Look at policies that “don’t make any sense”. You’ll hear your team use this phrase a lot. Dig in on the process – there is usually a nugget/reason behind such a policy but once you find (and protect it) the policy that has grown around it can often be discarded or replace by something that does make sense.
- Look at how you are doing things now. I can’t count the number of times that I have helped a client share information in a structure manner (i.e. In an way that other systems can consume easily – usually some kind of XML or similar data structure). The conversation and approach almost always follows the following flows: “We can’t share that electronically” to which I respond “well, how are you sharing that with your partners now – since we know they need it and that you are doing it”. The answer is inevitably email, fax, or phone call. That opens the conversation to my followup question “wouldn’t you rather automate that flow so it can reach all of your partners?”. This tears down what was seen as a barrier but was just a logic gap.
OK – good news and bad news time…
Good News: In the next article I will dive into the technology guidance.
Bad News: The technology recommendations are only available in my Technology In OPS magazine (or other private forums where I work with clients) in Issue 003 (coming in early November!). That’s actually good news if you’re a subscriber but if you’re not, well … you can still subscribe (it’s free and valuable!) here:
I know. That’s just mean but here is why. I want you to hang out with your peers though and my Technology In OPS program is the best place for that! Again, it’s a free subscription and I promise you’ll find it worthwhile.
I’ll see you there.
For subscribers (for the Technology In OPS magazine), just turn the page. For non-subscribers – click the links above and get your subscription (it’s free).