Old School is Out, New School is In
Having been part of large, top-down, thickly layered organizations, I am an advocate for new business models. Traditional organizations with a lot of middle management may still have a place in business, but a movement is afoot to delayer and divide labor, reducing middle management and putting the onus on self-managing staff, vendors, crowdsources and even customers to run operations.
You’re Working for Free
Most likely you have been a part of division of labor at some point – the last time you checked yourself out at the grocery store or paid for your meal via a tablet on your table or ordered a Happy Meal for your kids. All these tasks you performed as a consumer made you a part of a new business model – architecture by participation.
Business Can Learn from Software Architecture
New software models are moving towards ecosystem designs where success is garnered by distributed participation. These ecosystems aggregate functions that are managed via a specialized platform. The definition of an ecosystem is a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. In the context of software, an ecosystem is a community of interacting business functions and their virtual platform. An ecosystem is typically a multi-sided market with a core platform team and a community of developers building applications that plug into the platform. This model distributes the work, value and growth of the ecosystem to external resources.
New business models can leverage ecosystem concepts by distributing work, value and growth to self-managing staff and external resources including vendors, crowdsources and consumers. New tools are required to build such a business model. These tools are new software ecosystems that are built for this reason. They include core concepts such as private and public app (application) libraries, new device agnostic app technology, systems integration and a plug-n-play API for autonomous app integration. The ecosystem centralizes governance for the apps across all distribution methods and users.
This model fosters delayering and flattening hierarchies and can improve customer experience. How? By allowing teams to self-manage via virtual workplaces with a central governance component. These workplaces are designed to be personalized to the user and their role within the organization. This reduces white noise and allows them to focus on tasks in the moment, creating more efficiency. The collaborative nature of the ecosystem allows real-time analysis of data and efficient communication methods. This helps reduce the need for middle management. Also, with device agnostic apps, teams can be decentralized while still collaborating on specific tasks.
Pushing other tasks to consumers is another powerful technique to flatten hierarchies, while improving consumer’s experience. Allowing the option for consumers to be proactive in the workflow process can reduce wait times and allow staff to focus on other matters. Can you identify tasks in your business model that can be pushed to consumers? The ecosystem fosters this capability by providing a consumer access role to the platform. The consumer can access an app library and execute consumer tasks in the same manner as employees. The same holds true for vendors and third-party affiliates.
Putting the Participation Model to Work
Your business may not be ready to dive full speed ahead into a model with no middle management (or maybe you are), but you can certainly leverage the benefits of architecture by participation by first thinking about the tasks and functions of your staff. Chances are there are several functions, especially those performed by middle management, which could be shared between people or departments to improve efficiency. The next step is a matter of implementing an ecosystem to support these changes in workflow.
Michael D. Croft (@Michael_D_Croft) is Chairman & CEO at Volute Holdings Corporation, parent company to Volute Technologies. Michael has over 16 years of professional experience architecting enterprise software used by world-renowned companies. In 2012, he earned the 40 Under Forty award citing 40 professionals under the age of 40 making an impact on a local or national scale. Michael has been featured in various publications and speaking engagements, sharing his expertise on software development and methodologies.