When someone asks you, “How’s business?” – How do you know?
The answer often depends on
where in the business hierarchy of responsibility the responder makes their
contribution. The receptionist might respond that we have more activity this
quarter than last, so things look good. A middle manager might report on the
results discussed at the last monthly meeting. A top manager might have more
current information such as weekly progress reports from which to draw
information. Each level in the business hierarchy has access to different
information with differing amounts of refinement.
Regardless of the response, one thread of recognition is beginning to become
clear in today’s business environment. The time frames of the information by
which the state of the business is measured are becoming inadequate to the task
of reacting to business issues that affect the bottom line.
The instant communication tools of today render the business letter
correspondence of yesteryear as an inadequate tool for doing business. Despite
the quickened pace of business today, the tools used to measure the health of
the business have not kept pace. One of the main reasons for measuring the state
of the business at all is to monitor change and try to effect improvement.
Waiting a month or even a week to know if conditions are improving or worsening
is often too long for many business enterprises.
Nearsighted Value Adders
Over the past couple of
decades there have been significant improvements in the quality methodologies
businesses use to improve quality and add value to their operations. Both
statistical quality control (SQC) which deals with acceptable quality levels of
finished products and statistical process control (SPC) which deals with
processes have made great strides in making better tools available. Industry
wide quality standards have been developed and applied with significant success.
SPC based tools have certainly helped to increase the quality of products
exiting the shipping dock of many companies. Following the precepts of ISO 9000
related quality guidelines has helped improve many company operations and has
been successfully used to shape company policy in many places. The discipline
described in the CMM guidelines has certainly improved software production
operations in many companies, both large and small. Process improvement tools
such as Six Sigma and Balanced Scorecard have also contributed to improved
operations in many places.
Despite the efforts of highly competent quality professionals and managers who
deploy these tools, experience often shows that results for many enterprises are
less than anticipated. The pains in implementing changes to introduce new
operating policies often seem to be costly in comparison to the benefits that
can be recognized at the bottom line.
One possible reason for this is that these techniques often go about their work
with blinders on. Each of these disciplines have great merit in their own right
but operate under the supposition that someone higher up has made the decision
to proceed and so each somewhat blindly tries to optimize results within its own
sphere of application.
A Holistic Approach
The concept of trying to look at the business as a network of processes and not
simply sub-optimizing individual processes to achieve improvement is nothing
new. People have recognized the need to view the whole network of interconnected
operations for some time. What has been difficult is to find tools to
effectively do that. One advantage we have today in many businesses is the
adoption of computerized systems in their efforts to improve productivity. Most
businesses today are run by computerized systems, usually many systems.
Herein lays the opportunity that AcuMaestro has capitalized on. AcuMaestro has
developed a modernized approach to look at the results of the interconnection of
the myriad of business processes that drive the bottom line results. Termed an
Operations Enhancement System, AcuMaestro’s solution integrates data drawn from
many of the businesses existing systems to create a view of the business as a
whole. Operating in real time the product can be tuned to appropriate time
intervals to measure the business as it is conducted. Interdependencies that
where not previously recognized can be made apparent.
Figure 1. BASE interfaces with existing systems to create behavior indicators
AcuMaestro’s solution is both flexible and customizable. Born of experience,
AcuMaestro's approach is rare in the industry if not unique. AcuMaestro builds
on earlier industry efforts to capture and monitor operational aspects of
service businesses (OSS Systems) to fully exploit the power of multi-domain
normalization. At the core of the solution is a software product called
BASE (Business Assurance Solutions Environment) . BASE's powerful
computing engine integrates business rules, process status, and regulatory
guidelines into a single platform for the purpose of business measurement and
control. The platform allows for the creation of appropriately designed
measurements which provide a view of the current state of the business (see fig.
BASE creates its information outputs in near real time. It accomplishes this
by utilizing a database of normalized data which has been created by tapping
into the business’ existing information systems. The data is conditioned
(normalized) so that information creation (measurements called Business Behavior
Indicators) can be made efficient and timely. The task of acquiring the business
data is performed by custom built interfaces (APIs) which interface BASE’s
database with the business’ existing systems. AcuMaestro’s professional services
include assisting the client to model the business processes and the engineering
and development of the APIs. This flexible approach allows the powerful analysis
engines in the BASE core to be made applicable to a variety of business at