I, along with my Work Informatics colleagues, created a simple tool for deciding which challenges to tackle first in business development. It’s a prescriptive business maturity model that focuses on uncovering the best practical developmental steps, instead of providing objective maturity grading.
ICT Development is hard. How does one decide which technological solutions to pursue – yet alone which business development areas should receive love first, given the limited amount of available resources? This is especially hard for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). While there are many models to describe the maturity of businesses and their technological state, there are few easy-to-use practical tools for decision making.
In business development, there are several aspects that one needs to take into account. Digitalization, incorporating business processes more closely with digital tools, can yield huge benefits, but one of the core tenants of Work Informatics is that changing any aspect of a work system changes the whole. In practice this means that one must be careful to ensure that new tools fit the job.
The three dimensions of business transformation
The three dimensions, or areas of interest, that need to be taken into account are business (or trade), technology and social. More often than not, these aspects tie closely together, but looking at things from all three perspectives can provide additional insights.
The business dimension consists of things like managerial systems, business processes and decision-making, trade and finance. What is the service or product and how is it provided to customers? What are the supportive business processes? Analyzing questions like this provides a picture on the business dimension of the enterprise.
Technology includes things related to the ICT landscape – IT systems and more generalized tools. What are the tools that make the business go? If the enterprise uses a wall calendar as a meeting room reservation system, that would be included here.
Topics that fall under the social dimension include topics like social interactions and socio-political hierarchy, organizational knowledge, tacit knowledge, roles and responsibilities. Who are the people included (customers, partners, workers and bosses) and how do they interact?
Mapping business development
In order to see the complete picture, one should also touch on past, present, and future – to find out why the present is as it is (don’t fix it if it ain’t broken!) and where the company wishes to go. Past successes and crises give insight on what has been learned and which mistakes should be avoided in the future. Present analysis gives a foundation on which to build – what is perceived to work well and what causes extra work or problems. Future hopes and worries give direction to the planned business development.
This temporal dimension is included in the Business Transformation Map along each of the three categories, which creates a 9-field:
One should go through all nine categories of analysis with some detail. How is the present social dimension – i.e. who are our customers and how do we care for them? What past technological tools did we utilize – did they function well or not? What are our future business plans and are there any foreseeable threats we should avoid there?
Using the model
While the Business Transformation Map doesn’t create a strict structure or include a static set of questions – one can fill the 9-field with freeform notes in any order – it does ensure that all relevant aspects will be analyzed. When using the model, one also begins to see more connections between things – how previous challenges guided the enterprise to the present and how technological solutions are connected to both business processes and softer social issues.
- Take a paper and divide it into a 9-field
- Start with the box you feel is easiest or most inspiring – fill out as many things you can. If you think of something that should go in another box, note it there, or in multiple places.
- Discuss and explore.
- Continue until all boxes feel like they’ve been completely filled. Revisit issues from different viewpoints and try to form a complete picture. While planning a real business development project with consultants, this can take many hours. But feel free to be as thorough or succinct as is prudent.
- Mark each issue with a plus sign (+), if it’s positive, or a minus sign (-), if negative. It is usually not needed, but one can use multiples for extra critical factors.
After the Business Transformation Map is filled, you have successfully mapped the enterprise’s current prescriptive maturity. Plus signs denote maturity in their respective issues and dimensions, while minus signs denote possible actionable issues.
While the Business Transformation Map does provide some insight into what the enterprise’s maturity level is, its function is not to grade anything, but to bring into focus possible steps for business development – things that should/could be changed for the business to do better. As the goal is not to form an objective truth about anything it doesn’t matter if some things are not agreed upon, or if things are misplaced in the wrong row or column. For example, an insight into a past event can lead to positive changes in the present.
Example Business Transformation Map
|+ possible growth
– customer meetings cause a lot of work
|+ Planning to upgrade to a digital calendar
|– Fear of losing big customers due to long waiting times behind smaller ones
|+ lot of sales
– overworked sales people
|+ phone calls work well
|+ good morale
– unclear responsibilities
|– past financial crisis
|+ bought good hardware
– breakdown of ERP
|+ investing in talent
– difficult customers
This example shows an imaginary sales enterprise, which does well but has some trouble with customers. An upgrade to a digital calendar is planned, and could help, but clearing up responsibilities and prioritizing big customers might provide some relief, as well.
Oftentimes just going through the mapping process uncovers one or more actionable business development ideas. Mature areas (many plus signs) can perhaps be leveraged more or shared more widely. Less mature areas (many minus signs) should perhaps be looked into in more detail. At the very least, there is now a subjective map about possible subjects for a business development project.
If a clear development plan arises from the mapping process, perhaps it’s time for a development project after some risk-assessment. Or perhaps it’s time to call-in a Work Informatics expert to help with your enterprise’s digital transformation.
Full paper available per request on Researchgate. Link below.
Naskali, J., Kaukola, J., Matintupa, J., Ahtosalo, H., Jaakola, M., & Tuomisto, A. (2018, September). Mapping Business Transformation in Digital Landscape: A Prescriptive Maturity Model for Small Enterprises. In International Conference on Well-Being in the Information Society (pp. 101-116). Springer, Cham.