Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 13

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on September 23, 2018

This is my 13th installment to a series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and on carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2), postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-12.)

I began actively discussing a brief to-address list of topics points in Part 12 that I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue addressing its issues:

1. Bringing a business’ own house into order through improved communications and information sharing, of the type under discussion here. (I will continue to pursue help desk systems as at least one possible source of working examples there.)
2. Then, I will turn outward to explicitly bring business-to-business collaborations into this narrative.
3. And then I will delve into at least some of the issues of larger contexts that businesses in general have to be able to function in: regulatory law and its implementation included.

I expect to return to the issues of the above stated Point 1 to add in further details as I proceed in this narrative, but refer you to what I offered in Part 12 for an at least foundational start to how I would address it in this series. And with that, I proceed to at least begin addressing Point 2 and the complexity of effectively functioning in supply chain and other larger business organizational entities, where Point 1’s issues can only be seen as a starting point for what has to be addressed there.

I begin that from what should be an obvious point of observation and expectation for any reader here:

• Businesses that operate in larger collaborative business-to-business partnerships, as for example with suppliers or with transport and logistics service providers, have to be able to effectively share business intelligence with those outside business entities. And that can and often does include what might best be considered sensitive information as to ongoing production and sales information, and information that would offer specific insight into how that business is proactively planning ahead for them. And it can and often does include specific individualized customer data from them and of a scope and variety that can both individually identify their customers and identify the specific types of transactions they have entered into with this business (e.g. what they have purchased from them and when and in what quantities, etc.) And that only scratches the surface of the possibilities there, as to the types of information that can be so shared and of necessity in the course of carrying out routine business-to-business transactions.
• And this still all has to be carried out within the due diligence and risk management based and supported frameworks that these businesses have to develop and follow in meeting their Point 1 goals, and in the face of ongoing change in the competitive contexts that they operate in and with all of the potential for the unexpected that that can bring with it.

I begin addressing that larger context by citing a point of distinction that I have variously posed in earlier postings and series in this blog:

• Direct, operationally oriented business communications that arise and take place in the context of carrying out specific business tasks and processes, and flows of them, and their tactical management, versus
• Indirect business communications that arise when organizing and managing that categorical form of business communications, as for example when addressing strategic process needs or risk management oversight processes.

I have raised this point of distinction in a risk management context where it can perhaps best be thought of as differentiating between immediately goal-specific communications, and more systems management oriented meta-communications that would take place concerning them. This oversight level of communications about ongoing operational communications can, or at least should be expected to arise in essentially any primarily planning or strategy context of widespread significance for a business and certainly as the direct communications messaging involved in carrying out specific work there, cuts across wider swaths of a business and its detailed operations than would be considered and managed in a more routinely focused (and localized) tactical sense. Think in terms of essentially any business operations there that are not entirely routine and standardized as such, and that are multidisciplinary in that their actively requires and brings in participation from parts of the organization that would otherwise not have to directly work together on specific tasks, and that reside in differing and seemingly disconnected areas of the overall table of organization to prove that point.

This point of distinction and its at least de facto realization in practice, and certainly as a top-down managed process, can generally be considered to be somewhat of a defining marker for how effectively a business carries out its Point 1 management and risk management responsibilities as discussed in Part 12. But the loss of direct controlling oversight as to what would actually happen to sensitive or potentially sensitive information that is shared beyond the walls and the strategic and operational oversight of an original source business, as it shares this through a supply chain system, shifts the fundamental balance there.

A lack of ability to directly manage and ensure that any and all data so shared will continue to be maintained according to the processes and standards of the originally providing business, serves to pressure these communicating systems to follow a much more completely standardized approach for who communicates what information to whom and with a rigidly adhered to control process in place as to what sensitive information can be so shared, and with ramped up risk management compelled tracking and monitoring of that included as a core element. I have written of the impact on innovation and its potential from cutting off or even just significantly limiting more ad hoc, back channel communications per se, and I have variously touched on at least the potential arising for collaboration taking place between business-to-business partner organizations, as for example through the development and improvement of capabilities that would improve business-to-business tasks as carried out in supply chain systems. But the more sensitive the information would have to be shared in that innovation exploration or development process, the more friction that can be expected to create for the individual participating businesses.

One consequential outcome, and one that can serve as a work-around for this would be if involved businesses were to agree to conjointly develop and maintain a shared database of what amounts to like-real but nevertheless dummy data with fake in detail but realistic looking customer data, sales data and so on as needed.

• What types and volumes of dummy data would be needed, and that can be developed and maintained as an ongoing shared, or at least sharable resource, and who would develop and house it, and who would pay for it, or for its use and how and under what terms?

Then, and with at least workably agreed to answers to those questions in place:

• When this new business-to-business shared task capability has been developed using this data resource,
• And when it has been tested through an agreed to beta testing process,
• Then it would be deployed as per standard communications protocols in place for these business-to-business collaborations as already agreed to, and contractually so, and through standard agreed to channels.

That, would of course mean shifting to use of real and genuinely sensitive data and processed knowledge developed from it, as discussed above, after the systems that would process and use them had met mutually agreed to risk management criteria. So a goal in this innovation development project and its testing would be one of adequately meeting the information security concerns for all new tool using parties that would be involved here.

And this brings me to Point 3 and its issues: issues that have arisen in this posting’s ongoing line of discussion, even while going unstated throughout it. Neither individual businesses nor organized collaborations between them can or do exist in a vacuum. I cited regulatory law in Point 3 of the list offered at the top of this posting, and repeat that here, noting that it includes within it a multitude of issues, including restrictions against improper business-to-business collusion as that might skew markets, as well as its including regulatory controls and oversight intended to protect consumer data, and I add wider ranges of business intelligence confidentiality too. (For the last sentence there, consider situations where Business A might share confidential information with Business B, just to find that they have in turn shared it with some Business C too, and without approval from A and even against their expressed intentions or wishes. Intent to so share or to not share, I add here, is not in general going to prove relevant in this: just the results and consequences achieved from this type of data security breech where sharing of sensitive or confidential information does take place.)

I am going to at least begin to delve into Point 3 and its issues in the next installment of this series, building that line of discussion on the organizing framework that I have offered up to here and particularly in Part 12 and this Part 13. And in further anticipation of the next installment here to come, I have just made some significant, essentially axiomatic assumptions in this posting that bear further consideration. The basic and I add risk management conservative approach that I have offered here can prove sound, but it is not necessarily a best approach and it is certainly not the only one that businesses can pursue when working together that would still meet their due diligence needs. I will at least briefly outline an alternative understanding of what I have just addressed here in Part 13 and will suggest a process and an operational mechanism that would address it according to mutually agreed to due diligence understandings. This means that I will at least briefly consider some alternatives for at least one of the basic business model assumptions that can and should be (re)considered for this type of business-to-business context, and why.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

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