Role of Technology
Links to Descriptions of Recent Projects
Summary: Corporate Consulting
During the 1980s the company was primarily concerned with large-scale
software prototyping for government and
commercial clients. In the 1990s the emphasis
turned to corporate projects that are closer to (but not the same
as) what others call "management consulting." As is
typical, products of this work include reports, presentations,
the production of seminars, etc. However the most important product
is a design or point of view for describing complex
systems and interactions such that new understanding can be achieved.
The process of an organization moving to new understanding is
the most important, though less tangible, outcome.
This process is not "discovering what is" but rather developing a language in which the values and requirements of a corporate environment can be expressed. Forces outside the corporation, as well as those inside, must be encompassed within a framework that is elegant and simple, but not simplifying.
These consulting relationships in part involve technology but
purely as a means to an end; that is, in service of values and
goals of the enterprise. For example, we believe that the role
of information technology in the value chain of commerce is to
provide specific capabilities in a "conversation for design."
In this conversation, "customers" (though we prefer
the term "citizens") must be able to express needs.
Symmetrically, "producers" express possibilities. The
intended outcome is fulfillment for both sides in the collaboration.
The consequence is a process of "co-design" rather than
an arms-length relationship. Such a relationship is desirable
(or possibly necessary) at each step in the value chain of the
new world of commerce. Much has been said in management circles
about connecting this "extended enterprise." Our goal
is to define the details of why (where the creation of wealth
now lies) and the details of how (the design of "conversations
Similarly the role of information technology within a corporation is commonly couched as "the right information at the right time" or "information at your fingertips." Such bromides offer little prescription for either the CIO or the information management managers [sic]. Our strategy defines information infrastructure as the means to reduce uncertainty, whether during design or during production. Such a recipe is specific, and far more easily followed than slogans.
A further specific role for technology is to amplify the variety of a system. This often involves symbolic computation, but it may equally involve feedback and variable behavior within the materials themselves. In any case the goal is the "intelligence" of the system as a whole, from design through creation, use and retirement, rather than information processing as a special focus.
Overall our concern is for the understanding of a new world of commerce that is in sync with all the other social and technological movements of the century. Only in that context can prescriptions for corporate viability in the next century be appropriately made.
Due to limitations of this medium, in no case are project descriptions
at this site complete reviews of these projects.
The relationship with Du Pont has existed since 1987 or so, and has been concerned with the evolution and future of the corporation as an entity of commerce. That entity must change when its environment changes. The story of the "new commerce" is a frequent one in this era, and we offer our own perspective. Our focus is first on the language and distinctions around the technical, production and managerial (i.e., social and political) domains of the enterprise. This work, and this particular client, provide the foundation of thinking for others.
A description of the relationship with Lotus during 1994 is also here, at least in general and non-proprietary terms. The premise of that engagement was to explore how the evolution of the corporation affects the software that corporations require. The dimensions of "the enterprise", and its boundaries and relationships, were some of the points that needed clarification. Some of the more history-related thinking is expressed in a lengthy presentation.
For Xerox in 1995 the framing issue was "managing knowledge as a strategic asset", and the technologies and methodology in support of that goal. That engagement is described briefly here.
Ar General Motors International, the most recent corporate engagement involves an examination of a global information management infrastructure.
General Motors International - 1995
E I du Pont de Nemours & Co - 1987 to 1994
Lotus Development Corporation - 1994