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Business in the Face of Complexity

The greatest challenge to every knowledge worker is the dramatic increase in complexity. That complexity shows up on computer desktops littered with applications that don't work with each other, a deluge of information sources, rampant growth in policies & procedures, increased regulations and compliance, and an unceasing degree of change. In fact, in a recent Delphi study of 1030 knowledge workers more than a third of respondents told us that they need from 11 to over 20 windows on their desktop when they are dealing with their most complex situations. At the same time, knowledge workers are being tasked with being faster, more accurate and more efficient. In this pressure-cooker environment dealing with complexity is not an option but a core competency that we all need to master.

When you are involved in the most complex situations how many windows do you have open on your desktop?

One often quoted study from the Standish Group, a research outfit that tracks corporate IT purchases, has found that 66 percent of all IT projects either fail outright or take much longer to install than expected because of their complexity. Among very big IT projects -- those costing over $10m apiece -- 98 percent fall short.

That's an amazing statistic given that most organizations have relied on technology to solve the problem, but that's like relying on gasoline to douse a fire. Investing in layer upon layer of technology to reduce complexity results in just the opposite, costing organizations millions.

The problem, according to Mark P. McDonald, group vice president at Gartner, is that "For many enterprises the question [of complexity] is just strange, as they do not think about complexity, its impact on customers or costs. They treat the business symptoms of complexity with ad hoc solutions that create benefit but accrue complexity."

To address the issue of desktop complexity a new category of solutions is being developed and is catching on with dozens of organizations that want to leverage and navigate through their existing investment in technology. We believe this approach, called Business Process Guidance (BPG), is a bellwether for organizations that will succeed in the future based on their ability to handle the increasing demands of complexity, change and compliance.

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