October 26, 2022

Handle cross-departmental processes more efficiently? Think agile

Anno 2022, many organisations are still organised in a way based on ideas from the early 20th century. Each discipline, such as marketing, IT, operations and sales, has its own department with its own specialisation. Each department consists of several management layers, which are responsible for the teams within them. The teams consist of different specialists, who perform their tasks as efficiently as possible.

In this blog, Dennis van der Salm, senior Pega-architect at BPM Company, wonders to what extent this way of structuring still works within the IT industry.

Simplifying jobs increases productivity

This way of structuring is based on The principles of Scientific Management, a theory developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor early last century. Taylor, American production manager and management consultant, reasoned that optimising and simplifying jobs would increase productivity. He believed that workers were motivated by money. It was up to managers to set up reward systems for workers and measure and refine worker efficiency. That way, workers could focus on their jobs and management would help them do their jobs to the best of their ability. The result? Specialised roles and departments, each responsible for a sub-process and handing over the result to the next employee or department.

Taylor’s four principles of scientific management in brief

  1. Use the most efficient way to perform specific tasks.
  2. Match employees to their jobs based on capabilities and motivations, and train them to work as efficiently as possible.
  3. Have management monitor and improve work performance.
  4. Have management plan and train so that employees can perform their tasks as efficiently as possible.

Do these principles still apply to the information industry?

These views make sense when it comes to a factory where employees build the same car over and over again. The desired outcome is clear and the required operations clear. For such a scenario, it makes sense to standardise the process and improve the efficiency of each individual step in the process. But are these principles also applicable in the world of IT? Within IT, we now know that it is difficult to determine in advance exactly what needs to be built. That’s why we work in shorter cycles, so we can get feedback faster and adjust the course more easily. If we don’t know what we will eventually build, long-term planning is a lot harder and Taylor’s principles are difficult to apply.

Reflex to fall back on old methods

That means we are seeing a shift in the way we work in our industry. Yet we still have the reflex to follow best practices that originated over a century ago in a completely different industry. For instance, we are now massively convinced of the power of agile development and yet management still wants to see long-term planning. This leads to frictions and certainly not to more efficiency.

Want to know more?

In future blogs, I will explore this topic in more detail. I look at efficient versus effective working, role-based versus skill-based working, and different programming styles. Do you also feel that cross-departmental processes could be more efficient and better and want a quick initial insight into the possibilities? Feel free to contact us!


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