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Page updated: 2013 03 21

Governace and platform innovation: viable partnerships and collaborations need a new and effective combination of governance, methodologies and tools.

When communities combine operational platforms that separately require occasional adjustments into a composite presence, the resulting infrastructure will experience a significantly higher and ongoing demand for change. These new community platforms will need to be managed and take on change in new ways if they are to stay current and protect the viability and integrity of the community as it evolves and reshapes itself over time.

Communities are increasingly being formed to establish new regulatory frameworks, to support collective and innovative design, development and operations, and to enable service linkages across sectoral and organizational boundaries.  By working together, communities can create higher order products and services, improve client focus and increase operational efficiency.

Early community implementations focused on demonstrating their relative advantage through quick wins achieved used methodologies and tools inherited from traditional, vertically integrated and focused organizations. While utilizing traditional organizational capacity to focus a community achieves immediate deliverables, it can also suppress a community's longer-term capacity for peer innovation, something that is needed to percolate new concepts. What enduring communities need is not a community level focus on management oversight, but a community level commitment to platforms that enable member exchanges leading to innovation and new opportunities.

Management oversight is an effective co-ordinator of disparate activities in a unified environment.  It enables each function to separately select and utilize the best available platforms, methodologies and tools to discharge their various responsibilities for the product and service lifecycle. The Government of Canada Business Transformation Enablement Program [BTEP] describes this lifecycle as planning, provisioning, service delivery and deregistration/decommissioning (in the diagram to the right). 

Traditional BTEP service pattern

The command and control orientation of unified management may be what enables separate functions to work effectively together for the benefit of the organizational whole. But, beyond relatively small or well focused peer community implementations, partnerships and collaborations that grow to be megacommunities cannot be managed in this way.

Community members simply do not respond well to command and control; they may be driven by commitment to a common goal, but do not necessarily exhibit a common culture or behaviour. They need community-endorsed platforms to enable their dialogue, but also need their own capacity to manage the content they have committed to. This separation of community platform governance from member content management is more abstract than the traditional management of functions, but it better protects a community's innovative capacity, integrity and privacy.

To achieve this separation, communities need to deploy technology as a strategic enabler. For technology to be effective in this way, the entire product or service lifecycle needs to be architected, as shown to the left, at least as a collective, but preferably as a unified process.  This means that expert practitioners in different parts of an organization or community will no longer be free to select and deploy their own approaches to governace and platforms, methodologies and tools: they will all need to recognize and work within the larger system and deploy components that are compatible with it, and operate as part of a new interdependent whole.


Alternative BTEP perspective

Infrastructure Design

But the shift from vertical to horizontal also introduces other challenges. As the number of participants increase, the stability of community infrastructures tends to decrease. The shortening of the stable state of infrastructures eventually leads to traditional change management processes becoming inoperable.

When the time taken to effect change is longer than the stable state of the infrastructure, change management costs rise and alternative means of maintaining the viability of communities and their services must be found. When this state of affairs is experienced, change is no longer part of the macro-agenda. It becomes part of a micro-agenda needing to be addressed on an ongoing and continuous basis. The lifecycle speeds up: planning, provisioning and service delivery need direct interfaces: and planners, designers and providers need to become an integral part of that continuum. The real agenda will move from the separate management of design and operations to the integral management of the entire lifecycle.

Process and service innovation will become critical, especially in megacommunities. The separate and incremental deployment model will need to be replaced by one where the planner, designer and provider roles connect with continuous integrity.

Methodologies, processes and tools that may have been ‘optional’ in the management of traditional organizations, will become ‘necessary’ for the effective governance of communities, especially in the 'highly important' situations described in the diagram on the right.