by Philip Boxer
The collaborative approach depends on there being a service infrastructure agile enough to be under-determining of the way the customer’s demands can be responded to. Put another way, the supplying business needs to find its edge where it can be structure-determining in how it responds to the customer, rather than being structure-determined by its infrastructure. At this edge, it is in a position to offer cKP services that can be responsive to the customer’s context-of-use. But how is it to work collaboratively with the customer in agreeing the nature of those cKP services?
The example below comes from working with a computing services business with banking customers. The customer was operating in a problem domain in which the fundamental concern with managing risk required them to manage two kinds of problem – looking for market inefficiencies that could create investment opportunities for the bank, and managing the ‘value at risk’ associated with existing investments:
At the bottom of the diagram is ‘data warehousing’, understood to be a generic service that can be provided in a way that does not require knowledge of the specific bank’s situation, and ‘c-level‘ (it is always rising) is the level above which the bank’s specific context-of-use can no longer be ignored. In between c-level and the problem domain is a knowledge domain, in which knowledge about the bank’s context-of-use enables cKP-type services to be offered. The situations within this knowledge domain then identify opportunities for the supplier to provide services that cumulatively build on each other to meet their larger need in the problem domain.
This is an effects ladder, and it provided the bank customer and the computing services supplier with a framework within which to build a shared picture of the bank’s context-of-use. In the diagram below you see this generalised, with the relationship of rcKP services to the ladder. This adds the concept of a ‘knowledge ceiling’, being the level above which problems become too large to solve. An effects ladder is therefore a way of thinking through how such problems can be made tractable by bringing aspects of them below the knowledge-ceiling and/or raising the ceiling by becoming able to take on more of the complexity of the problem.
Strategy-at-the-edge requires that a double challenge be met which balances internal changes with external opportunities. The effects ladder provides the means of agreeing with the customer how effects need to support their demand situation within their context-of-use.