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Why Business As Usual is Not Good Enough

In business today the acronym BAU (Business As Usual) gets thrown around a fair bit. Usually used to distinguish between major capital funded work – strategic work –  and normal operational activity. It makes sense right. You have the strategic stuff and you have the lights on stuff.

The problem is that BAU can become a catch-all for mediocrity.

Segmenting a roadmap between strategic (interesting) initiatives and BAU (standard) activities can mean that there is no space created for innovating the day-to-day activities of running a business; the stuff that really impacts the customer.

It can also create dissension in product development teams where the BAU stream is seen as ‘boring’ and everyone wants to be part of the team working on the new initiatives. Often this means the team working on the BAU stream

Once I worked in a business working on a multi-million dollar transformation project that sucked the life out of the business because the scope was narrowly defined around integrating a new billing and ordering platform based on BAU processes. Anything new was seen as a new feature and therefore not in scope. “We would like to add a new product feature our customers are asking us for, and that our competitors are offering” “Sorry that’s not in scope, we are looking at BAU only. You can do that in 12/24/36 months”.

As this was a 24 month project key customer initiatives and commercial opportunities were put on hold while the development team worked to deliver the new platform. Not only were many opportunities missed, the scope of the new platform was limited as budgets blew out and timelines extended. Ultimately it almost killed the business.

The key point is that business is never ‘usual’. Customers are never ‘usual’.

Just as reflection and self organisation are central to the agile manifesto for developing products, experimentation and enquiry about customers needs must be central to product discovery and planning.