Is company performance driven by people or by process?

I read a really great paper by Ethan Mollick titled “People and Process, Suits and Innovators: Individuals and Firm Performance” that takes an empirical look at whether it is the people or processes that matter most for the success of a knowledge work company. In a very real sense I think that is the crux of the ACM vs. BPM debate. If process is what really matters – then BPM takes precedence over ACM, if it is the people than it should be ACM over BPM.

Ethan looks at middle management in computer game industry to try and pick out the impact of the type of work a knowledge worker does (in this case it includes ensuring that the project meets its deadline, gets the right resources and conforms to industry standards. Effective communication with the rest of the company and with outside vendors. Making sure that team is collaborating effectively).

The final conclusion (it won’t surprise ACM advocates) – “it is the individuals who fill  the  role  of  middle  managers  –  the  ―suits –  rather  than  the  creative  innovators  that  best explain variation in firm performance.” 

Too bad he didn’t look at the tools used by those individuals. What I believe he would have found is that they use documents, email and calendar (and maybe a Microsoft Office equivalent). That is the sweet (suite?) spot of ACM – becoming the BPM of knowledge work.

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