Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Emergent Dysfunction

Nick Malik asks an interesting question in his blog: Does SOA create a new class of defect: passive-aggressive behavior?

Something like this is certainly possible at the business level. Badly designed service-oriented relationships can produce frustration, anger and alienation, both for customers and for employees. In this weekend's Observer, Simon Caulkin has an excellent analysis of how this operates in off-shore (and for that matter on-shore) call centre operations: You call this best practice? (Observer, June 5th, 2005).

A simplistic analysis is that people in the US and UK are angry because jobs have been exported to India, and they take out their frustrations on the call centre staff. But this is confusing cause and effect. Customer service has been exported to India by companies that don't really care a fig about authentic customer service, and don't regard it as core to their business. No wonder customers are angry.

Nick continues: Can two systems behave in a manner that is counterproductive to both, but makes both of them look effective from the outside?

Quoting Professor Harry Scarbrough, Simon Caulkin says that given the low-skill, low-value of the jobs created in India on one side and the destructive hidden costs for customers and companies on the other, offshored call centres may be a remarkable example of an international exchange, freely entered into, that benefits neither party: 'That's quite rare.'

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