Business Engineering


You won't find this in Wikipedia yet, it's entirely my own invention. It's a portmanteau term I've coined to describe my approach to management.


Although I still play with techie toys whenever possible I am still at heart a business manager. Before I moved into IT I was managing a sales/support/ERP desk in a busy electronics instrumentation distributor (Fluke GB Ltd.) I was the spider in the middle of the web sensing anything that affected our customers. Around the office if there was no other candidate for a task it fell to me. I was intimately involved in every aspect of the "customer journey" from prospect to repeat customer. Our mission-statement at the time said "...we aim to give the customer a little more than he thought he paid for..." and it was my job to make that come true. I liked that mission-statement so much that I've adopted it as a personal objective.

I try to carry that customer focus into my work as an interim manager. And where my customer is unsure of what they want I look at what the customer's customer is likely to want. I have managed a lot of different business areas so I can usually put myself in the customer's customer's shoes.

The IT world has started adopting a similar customer focus. That is particularly evident in organisations that have adopted agile development methods, such as Scrum. These methods involve system developers working directly with the people that will use those systems. Contrast this with the old waterfall techniques where a System Analyst would collect a set of requirements from the users (or often their managers) and take them away to return months later with a system that he (invariably it was a he) hoped met whatever the requirements now were.


I have studied chemical, electronic and software engineering. I have also studied the history of engineering. I have studied the theory and practise of management, quite often by observing how not to do it. There are some ways in which engineering has lost its way in the new millennium. Engineering projects are costed to a fraction of a penny in pursuit of competitive advantage. Features that produce benefits that can't be easily quantified get abandoned.

What seems to be missing is something that we recognise when we look back at Victorian mechanical engineering projects. Their machines were over-engineered in that they not only worked but they looked as if they worked. And the people tending those machines took pride in keeping the machines running and looking good. The brassware was polished.

How does that attitude translate for the 21st century?

Business Engineering

Business engineering has two main components. The first mainly applies at management level and the second is for the individual's everyday tasks.

The job-description of a manager is strikingly similar to that of an engineer. "Do whatever needs doing, with whatever resources you are given, and without creating any more friction than is absolutely necessary.

Workers need to take a leaf out of the engineer's book too. They need to be able to take pride in their work and need to understand and take care of the tools they use - keeping the equivalent of polishing the brasswork and lubricating joints.

Bernard Peek