What is a revenue generating system exactly?

A question I asked a while back, when confronted with this age-old controversy.  Or at least I think it is controversial:  For one thing, I am not convinced that ‘sales systems’ (i.e. those that log orders – and inevitably get highlighted as examples of something that supposedly generates revenue) aren’t revenue generating.  And neither are the people the use them.   The ‘revenue generating system’ is the value stream, and therefore the organisation itself.

What would you prefer?  Sales staff or better products?  Most customers would opt for better products.  When the iPad came out it was a nightmare to find a shop with any in stock.  Though there were plenty of sales staff about who would talk enthusiastically about what it could do. All very nice, but so what?

To assume sales systems generate revenue is like assuming the checkout person in the supermarket is responsible for what you’ve just purchased.  Or that the waitress in the restaurant deserves to get a tip, just because she brought your meal over (what about the people that cooked the damn thing?  Do they get anything?).  The waitress, and the checkout person both took your money, so they and the equipment they use are presumably  ’revenue generating’? Is that it?  On the other hand, the warehouse guy who deals with the deliveries and makes sure there are products on the shelves, or the chef who actually makes something worth buying,  isn’t?   It’s a nonsense isn’t it.

Looking at individual pieces of a process – the so called ‘revenue generating’ parts – is not only futile, but leads us into a ridiculously  shallow, simplified view of the world that doesn’t really bear any relationship to what is really going on.