Cognizant Global Experiment in the Collaborosphere Pays Off

As many of you know, I spent the first half of my career in the IT space tracking the IT services sector. The business of large-scale systems integrators and outsourcers wasn’t always thrilling, but boy-oh-boy, did those firms rake in the big bucks. Contracts weren’t even worth mentioning if they didn’t register in the hundreds of millions. At one point in the “megadeal” market for IT outsourcing, a contract would have to be in the billions to earn that designation.

Sigh.

I often wonder how my old friends in the SI/Outsourcer space are doing, and if in fact, any are adopting 2.0 technologies or practices internally or recommending them to their large customer bases. So, it was a pleasant surprise to reconnect with an old friend, Alan Alper, who is now working for another old friend, Malcolm Frank, both now at Cognizant— a large-scale integrator/outsourcer.

It turns out Cognizant is making productive use of 2.0 technologies and practices, and has realized some identifiable business results already. The company began an initiative about two years ago called, “Cognizant 2.0.” Essentially, the Cognizant 2.0 platform is a combination knowledge management/project workflow tool that incorporates 2.0 technology to leverage the combined intelligence and skills across Cognizant’s entire 60K workforce. What’s interesting about Cognizant 2.0 is that employees use the same tools they’re used to using in the workplace: Microsoft Project, Office, SharePoint, as well as their ERP systems. The platform integrates these enterprise “native” tools into a unique view that crosses time zones and geographic boundaries to glue the company’s expertise together. Dashboards now monitor critical project tasks and provide project teams with detailed, real-time access to workflow activities, information, targets, and deliverables. Internal blogging for the company has produced some surprising results. It grew essentially organically within the company as a means of communication and sharing and now includes non-related work content such as discussing charitable causes, movies reviews, weather, photography, and affinity-based professional interests.

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Cognizant estimates the new collaborative platform improves project cycle times on average about 20%. With more than a third (37%) of the company’s application development projects running through the platform, it encompasses over 4,000 projects at what will soon span more than 600 customers. One of the greatest gains has been a 70% productivity improvement for project managers who formerly used the company’s previous project management tool. About 20% of the workforce (over 10K), including the company CEO Francisco d’Souza, are blogging internally on the platform with over 3-5 million page views a month.

Customer satisfaction numbers for Cognizant have always been high (near 90% in recent years), but the advantages of working collaboratively and socially has given Cognizant a distinctive advantage vis-a-vis its competitors in a hotly contested space. In essence, the company has moved from “labor arbitrage” to what it now refers to as “intellectual arbitrage.” The Cognizant example is an excellent one that truly demonstrates business advantage to a large enterprise. The company intends on extending the platform to include suppliers and customers in upcoming releases.

If I had to point out a deficiency for Cognizant 2.0, like its enterprise software components, it’s not sexy. It could use a trendy 2.0 UI/UX makeover to make it more appealing to users. But considering most of Cognizant’s workforce is comfortable with plain-old-vanilla enterprise software for everyday use, there is probably no urgent need to doll up the platform. Moreover, as Cognizant is a public company with nearly $3B in revenue and an $8B market cap, the company’s priorities might well be more focused on business results than design awards. I give it a thumbs up for innovation, adoption, and an impressive approach to integrating the old with the new– which is what I’d hope to see from a world-class systems integrator.

Fun with Outsourcing…

Saw this on an outsourcing discussion group and had to share…  They’re talking about outsourcing architectural drawings to India.

Re: Paris??
so which projects you do can you send me a detail list in email so that we can mutually understand and exchange some projects..
 
 
Reply From: CB
Date: Nov/17/06 – 20:05 (GMT)
Reply
Re: Paris??
Here is our project list.
1.)Paris
2.)Paris surrounding areas

We would love to mutually understand and exchange but we have outsourced the
projects that were outsourced to us to an outsourcer who outsourced them to
another outsourcer who uses an exporter. It may take weeks to figure out
where Paris is.

We also may have difficulties in exchanging checks as we have sent our
checks to a Nigerian bank. We are trying to unlock the funds of the dearly
departed Mr. Smith. We have been assured that we will be rewarded kindly
for our help in the process by freeing 10 million dollars in funds from the
Smith estate.

Sorry we can not be of help now.

It’s Friday!!!!!

¡Ay, caramba! Blogging is work.

I’ve been posting on the new ZDNet blog. They tell me it’s live, but there’s a glitch in the technology that is preventing it from showing up in the blog roll. You can view it here. I’m very interested in off-beat IT Services stories, so please email me (susanATitservicesadvisoryDOTcom) with any interesting ideas.

Hot Topic: Back to Backlash

I was reading Vinnie’s blog and he mentioned Tom Davenport’s pooh-poohing. When I returned to the business this year, and went to my first outsourcing conference in 5 years (see 3/30 post), Davenport was the keynote speaker. He was an excellent speaker and connected easily with the audience. As a matter of fact, he was talking about how the industry was trying to apply a CMMI-like model to the BPO market that I found intellectually interesting. I stopped him in the hall afterwards to ask him about it. I think I remember telling him the subject matter was actually insufferably boring to me, but I thought putting some structure to BPO that way was interesting, and I might like to write about it. Thankfully, he laughed at that and told me he thought it was boring too, but he gave me his card, and told me he would mail me something from the HBR he published that would explain it all.

Now Davenport has been around for a long time. I was impressed that IDC had him as a keynote speaker. He has McKinsey, CSC Index, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, board seats on Accenture– in his background, and his resume includes writing or co-authoring 10 best-selling business books about knowledge and information management. And this comes straight from zoominfo:

In the January 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review, he wrote “Competing on analytics means competing on technology.” In the article, he highlighted companies that use analytical intelligence to drive successful decision-making and competitive differentiation, citing as examples eight companies that are Teradata Warehouse and solution users.

All that being said, with all due respect (and I so mean that sincerely), I want to say to Mr. Davenport and the others of his ilk: please don’t rush to judgment and dismiss Enterprise 2.0. First of all, it’s not just about blogs and wikis. There is a whole host of technology enabled by Web 2.0 (and it’s growing every day).

And, you might want to be aware of some of the more interesting knowledge-based Enterprise 2.0 products that are moving into your sector like Atlassian, Coghead, Intalio, Abgeniel, Illumio and even a little startup I’m helping right now, Experteria (in beta). And these are only the products I know about.

Yes, Enterprise 2.0 is a hot topic. But there is a difference between a hot topic and a fad. I’ve been harping on the youth culture that is driving the development behind these technologies and the attitudinal shifts that are taking place on both spectrums of the knowledge-worker universe. The fed-up, smart, hamstrung departmental users and a digitally comfortable, DIYYnot?-ready youth culture moving in.

In the 90s, it was Jim Champy who christened the Business Process Re-engineering movement. Fad. But it forced enterprises to think in terms of business process and led to BPO- today’s hot topic. Sustainable.

Last word on Hot Topics. My suburban mom friend and I would always nervously usher our kids fast past the Hot Topic store in the mall. It’s no Gap, trust me. I guess we were afraid they’d be seduced into the punk lifestyle if they were exposed to it. When the store first showed up in our local mall, I assured her, “Oh, that will be gone in a few months.” Wrong. The store has been here for years. And you know what? We all shop there now, even the kids (and no, they haven’t transformed). Great tee shirts and band paraphernalia. The lesson here is we all judge what we’re uncomfortable with, but cultural trends have a way of surviving and adapting around our unwillingness to recognize them at first.

Trust, Communications, Relationship-management…

Frank Casale invited me to co-moderate a workshop yesterday at his Outsourcing Institute NYC Roadshow on "Outsourcing's Bad Rap: Playing Politics." Throughout the day, although the outsourcing market has changed so much over the past ten years, I heard the recurring themes of trust, communications, and old-fashioned relationship management. Buyers and sellers all have their war stories.

The day was excellent. A comfortable and informative series of workshops and presentations. OI holds a series of these workshops. If you're interested in outsourcing, definitely worth attending.

The World is Flatulent

So I went to my first outsourcing conference this week in New York after five years. If I hear one more reference to Mr. Friedman's book, I'm going to start to become disrespectful. Can we please move on to the next pop business fad? There was even an Indian offshore company raffling off the book as a giveaway at their exhibit table.

I have to admit the offshore phenomenon has thrown a wild curve into what used to be an apple pie, all-American business. When you got outsourced by EDS, CSC, or IBM, a Democrat might have lost their job to a Republican, but that was about the end of the political strife. It's a whole different ball game today. I'm exploring my conscience on this one. I haven't read Friedman's book, but I did break down and buy it this week. I hope I find some answers there; but my gut is telling me we're headed for a stormy season in rationalizing why this is a good development in our industry. Am I alone here? Am I missing the big picture?

I think I may be missing something because serendipitously, I sat at the conference (twice, in fact) next to this really well dressed, attractive guy. Now, please understand, really well dressed, attractive guys almost never go to outsourcing conferences (unless they work for a vendor like Oracle or IBM or something). The guy looked Ivy League or like he lived in Connecticut– you know the type. Glancing at his badge, I saw that he was from GAP (General Atlantic Partners), the venture capital firm. Of course, that made sense. When I saw him the second time, I had to ask him why he was at the conference. He told me he was there because one of his companies was presenting, Genpact. In fact, GAP has made investments in two large Indian offshore firms, the other being Patni. He told me he did work in Stamford and that he works with Jim Madden, who as you should remember, was CEO of Exult, another GAP company that was sold to Hewitt, which is a GAP company. Madden is now at GAP.

The bottom line is. I always take my clues from the smart money. If GAP is invested in India, then the offshore thing is not going away. I guess it's like I tell my 9-year old son when he doesn't like a particular outcome or development, "Deal." I feel like I'm reacting (albeit internally) the same way my 9-year old reacts.