Business Process 21C: The Jackhammer Tales

suitOver the past few months I’ve begun to reflect upon how I arrived here at the intersection of process and innovation in the Enterprise.  It occurred to me that everything I learned as a researcher, a writer, and an industry observer in the services provider space  (my pre-Internet career) now had great bearing on what I was seeing in the Enterprise as a result of the pace of disruptive technologies impacting the market.  The question that kept re-emerging for me was: how are rigidly defined business processes that were hammered out in the 90s reconfiguring to adapt to better, faster, more efficient ways of meeting customer needs?  Even more puzzling is, if my friend Josh’s old joke is correct, “SAP is like pouring concrete into a company,” how are large enterprises dismantling foundational ERP systems to include disruptive technologies?  After all, no 21st Century business can stand to stay frozen in the past.  Even SAP itself is retooling to provide greater flexibility and real-time actions and insights with its HANA in-memory database and its JAM social platform.

This big question has been vexing me for a while, so I asked my friend and fellow Enterprise Irregular, Phil Fersht at HfS Research, if he’d be interested in an exploratory study to see how BPO providers and consultants are responding to new advances in mobile, social, the Internet of things– all new capabilities that were not present when the majority of institutional business processes were “cemented” into the Enterprise. I’ve seen evidence of several companies who’ve been introducing social, in particular, to provide greater value to customers.  Of course, some of the best examples are coming from platform vendors themselves such as this post, “Enterprise Social is about Business Process Redesign”  by CEO  at Socialtext.  But, I’ve seen other examples such as Deloitte’s work in this area explained in this post, “Social Reengineering by Design,” and even examples about how large consulting firms are changing their own internal processes as a result of new ways of working, as evidenced by this post, “Spark – taking Collaboration and Corporate Social Networking to a new Level at PwC.”   Luckily, Phil agreed this is an area definitely worth pursuing, so we’ve kicked the study off this week.  We’re compiling data and hope to publish results in the early May timeframe.

I’m really happy to be working in this area that combines my long history of covering the traditional outsourcing sector with my area of interest for this current iteration of my career in next generation technologies.  Phil has done an amazing job with HfS Research, too, so I’m proud to be contributing to their strong brand in the market.  HfS was recently named one of the leading analyst firms in a formidable field of competitors.  Last week, I paid a visit to my longtime business advisor Mort Meyersen, who is an icon in the outsourcing field having helped build EDS and then Perot Systems.  It feels good to be back among old friends, mashing up what I’ve been learning from new friends.

I will be working hard on this study for the next few months, but also working on the startup we announced a few weeks ago, Change Agents Worldwide.  So, busy, busy, but really having fun.  Hope to see some of you at SXSW, but I will be hunkered down and only getting out to a few of the evening events.  Please keep up with me on Foursquare if you’d like to connect while you’re here in Austin.

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.