Sustainability in the Digital World: Do’s and Don’ts

By Sairam Bollapragada

While the entire humankind is going ga-ga over the word Digital, there still seems to be much struggle around organizations in creating a Digital transformation blueprint/value and adopting the same quickly.

This note is an attempt to bring to table salient features of becoming Digital relevant in true spirit and deeds. Let us take the points, one after the other:

  1. Goals and Objectives: An Organization should ask itself if they have a dossier which explains to all its employees what Digital means to their business. It is not mandatory that all aspects of Digital should mean something to you. Pick the relevant ones which are critical to your business and get started on the transformational journey.

 

Organizations should get aligned to their clients (both current and potential) on how they can leverage your Digital capabilities to strike a chord with the digital needs of their clients as well. Hence the sales teams should understand the needs and current capability. In fact they should be the first agents of the change to bring to table the digital market needs and hence what we need to nourish as capability.

 

The upskilling is the next most important action. Since the entire demand is moving towards Digital, your upskilling plays a strategic role. The two cannot be misaligned considering even the short term requirements.

 

  1. Adaptability: Your strength to react to the changes in market demand is very critical if you need to be seen as the early adopters in the market . Understanding the market conditions and demand fast, acting to invest in a skilled workforce faster and be the first implementers is essence – which all sums up to reflect on how Agile you are as an organization. You may have to ruthlessly clear the clutter or legacy clingers who can become a challenge to the road to transformation. This will also help your perception in the market and make your sales teams to approach the market with that much more confidence. Unless you up your risk antennas, the conviction will be missing in your commitments. The challenges are greatest learning tools which prepare you to handle bigger commitments. Hence create a risk taking culture that thrives on innovation and experiments.

 

  1. Change Management needs to be carefully crafted out of a network of sources which should become your strongest source of drivers in enhancing your objectives of Digital transformation. Change. When inevitable has to bring in objectivity to avoid chaos. In the Digital space, it pays you richly through both internal and external partnerships. Co-creation is a critical component of this Change process. Please refer my earlier blog: https://itservicesdelivery.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/digital-transformation-looking-outside-for-a-change-agent/

 

  1. Congenial Work Environ: The culture of clinging and hugging often seen as threat to change, is led by folks who don’t want things to change as it reflects their insecure mind-set. Millennials must be provided a platform to bring in fresh ideas through their out of box creative minds. They don’t carry any baggage and hence you can almost always expect a fresh bag of ideas. Once you encourage such an environment, ideas will flow automatically. Let the owners of execution incubate these ideas and convert them into compelling propositions for their clientele. The more fresh ideas you take to clients, the more your probability as being perceived as a leader in the space. Remember perception management is also very critical across the ecospace. Strategic initiatives cannot be allowed to be held ransom to the feudal mind sets of folks obsessed with large teams. The question then to them is – how would you embrace the upcoming digital twins in your workforce.

 

  1. Focussed Teamwork aligned to Objectives: In the services business of annuity, we seem to understand a lot about value creation. We try and demonstrate through our PIPs (productivity improvements), CoD (Cost Of Delivery), etc. However, with the advent of Digital and Automation, the client’s expectations have gone exponentially wild compelling all service providers to think radically different. Hence the above point 4 holds that much more water. Most persons facing the client needs to come across as your digital brand ambassadors (if not all). The approaches you position to the clients should prove your thought leadership. Often the rift between what is sold and what is delivered leaves a bad taste with the clients. This is a true reflection of what lack of orchestration within the teams. Hence your need to align all the teams to speak one language of offerings-capabilities-capacities to establish credibility.

 

Last but not the least, every Digital customer is looking for uniqueness in the solution being delivered. So please be very cautious before you replay a plethora of offerings while you showcase your might.

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Real Time Supply Chain Analytics

Real Time Supply Chain Analytics

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

Supply chain managers have seen increasing challenges to create, and keep, efficient and effective supply chain methods, Customer Service, Operating Cost Control, Planning and Risk Management, Inventory Control, GTM Speed, Supplier / Partner relationship management, Green Supply Chain and Talent (Resources) are a few burring issues that are on the top of the charts that burn the midnight oil. A survey by McKinsey says the companies who have already engaged in leveraging Digital Technologies have managed key trade-offs on barriers to better performance : raising risk, lack of collaboration and low CEO involvement.

The fall of this decade has seen major shift in the supply demand dynamics, the traditional supply chain solutions are not equipped to handle complex scenarios due to lack of visibility. There is a competitive demand for real-time responsiveness which can be addressed by the combination of Data Science and Emerging Technologies connecting customer service with Social and Mobile platforms that are cloud enabled on one hand and strengthening visibility into operations with IOT based real-time analytics. The icing on the cake is emergence of machine learning which is all set to address the tactical challenges and give signature ready recommendations for decision makers to gain maximum mileage.

Supply chain management will gradually be disrupted by the rising adoption of IoT and advanced analytics.  The challenge faced by the supply chain practitioners and players is inability to take advantage of technology to the fullest extent while they are trying to simultaneously integrate their supply chain systems across a much wider range of information sources due to lack of 360 degree view of both business and customer.

  1. Strategic Planning: The very first component of the supply chain, Strategic Planning, comprises of Strategic supply design and Strategic sourcing. Here real time analytics can be used for Supply Chain alert monitoring and the insights will flow into Long term planning, Bid Management, Contract management, Catalogue management and Source determination, real time information can be accessed by decision makers that are geographically dispersed to take collaborative decision on a cloud enabled mobile application. 
  2. Demand Planning: The Next component of the supply-chain value stream is Demand Planning the three crucial capabilities here are Forecasting, Promotions and Demand Consensus. Advanced real-time analytics help with Macro calculations and planning bill of materials leading to collaborative demand planning and characteristic based forecasting.
  3.  Supply Planning: The heartbeat for any supply chain is the supply planning which comprises of capabilities like Safety stock planning, supply network and outsourcing decisions, Distribution planning, Customer and Supplier collaboration. The best component in the value chain where Emerging technologies can be used with the fullest potential is here, the power of cloud enabled CRM systems and Communities connecting the enterprise giving a 360 degree view to the entire ecosystem including the suppliers, customers, partners and the enterprise following with the power of advanced analytics and big data enabled deep learning algorithms come handy. Some examples where one can leverage advanced real-time analytics are in the area of multi-level supply demand matching, whereas the artificial intelligence neural network algorithms can be plugged into supply network planning.

Procurement, Warehousing and Order Fulfilments are three equally crucial parts of the supply chain operations that are interlinked and often become bottleneck in the supply chain due to lack of visibility. In a connected supply chain environment the intelligent algorithms need to be plugged in here such that all three areas are interconnected and all repetitive processes can be automated through RPA, what with NLP loaded Analytics providing intelligence and insight into the process.

4. Transportation: The last component of the value chain is Transportation. Often the biggest complaint from the players of supply chain is “Visibility to the Tail”. This is already being accomplished by real time analytics, bringing in a predictive model that combines features like load consolidation, intelligent route optimization, carrier selection and shipment trending which are few elements of the Transport planning while the Transport execution can feed in data from the shipping interfaces capable of distance determination services. The last inputs come from the freight-costing component that strengthens the predictive model and the machine learning algorithm continuously churns the data and gives real-time insights for both strategists and operations.

Hence, Analytics working in tandem with Cloud, Mobility, and AI, can play a very critical role to bring in great value add to the Real Time Supply Chain scenarios for all those who embrace and leverage. This is even more critical with markets moving towards a more C2C value chain where the customer experience and expectations are fast changing. Retailers, Warehouses, Suppliers, Logistics, and all the agents in the Supply Chain have to work in an orchestrated mode need to be on their toes to remain competitive and relevant to the market expectations.

Why existing estimation tools are not realistic for Digital Project Estimation

Why existing estimation tools are not realistic for Digital Project Estimation

by Bollapragada Sairam, Rajesh Mohandas, Dattatreya Rao, & Ravi Pandikunta

Digital for some executives is primarily about the technology. For others, digital is a new way of engaging with customers. And for others still, it represents an entirely new way of doing business. None of these definitions is necessarily incorrect. But, the variation results in piecemeal initiatives and misguided efforts.

Industry experts have started to believe that digital should be seen less as a thing and more a way of doing things … this creates complexities with respect to estimation, how can one estimate and cost a concept. In digital projects “basic concept” is a starting point for estimation, or at least an idea, but it’s loose and not particularly well defined. Sometimes that’s because there hasn’t been time to develop it or there simply isn’t the ‘appetite’ from the creative to think through the detail.

Unlike traditional development parameters, the Digital World carries many more and they are unique in nature, variety of products, applications, data bases, technologies, middle-wares, hosting types and the entire eco system. Few more elements such as, sensors/devices, platform/infrastructure, testing, integration, security, scalability, robustness, seamlessness are multi folded efforts in development.

 

Some cost estimation models used in software development today are

Cost Model Description Best Fit Environment Formula type
COCOMO Constructive Cost Model Large corporate and government software projects, including embedded firmware Logarithmic
COSYSMO Constructive Systems Engineering Cost Model Large corporate and government projects, including embedded firmware and hardware Logarithmic
FP Function Points Software projects of all sizes, mainly desktop OS based platforms Linear
WMFP Weighted Micro Function Points Commercial software projects of all sizes and environments, including embedded firmware Linear
REVIC REVised Intermediate COCOMO Large military software projects, including embedded firmware Logarithmic

Some typical challenges with traditional estimation techniques in software development:

Unlike other industries, here often the estimates are done with partial data and sometimes with incorrect data, too. Several techniques / tools have been introduced over the years to make the process systemic and not a gut-based guesstimate. However, lapses still occur and this is still one of the toughest to-dos for a project. Following are few more parameters

  1. Poor design: Poor design results in unnecessary code tweaking and heavy-duty maintenance applying pressure on schedules.
  2. Not splitting the tasks enough: Most common method is to split project tasks into a WBS, but sometimes they are not broken enough to be conceptualized with clarity.
  3. Top to bottom scheduling: This is a practical problem one needs to deal with. Instead of doing bottoms-up estimation, most projects start with – “I need this done in 6 months” and then a work breakdown is done where the task estimates are retrofitted inside these 6 months.
  4. Factoring the dependencies right: Often, an external dependency or a decision point is missed-out causing the project to suffer, this is “coordination neglect”.
  5. Factoring right buffer: This is a common challenge and there is no simple formula here.
  6. Analogous Estimation Risk: Often, project estimates are done based on an expert judgment or from past projects’ experience. While picking an analogy and mapping the estimate might seem like an intuitive thing to do, it’s often risky because of the numerous variables in a project and the unique elements and dependencies, the people involved and their skillset, diverse tools and technologies adopted and the infrastructure and resources in place.
  7. Ignoring Team Capacity: There is a lot of debate about what unit or estimates need to be factored – should we measure complexity, time or effort? Irrespective of what unit is followed, many Project Managers tend to ignore considering their team’s capacity. It seems obvious that different people would take different time to code, but when we draw estimates, we come up with a standard effort estimate.

One other challenge is not only the technology but also the periphery elements on the topology, network, security and emerging areas like Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous vehicles, Cloud Manufacturing and 3d Printing, IoT and Connected Devices, Robots, Drones, and social media platforms couple with decisions on the emerging approaches like DevOps, Dockers, Microservices etc… add further complications into the estimation cycle.

Changing expectations from the customer are forcing service providers and manufacturers into a hyper personalization spiral, thus adding cost pressures. In these cases, the technology needed to solve our problem is well established indeed; in fact, it’s possibly the most important technical innovation in the history of humanity ranging from B2B, B2C, B2M, C2C etc…

The players in the market too have made the situation complex, though each provider promotes “On Demand and Pay as you Go” models the terms and conditions are quite different, for example the pricing metric in case of AWS is number of messages, Cisco looks at Cellular, GE bills on number of instances, IBM looks at data ingested and bills accordingly, Microsoft costing is depended on Number of messages, devices and feature set while SAP looks at an annual fixed subscription model and there are many more such elements to consider in your costing model…

The exponential growth in the technology as well as diversification of the same, new solution components, hyper-personalization, and other needs, all mushrooming towards building of modern solutions; but one cannot ignore that there is a dire need for building standard cost estimation frame-works where the conventional methods cannot be afforded….

The THREE “R”s as outcomes of Automation!!

The THREE “R”s as outcomes of Automation!!

By Sairam Bollapragada

IT has been predominant for its people and associated costs. People have been the epicenter of all the transformation/automation and the benefits measured have always hovered around the people, the efforts, their packages and associated costs.

These are the days of automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence and introduction of robotics. We are creating digital workforce, in a big way to transform the way we deliver solutions and services today.  Due to cost pressures, many times, evidently the quantitative savings take advantage over the qualitative ones. The more demanding clients do not budge on either.

The bi-modal approach on what you can do better with our existing work in your scope as well as what else you can do with our other work with other vendors is becoming a natural ask by clients. This then creates the platform to compete and who brings what to the table matters. While everybody seems to be selling the concepts and ideas, the rollouts from adoption is slow as indicated by a recent report. Hence, the benefits slowly reflected in the books.

Many a times, the teams are not able to articulate the savings and calculate on how do we arrive at the magical savings number and translate that to dollars. The efforts thus required to deliver the same service with the productivity improvements should lead to benefits that can needs to be captured and reflected.

All the benefits can be thus, categorized into THREE R’s that relate to the people aspect as follows:

  1. R1: Resize: when transformation/automation saves engineering effort and hence the cost of solution/delivery drops, you can release few team members. This resized team can deliver the same volume of work or keeping the same team size can take up more work. In typical annuity projects, one can re-plough the saved effort to create additional work in terms of additional tickets or CRs, either with no drop in revenue or additional revenue.

 

  1. R2: Restructure: while betting big on outcomes of automation, one can expect the productivity of the team as a whole to gain upward momentum. This should lend the capability of the higher end of the pyramid to delegate the some of, if not all their tasks to the lower band teammates. This is a true indicator of productivity improvement.

 

  1. R3: Resite : In all engagements, many times we come across mandatory set of tasks that should be done onsite or at client’s site. Transformations/Automations can also bring in the capability to move those tasks offshore bringing down the cost of solution or engagement. This may add to your bottom lines or you may choose to pass on the benefits to the clients. Whichever way, more presence of tasks at offshore has always been a strong indicator of confidence levels of delivery as well as capability of the team.

However, when it comes to benefits @ R1 or R2, there is strong feeling that it only leads to job loss. Positively put, it can aso mean the higher band resources can be released (and if they are very capable) where they can be deployed for account mining or/and other transformational consultant roles to demonstrate technical prowess or thought leadership in different areas – both  focused at increasing the footprint from growth standpoint.

If we don’t embrace automation/transformation, somebody else may move your cheese. Till the outcomes hit the financial books, the last mile is not accomplished….so, we must compel ourselves to drive these market-mandated changes, as long as the choice is still with us….

The Need for Intelligent Command Control Center for Robots (IC3R)

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

It is predicted that the industry economy whether IT or non-IT, will go full throttle in the upcoming FY 2017-18 to create a financial realization called autonomics – unlocking the potentials  of robots that are being conceived. Over 2.5 billion people have at least one messaging app installed, within a couple of years that will reach 3.6 billion, about half of humanity. (Source: The Economist) However, the outcomes as suggested by many big market research houses have not been up to the desired expectations. With the things heating up around automation and artificial intelligence/RPA, we can foresee that we will be very soon seeing an increasing need to have some solid controls in place.

Today, the market is focused on Industrial Networks, Industrial Robots, Machine Vision, Control Valves/Devices, Field Instruments, Enclosures and Cables.  Each of these components have an IT and a Non-IT element with technology landscape consisting of SCADA, PLC (Programmable Logic Controllers), PAC (Programmable Automation Controllers), RTU(Remote Terminal Units), DCS (Distributed Control Systems), MES (Manufacturing Execution System), PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), HMI(Human Machine Interface), and above all Safety.

While creating new technical solutions every day and getting excited with it, we are probably too casual on the flip side of the consequences. Lets focus on the negatives for a moment – what if an unmanned vehicle had a bad bug? or what if the programming in the automated manufacturing plants were intercepted/hacked altering the desired behavior or leading to disturbing outcomes?, it can become a nightmare!! For example a recent crash involving Uber Technologies Inc. driverless car suggests autonomous software sometimes takes the same risks as the humans it may one day replace. While we are creating bots at an unprecedented speed and passion, we may also need to secure these advancements through a control mechanism, which will help us to have the desired outcomes, intact. The technological singularity will compel us to start thinking on automatic recovery with deep machine learning capacity.

Hence, are we talking about having a Command Control Mechanism to protect the desired outcomes of all the automated bots whether Soft or hard? The answer is yes. We need to soon develop and establish command control centres for a set of digital work force you want to monitor on a continuous basis to ensure they are aligned to the expected behavior patterns. In fact, there should be a proper set of guidelines issued by the state agencies before allowing any robot to go commercial in the market. The audit and strictures will help control the release of un-certified or Rogue robots. This would be especially true with the craze of smart cities catching up like around the globe. The creation of the digital twin space is also something that must be looked into seriously for potential disruption.

A command control center will help in creating a centralized monitoring service which will track monitor and report the behavior of these bots while positively looking at it, it could also lend performance improvements towards the desired outcomes. What with the introduction of aggressive mind-control technology and Drones we should have a proper access control on this technology based robots. A C3 with an end-to-end visibility across robots with real-time rolling view to help us have a central control of work schedules, job cards, execution, and support for various robotic activities

While the support for high availability/disaster recovery and network load balancing is the intent, the central control mechanism, will be mandated to have a cyber-cop kind of functionality. For example, while monitoring the bunch of UV Cars, suppose an unmanned vehicle on road was malfunctioning, one should have the ability(or create one) to monitor it in real time and stop the functioning of the engine remotely to avoid any major disaster.

A secure central monitoring system laced with analytics, could be enabled through the log base where robots pass on every information pertaining to each activity they are instructed to perform. With this much of an information being logged, one can get a deep insight into the business and the activity patterns being conducted by or through robots. With so much of information at our disposal one can really create a very good analytics use case to understand and comprehend the behavior of these robots as they are unleashed into the market.

The global industrial automation market is extremely fragmented due to the presence of several players in the global market. Some of the leading players operating in the global market are ABB Ltd., FANUC Corporation, Honeywell International Inc., Toshiba Machine Corporation Ltd., Yokogawa Electric Corporation, Emerson Electric Company, General Electric Company, Yaskawa Electric Corporation, Rockwell Automation, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, and Voith GmbH.

However, while doing a cherry pick of the best of the lot or robots to make their organizations more productive and efficient, we hope that the focus will begin from creating a solid Intelligent Command Control Center upfront to monitor, maintain, track and continuously do course correction for these disparate bots – soft and hard alike. The industrial control and factory automation is projected to reach USD 153.30 Billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 4.88% during the forecast period and hence the emphasis. The state agencies must work towards evolving policy guidelines within and beyond for all entities looking to employ the automation-Digital bots effectively.

Digital Transformation: Looking Outside for a Change Agent?!

-By Sairam Bollapragada

Every Organization is wanting to go Digital but having its own share of challenges on route to the Digital Transformation. The struggle is not so much with technology which is a given. The challenge is with the DNA of the organization which has been in existence for more than 2 decades and the standard operating procedures (SOPs) have got ingrained into the constituents of the organization. Change is a hard reality and people naturally resist. The resistance is not just about the change, but is more about being compelled to accept the change pushing them off their comfort zones.

When we talk about digital transformation, it is about the journey straddled with the change in human behavior, the cultural change, the change in communication, the change in offerings, the change in skill-sets needed to service the digital client, the change in mindset and leadership, etc. Change happens one step at a time but here we need to bring in a phenomenal change across the organization- many steps at once, across the skills, the mindset, the ways in which we plan and execute, the way we design and create the solutions for the future, etc.

While everyone is aware of the benefits, lets refresh the salient 5 benefits here:

  1. 63% improved customer satisfaction
  2. 49% increased lead generation
  3. 75% lift in engagements
  4. 46% better client conversations
  5. 53% higher traffic

 

Some facts and figures to refresh the challenges to Digital transformation journey: While 35% of the companies are >80% digital, 68% are hoping to reach there in the next 5 years; while 39% of the challenges are in establishing the right operational and governance model, 39% are around evolving the company culture; as common drivers, 50% evolve around customer expectations, while 45% are due to rapidly changing competition in the market; and the list continues…

Let’s look at 5 Digital Strategy points (one should look for while stepping into the digital strategy):

  1. A Digital Strategy positioning Technology as a potential differentiator:

Digital is more about how fast an organization is able to adapt to the changing expectations of the market and prove you have the sustaining technological ability and agility to change at that speed. Hence a good and sound strategic plan to prepare the organization for the upcoming technological change that is not only vital but absolutely critical for survival. 80% of the companies report that their companies are getting processes and tools to expedite Digital roadmap, but actually only 46% aim to overhaul customer services. Digital is a space where Technology can both be a solution and a problem.

  1. The CxOs would need to lead from the front: The leaders must play a very critical role in this Change management with nothing less than absolute involvement to demonstrate their willingness to learn and drive the change themselves. The leaders must spend a lot of time with the digital strategy team to understand the context and lead the future blueprint from the front. Every part of the organization must be so synchronized in the blueprint, that it would become a seamless means of accomplishing the singular organizational Digital objective! Though 88% of companies report undergoing Digital transformation, actually only around 29% have mapped digital customer journey and know where they stand.
  1. Create an Organization structure that will be built for Speed, Agility and innovation: Decision making should be given top priority and right people should be moved to the right positions in order to create a very strong sustainable structure – challenging the traditional and the obvious challenging organization constituents and their conventional standard operating procedures. One should target to remove all the potential silos (read threat) not allowing the politics of the organization to hamper the future prospects and final successful end-goals. As an organization every client wants you to innovate uniquely and exclusively for them. Hence the need to pick the right (enabled)leaders who can take smart quick and compelling decisions, though hard, in a very timely fashion.
  1. Outside in view: For two plus decades now, the IT industry has been working in a community manner which has built very strong intertwining relationships between team members with various flavors of emotions, bonding, sentiments and strong linkages. However, the casualty of such organization is its being detrimental in the transformation. Hence to bring in required changes, professionals with immense unlearning and re-incarnation mindset are the need of the hour. Hiring/positioning creative consultants or even workforce, with innovative mindset is more critical than just the experience. This is more observed in larger entities where the larger and longer the team’s existence, the harder to resistance to change.
  1. Cultural change: The thinking of the new generation which has channeled so many startup entities around is a mix of forceful strategy, fearless thinking, innovation through Technology and creative market offerings. An organization marred with Legacy – non-digital businesses and annualized (operational based) economy, these traits will be hard to get from within. Resistance to adoption of new ideas, accepting the new market expectations, creating disrupting growth strategies, coupled with new disruptive generation thinking will double the challenge for the legacy entities – culture being the biggest challenger. Unfortunately, only 63% of the companies feel that culture is a major challenge while remaining 34% sort of agree.

With the complexities of cultural inertia, organizations are being compelled to get the Change Agents outside the organization. This trend has become inevitable when the leaders realize that there is a dearth of talent of such kind within the organization. In many places majority percentage of strategy looks at hiring innovative talent from outside where you can bring in an outside-in viewpoint with dispassionate recommendations of building a potential digital organization of the future. Many experts believe infusion of external talent can ignite the digital transformation much more easily. However, there should be heavy involvement of HR to ensure the moves are not abrasive in nature and the sensitivities are handled with utmost caution.

In addition to the above, the learning and training teams would also need to play a critical role by launching few initiatives like:

  1. Digital by Mentoring: Bring in mentoring of batches of folks under capable Digital leaders. These mentors should have a true capability with knowledge and ability to transform handful of associates.
  2. T-C-H: Training+Certification+Hands-on: mere training of employees may not be a great help but a good certification (internal or external) to gain confidence (self and others), added with hands-on experience in the digital labs would greatly benefit the individual and organization.

I would pause here for you to take a note and will come back with the metrics on Digital transformation of the Organizational Change Management in the next sequel of this….Till then, Happy Digital Transformation!!

The “I am too busy” syndrome

            By Sairam Bollapragada

The work/life balance issues have been plaguing the modern day work cultures and IT industry in particular. The imbalance has come in where people do not know how to manage the time and when to point in logical concluding points. It leads to an ineffective life as you find out that if you were truly being effective, then you will definitely have more satisfaction both personally and professionally.

The redone phrase talks about – “I am busy with escalations” and escalations are used for showing off the decorations that people who work only get escalations and not otherwise. Hence the busyness. But busyness has become a glorified stat -. A badge of honour. The new martyrdom.

I am busy

If you hear yourself talking like a “busy person” and not an effective one, then it is time to make some changes. If you have been claiming you are busy, people are already concluding that this person is not worth investing time and money with. There are various messages getting conveyed:

  • Let me manage my time first
  • I am as it is struggling
  • Please let me do my work first
  • I am really tied up to make my ends meet
  • You will never say I am free as my credibility is at stake
  • You don’t do anything extra or for free
  • You don’t seem to work hard enough
  • You might have free time but I am really constructively engaged
  • My time is precious and not yours
  • I am a busy person as I don’t want my boss to have another perception
  • …and many more.

The modern day knowledge worker (and we are all one) feels that the society must see him as somebody who is working a lot for the employer. Hence he LOOKS busy.

One of the modern worker was heard saying to his brother “..I am awfully busy so if you intend to speak to me, please call up my wife and understand from her my schedule. If I am not she will put you across to me!” The sad part of this entire stigma is the focus on relationships is being lost. The folks who cannot take the pressure of work treat their own work as a favour to the world.

However if you were building the impression that you have already arrived, you need to understand that these stances become deterrents to the long term relationships. In one of the instances, a person stopped calling on his relative for 15 long years as he was sick of hearing to the same statement everyday – “he is very hard working and hence busy”.

Some of the means and mechanisms to get this balance back in life for modern day workers are:

Make a list of your inner-beliefs. Prioritize what’s most to what’s least important to you. Next make a list of your outside commitments. Do they match? Are you losing anything by not doing something – be your own time-auditor. You are your own greatest stakeholder and there are no brownies on getting this one.

  1. Know yourself

Start seeing yourself for who you truly are—whether you like it or not, whether it’s politically or socially acceptable or not. You are who you are, so work with it – not against it. Success is not always a measure of BUSYNESS outcomes. The successful people are simply most organized, focused, efficient and set their priorities right.

  1. Develop your persona – offline

Your life is more an extension of your profession. Your profession is what should drive the benefits to better your personal life. When you cannot spend the good/bad/ugly moments with your family members, the entire purpose of your existence is lost. Nobody cares if you could not attend your kid’s birthday if you had a meeting at office and hence got delayed – every time. They learn watching the elders and this may become the most unwanted ROI when you need them in old age.

  1. Pay attention

I have seen instances where a couple or a family sitting at a restaurant are busy chatting – all by themselves – over social media. The idea of a family get-together and dining together is to connect. Connected they are but not to each other. I have known people who manage to get more than one cell phone to prove they are too busy. Some go to an extent as to when they call upon others for tea or meals, they speak less to the audience and more to their phones. The sensitivities attached to respecting other’s times can really make or break relationships – business or personal. I know of one of the most successful business leaders in IT industry, who would switch off his phone while meeting somebody and ask the visitor also to do the same to have a focused and meaningful conversation. The divided attention can spread you thin and inconclusive.

  1. Listen more

Many people thrive on bragging.  I am sure people have many brownies to mention but when you listen, you gather more ideas. Listening is another critical success factor which helps you to obtain others perspectives which widens your horizon of wisdom. Listen more and listen attentively.

  1. Don’t Overpromise:

One of the key components of effectiveness is to not over-promise. Humility is a wonderful virtue that lends itself to this kind of good behavior, and often leads to under-promising and over-delivering. That’s where you want to be and should be. Always under-promise and over-perform. It will leave you with loads of satisfaction, much gratified and successful.

Finally, one needs to be honest about their talent – at least to themselves! Being realistic about ones talents, interests, available time, connections(and we often get lost here with expectations), and  motivation can save oneself and the others around a lot of wasted time, anger, and money.

People want to believe in and reach out to the “best in people” not the “best people”. So the question you should not ask yourself is – are you PERCIEVED the best! You should ask- what is in me that the folks would reach out to me for?

The best thing you can do for others as well as yourself is to be as realistic as possible about who you are, what you like, and what you are willing to commit to. They want to believe in you and will believe a lot of what you say so make sure what you say is real!!

The KM role in “Staying Relevant” in the Digital Age

By Sairam Bollapragada & Bhuvaneswari Valluri

KMChart

A recent Google Trends chart shows a spurt of interest in digital transformation from May 2015 to taking precedence over mission critical activity that has been the trend in the last couple of years. India tops the charts with a 100% interest followed by Australia at 75% and United Kingdom with 51% interest rate. Given this focus, and considering that technology once “belonged” and has/is become(ing) “open”, organizations worldwide are finding it difficult to deal with the abundance of information and knowledge assets being churned out.

While much of the above is freely available on the internet, knowledge workers and subject matter experts within the organization are largely unable to capture their expertise and experiences quickly enough to proliferate across – a natural transmission loss hence.

Businesses and customers alike are constantly demanding change and challenging the status quo.

The desire is to leverage emerging and disruptive technologies providing a competitive edge and building uniqueness into products & services, and ensure faster growth. The technology space is evolving faster and quicker than our imagination (refer: https://itservicesdelivery.wordpress.com/242)

Organizational speed and agility remains, key! Improved productivity, streamlined delivery, and higher levels of customer satisfaction are a few demands. In the process, organizations are generating that much more knowledge to present the world with alternate solutions to a multitude of problems and needs. But, organizations cannot afford to be data rich with poor insight. Availability of right information and knowledge at the right time continues to be the need of the hour. Organizational memory refresh needs to be that much quicker.

Knowledge acquisition and its conversion to explicit knowledge still remains a challenge. We need to be get more structured around how we want to manage information. The new smart knowledge management system (SKMS) is supposedly a hybrid knowledge-based decision support system that takes information and sends it through four macro-processes: diagnosis(base or integration layer), prognosis(analysis layer), solution(solutioning layer), and knowledge(finds solutions to issues and presents alternatives based on past experiences), in order to build the Decisional DNA of an organization. The SKMS implements a model for transforming information into knowledge by using sets of experience knowledge structures by leveraging Communities of Practice.

Heavy focus on Centralized KM repositories is essential and must be kept current with an inflow of latest information while ensuring redundant and outdated information is weaned out regularly and with shorter lifecycles. KM processes for the capture, storage, sharing and archival of knowledge assets have to be that much more efficient, quick and effective. Organizations that have invested in KM practices are making headway by focusing on smarter knowledge management frameworks and adopting tools and mechanisms, SEO, improved usability, tagging content to ensure relevant and faster search results, mobile interfaces to ensure availability of knowledge while on the move, etc. are trending this year.

Employee  learning and unlearning curve becomes that much shorter and challenges managers to keep pace, stay relevant, make decisions based on critical factors that can also include — availability of training by experts (external and internal), and individual employee attention and memory span.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella says, “We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention”. Interestingly, Microsoft recently conducted a study on “what impact technology and today’s digital lives are having on attention spans.” Not very heartening to see that while the average human attention span was around 12 seconds in 2000 it has dwindled to 8 seconds in 2013 and this apparently is less than that of a goldfish’s attention span! Alarming in a way, considering that customer expectations are volatile and employees need to ensure they efficiently deliver services and products well ahead of time, keeping in mind competitive pricing and high quality.

Businesses worldwide are figuring out ways of ensuing a higher frequency of knowledge asset updation. Current research from HBR suggests that machine learning and computational linguistics are making a difference to organizations worldwide. Interesting examples of how an organization has used natural language processing to perform and learn time intensive data entry and documentation tasks; use computer vision to scan and analyse images; perform predictive maintenance etc. have been shared. This is good for organizations that have made conscious investment choices to stay current. But, is the writing on the wall clear enough for those who are still dealing with such issues?

Simpler ways to address this need have to be adopted. Exchange of tacit knowledge through communities, discussion boards, wikis and micro blogging must increase. Digital transformation Project and Delivery stories need to be shared by making this the KRA of each project manager.  Cross pollination of expertise knowledge via webinar, podcast and other modes needs to be mandated. Usability is the essence here and information architecture is prime. Organizations must invest on periodically revamping their taxonomies and metadata structures to ensure employees are equipped with right information at the right time to make them that much more capable.  Incentivization in non-monetary forms must be encouraged as this may address the WIFM (what’s in it for me!) for the employees. Periodic promotion of existing knowledge to increase KA usage should also be considered.

However, all this is not possible without proper governance. Following can help:

  • Knowledge assets’ (KA) review mechanism must be established through  domain knowledge experts teams
  • Customer confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements must be made more stringent…
  • Knowledge assets’ usage reports have to be automated.
  • Managers and decision makers must be able to access these reports and dashboards as required.
  • KA retention period and archival mechanisms must be established through a structured KM Strategy Plan.
  • Measures to ensure knowledge is constantly being made shareable should be mandated.
  • Demarcation on what is mandatory and bolt-on for teams should be established (how about a team knowledge strategy?)

In essence, what is required is a coherent and concerted effort by organizations to ensure they have the wherewithal in terms of the right set of knowledge assets enabled by effective KM processes that allows their employees to maintain high knowledge levels while challenging them consistently with improving and sharpening  learning curves and hopefully better than the goldfish’s attention span!

Digital Workforce: Next Gen Engineers as Assets

Digital Workforce: Next Gen Engineers as Assets

By Sairam Bollapragada

The IT industry service providers are right now struggling with means and mechanisms to transform the existing workforce to adopt and adapt the Digital skills. As they keep stepping deeper and deeper, the journey seems to be getting more difficult and complex. The lateral folks resting on their laurels for long are finding it difficult to put their arms around the new technology and software engineering changes demanded as the industry as a whole seems to be suffering from inertia, built over more than a decade.

The technological advances in the past 2-3 years have been going at a phenomenal pace. The platforms, packages, penetration of Social Media, Mobile apps, transformation to Cloud, Analytics being used as a primary R&D tool for almost all domains, and latest being the IoT – all have brought in compulsive factors in each of the industrial domain. It now looks like no industry will survive without embracing technology.

Many of the technologies/platforms that we hear today in the IT industry never existed 8-10 years ago like Raspberry Pi, Xively, Thingworx, Mahout, Apache KafKa, IBM Bluemix, Osmosis, etc – and to add further to the pace, what we see today maybe just the 40% of what we will see in the next 5 years!!  The bright minds would be needed in every organization to drive the adoption and delivery of solutions using these technologies.

The Next wave of engineers who will come out by 2017-18  hold the key. When I speak to them on the transformations and new developments today, they seem to understand most of the emerging areas, thinking like professionals who are ready to learn, execute and conquer the new technological frontiers beckoning them. Many with right support of the campuses are ideating like never before. Many are taking on the mantle of becoming entrepreneurs and donning a techno-commercial hat. They are able to talk, like the typical maverick innovative thinkers. Though many would think that’s not what we want, I would contest that this is what is needed now. If we cannot think out of the box, the conventional approach will spell a disaster.

The IT Organizations (especially those in service industry) are running aggressive internal transformation programs, some in a focused and some on discretionary ways, but the attention and absorption being quite low, the grip on the handle is a suspect. Hence the infusion of the new blood to mix and rejuvenate the read-to-learn experienced folks will create the new organizations which will sustain the next five years, if not the decade.

The young engineering students pursuing technology to graduate in 2017-18 will have bigger challenge to close the gaps between what was taught in earlier part of the curriculum and what is being rolled out in the current curriculum. The following will come true in the next few years:

  1. There will be unprecedented collaboration between industries and academia to create unique products on mass scale. Both will come together to create a more vibrant workforce for facing the upcoming market competition and demands.
  2. Project works or internships may start assuming more significance as IoT areas would require more hands on than being limited to a theoretical exercise. Industries would demand longer duration of projects/internships. It would extend from 6-12 months than the current 3-4 months. The top students would get paid heavily by the Indian outfits.
  3. More internal labs and incubation centers would find places alongside customer CoEs, co-created between service providers, academia, product vendors and customers. All would focus to create innovative market disruptors and hence may unleash a fierce but healthy competition between the internal lines of business. Perhaps a mini Technology office within each delivery unit will be a need for the next 4-5 years.
  1. With the above, more patents are expected to be created and the IP creation will become a buzzword to swear by, more aggressively.
  1. Cloud, Mobility and Analytics will no longer be niche areas and every IT professional has to understand about few of these areas to decent levels of depth. Hence each delivery unit will need to have architects in these areas embedded into their organization.

With this being the futuristic scenario, the existing workforce will have quite a bit to bite and chew. The organizations struggling to wriggle out of the historical structures (especially ones where personality based organization structures have been a trend) would need to be dismantled. Every organization would need to re-incarnate themselves with a heavy focus on the next generation engineers playing a heavy role in the transformation. The quality of engineers will be focus and the pay packs are slated to surge up. Hence the intake may be limited to those who can walk the talk.

New roles or positions pertaining to IoT like IoT Node Experts, IoT Middleware Experts, Things Mobile Experts, Things Ux experts, Things Domain experts, IoT Security experts, IoT Account managers, etc will be soon found marking themselves high amongst the recruiters. Many may move to crowd-sourcing than outsourcing.

The screening of academia and staff will also play a vital role in the job offers as everybody would strive to get the best to stay ahead of the curve. Mediocrity will no longer be an option.

The same would apply to the existing workforce. Every experienced professional would find himself under the heat to learn the new technologies, new terminologies, and new methods of planning, estimation and governance. Those who don’t welcome the change with open arms and mind would find themselves fading away too soon. The timeframes for the reaction and change would be too short.

The loading of entry level technically strong guys will create a healthy competition to learn and excel. This will lead to refresh in the organizations both technically and the amalgamation will constitute new organization, just not the structures.

Hence the organizations would need to create leaders who are solid technically, have demonstrated technology management skills, and can lead the organization into the next wave. The organizations would depend on these visionaries to create this amalgamated organization between the old and new breed, to deliver the best of the hybrid race to ride the digital tiger.

SMAC/IoT and Manufacturing – a perspective

By Sairam Bollapragada & Narayan Katti

With stress levels on automation and robotics going northwards, every manufacturing unit is investing hard on ways to pull down the cost of production and RPUs, increase the customer retention for sustenance, increasing business process efficiencies, creating differentiators, being able to most competitively price, continuously innovate, optimize operations, manage supply chain and others – but the largest investment being human interaction.

Manufacturing also has seen a significant shift from pure play product philosophy to product and services philosophy. Customer is at the center of all initiatives that the manufacturing industry is embarking on.  Customer-centricity is now the new mantra of Manufacturing Industry.  Be it, Automotive, Consumer Electronics or Industrial manufacturing, manufacturers are looking at delighting customers with various innovations across the value chain of manufacturing.  SMAC/IOT is a channel which will create scope for these innovations.

As per IDC, “…55% of discrete manufacturers are researching, piloting or in production with IoT initiatives…”. The oil and gas industry, hit with the downwards spiraling oil prices, is still investing in technology space driven by optimism and compulsion to reduce the cost of production.

Globalization is pushing everybody to compete in the market place without compromising on universal standards.  The ever demanding customers are pushing for decreased business cycles, hence re-inventing business processes, with more demands around personalization and better service levels. (ref: The caging of SMAC/IoT). The other issue is complexity and erratic value chain in the industry. The real time process integration for manufacturing and supply chain has always been a persistent problem to solve with newer radical innovations around  business processes further challenged by emerging market growth and behaviors.  Globalization of demand-supply chain is also playing a pivotal role in how the markets behave.

There is a discussion about a $ 19+ Tn economy in the next decade with manufacturing garnering at least 27% of the share. The manufacturing Industry is betting big on   IoT and emerging technologies to help shape up their future. Manufacturers would need to redesign their thought processes, with a significant focus on analytics connected devices, and related areas.  One could visualize a shop floor where each device is connected with its own IP identity and communicating with the centralized automated monitoring mechanism.  The data from such connected devices and also the analytics could get into the supply chain processes. This would provide all necessary information in real time for better decision making and also better time to market!! Managing the inventory dashboards across warehouses and manufacturing units in real time will be a challenge, interesting to handle and change your supply chain plans on the fly.

IDC says that by 2018 more than 40% of manufacturers will depend heavily on connected devices.  The innovations would be around product innovation, product services and productized services. Each connected device will generate critical data to further their own efficiencies and hence the generation of data will be beyond petabytes across similar industries and each company would need to demonstrate aggression to mull, mine and read into this data to stay ahead of the curve. A transition journey will commence to these new technologically driven services for higher profits and far superior CSAT. The manufacturers will indeed hire or create their own data scientist teams for this.

Connected devices will also increase the complexity of communication between themselves re-defining the product design to manufacturing to marketing to after-sales services. The smart connected products being manufactured will necessitate building new technology infrastructure made up of hardware, software, engineering components, running on remote cloud based servers, using security mechanisms to protect the information leakage and integration of business processes through completeness of information which will enable extraordinary new product capabilities; products which can monitor and report their own condition periodically, bringing in near-zero manual preventive maintenance processes.

This product and product-generated data will become the new value-add in the business processes. The seamless dovetailing into other product generated data will make it very valuable for analytical reasons. The connected devices with addresses – both, virtual and physical, data on spare parts, data emitting parts, laced with sensors for capturing material characteristics of various products or parts will take us to the meticulous levels,  unheard and unforeseen thus far.

Security: However, since the adoption is in nascent stages, the Industry standards and best practices are still being explored and reviewed in the IoT Labs. Security would play a key role in IoT areas as the expanse of touch points is enormous. While it is a big boon for the customer for all connected devices, it is a big challenge for IoT implementers with respect to security. There would be lot of opportunities for IT security players, as the scope for a COTS security product in this area in near future is bleak.

People aspect:  Hence the first casualty will be the manpower optimization and this will move jobs to automation. The severe lack of manpower will be the result of the historical paradigm where IT and production engineers have been working in silos for so long. Getting them aligned to each other and also to a common goal will take time. The learning curve is on both ends but whoever does it first will stand to gain unquestionably. The core competency of the production engineers will need to be blended with cloud, mobile, analytics, social media  and both the sides will need to collaborate heavily to innovate. These innovations would deal with how best to leverage on creative business processes across ERP, CRM, PLM, SCM platforms.  The need to have high end partners and third-party advisors would become essential in many cases that will be expected to not only keep them honest but also bring speed into the collaborative innovative processes.

Here is where the current avatars of Service industry will need heavy transformation. All the experience of helping manufacturing industry – whether BPO, ITO, KPO and other services will need to be brought to the table and devise a mechanism to understand transformation parameters like costs, differentiators, growth targets, and partner-eco systems apart from others to create the strategic  transformational  roadmap for them….