VUCA in the Digital world!!

VUCA in the Digital world!!

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

Across the globe, all are now connected in unprecedented ways. This is both a boon and a bane, where we live in an era that is transforming and setting stage for the next revolution. Times when we were disconnected and every country operated in silo the challenges were limited to the internal affairs and the near border conflicts only.

With technological advances where today we look at a bright and secured future on one hand, on the other hand the unrest continues and is growing bigger day by day, conflicts, civil unrest, terrorism, ransom ware, cyber crimes, etc… are now integrated into our daily life.

The digital reality is shaking up some of the beliefs and compelling us to move to a more knowledgeable IT economy what with automation and AI which were limited to books, have finally come to the open challenging how that can transform every space of the life. Soon all white-space is expected to be filled with cognitive behavior and techniques. Automation is forcing re-wiring of skills for many of the IT workforce (read : ) spelling end of the careers if not done.

Hence one can relate to the 4 key parameters of VUCA : Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Each of these factors are challenging the order of the day stuff and hence the need to cope with the same in the turbulent times.

The compounded problem statement with external influencing factors from market pressures, competition, shareholder expectations, stakeholders, are strong indicators, to the fact that the leaders will need to be hard wired to resilience.

The role of the leaders managing workforce, will be crucial and critical in shaping the digital future of any organization.  Most of the requirements to support a digital environment are not about the technology per se, but it is also about creating the environment to re-skill, create flexibility to be agile, adopt to changing demands, and groom the right talent for a safe digital future.

Let’s take each of the parameter at a time to see what it means in Digital world:

(V) Volatility: The nature and Dynamics of change that is blowing across the landscape mandates catalysts to adopt to these changes. The legacy of efficiency and productivity will no longer continued business anymore. Disruptive innovations are indeed unsettling dominant industries in today’s world. Hence the times call for compulsive innovation and a drift away from SOPs.

U (Uncertainity): This is a factor which reflects the lack of predictability and many surprises. Another indicator of this is the refusal of the current technology wave to move easily beyond the labs. The ever-experimenting mind-set is also reflecting that the solutions themselves are prone to obsolescence, from the very moment they are conceived with high degree of unpredictability.

( C)Complexity:  Multiple parameters built into the character of the issue spells complexity – be it chaos or confusion-led issues.

Complexity can also reflect multiple influencing factors which can unsettle easily. Complexity is good or bad depending on your strategy. Having a bullet proof strategy is impossible – nevertheless one should have a solid strategy to counter complexities and challenge the same.  Even if it comes with short expiry date (2 years) you should have one.

Digital space is getting more and more complex with each passing day rolling out a new platform, new innovations coming to light, new solutions offered, disruptive models coming to life, etc. Hence to deal with all these changes, a strategy for managing this change is mandatory and thus the

(A)Ambiguity : The fact that we only know 40% of how technology will fold into the lives and markets as an influencer, is a true reflection of haze in the Digital space. This then raises the question of business risk, which is quite a reality today.

At various levels of an organization, there are ambiguities relating to progression and growth, whether at organization level or career levels of professionals.  Except for the lexical meaning of the Strategic and Tactical approaches, the lines are thinning out.

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity will continue to exist but what leaders today can do is to play a vital role and attempt to control the levers by moving in to a Hyperawareness zone of informed decision-making, and fast execution. Winning in the Digital Vortex is not just about algorithms, architectures or innovative business models; it requires organizational change and workforce transformation. And successful transformation is enabled by a company’s digital business agility, building on the fact that people are an organization’s most important asset. Hence, everybody is but compelled to think on the forward thinking strategies to adopt to the Digital VUCA scenarios….

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

By Sairam Bollapragada & Bhuvaneswari Valluri


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:

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!