Organizations today are subject to tremendous change. The relentless march of technology and progress is making business models obsolete at a rate never seen before. At the same time, it makes new business models possible -- which were impossible before.
Global Delivery is a child of technology and the desperation of not having a strong domestic market to cater to. Enterprise 2.0 is the long term convergence of multiple stacks with emphasis on communication, intelligence, networking and collaboration. In the coming decade, these two will provide enterprises with an appetite for risk a way to break away from their peer-group, redefine their industries and create a revolution on a scale not experienced before.
Global Delivery Management (GDM) thrives on a trilogy of concentrated availability of skills, a strong process execution framework and the connectors. Since the IT example is well understood, let us look at a firm called Li & Fung. Based in the British (and subsequently Chinese) ruled Hong Kong, it is perhaps the world’s foremost Supply Chain Management firm. It manages production in China, distribution throughout the World and is now building quick-response capabilities to be ‘near-shore’ to the customer.
The Crux of the Matter
In a lecture at Stanford, Chris Anderson (Wired) makes the point that technology now makes it possible for manufacturing to become scale agnostic, as information barriers are dissolved by portals such as Alibaba, the evolution of 3D ‘printers’ and the assimilation of talent around ‘key goals’. Such a dramatic premise is only possible because technology allows better interaction between product designers and manufacturers and logistics allow lean-inventory driven supply chains.
The Software consulting industry is ripe to use similar concepts to develop a radically different business model in the coming decade. Using Web 2.0 tools to enhance communication, drive collaboration and capture innovation, will allow organizations to create a model where:
- GDM can work for the smallest of customers to its largest
- Innovation is systematically trolled for and is allowed to rise through bureaucracy
- Individuals are more empowered to re-invent themselves as ‘mini-companies’
- The Web 2.0 tools coalesce around a single pervasive platform
A. Scale Agnosticism
Let us understand this transformation through a simple example: ‘the ERP support team". Today the big GDM players provide dedicated teams for F500 firms -- often running into 100’s of people. While overall efficiencies seem impressive, individual contributions within the same team can vary 50%+. A smaller company seeking shared support with the large GDM vendors often is not able to elicit the same enthusiasm from them. E2.0 concepts can be used to create a model at the most granular level to support tickets. So how will this work?
- Create a job board for tickets
- Assign a $ value to each ticket
- Define participation rules & guidelines
- Allow (not mandate) collaboration between employees
- Enable a ‘facebook’ type employee network that can work as one to solve the ticket
- Put in place access control and security rules
While this will not work as a good reflex response, one should explore the site www.innocentive.com. It is a sort of Alibaba for science researchers and has been running this model for over half a decade.
The game changer for possibility is the real-time integration capabilities of various components such as chat, knowledge portals, search technologies, automatic time-tracking, authentication protocols (single sign-on) that can be coalesced using E2.0 concepts.
The enterprise that cracks this model will:
- Create access to 1000’s of bottom of the pyramid (high-growth) organizations
- Drive a new-level of cost efficiency in support and get ahead of the pack
- Encourage its employees to be entrepreneurial -- while working within an organization
Innovation in large GDM players is “committee & quota driven” (today). The kind of sustained, rapid and trail-blazing innovation that is desired by leaders exists for the large part in books and in ranking methodologies of publications such as BusinessWeek.
E2.0 (in the words of McKinsey) allows support of a much more diverse set of technologies and complex interactions that shape, review and inform innovation. Infosys’s brain trust “SETLABS” has come up with a protocol/stack “Smart AssySt”. It is as revolutionary as it is simple. When a user is working with an application and is “stuck”; She can:
- Chat with someone real-time
- Get context-specific search data
- Get help to raise a support request
- Brainstorm with others on how to improve the application
Such interaction was possible but extremely tedious before Smart AssySt came about. The use of E2.0 allows the individual to own the end result and contribute in a meaningful way. A fantastic (but little known) example of such innovation in the public domain is http://www.osdd.net/ -- a giant effort to kill TB!
C. I am a Company
Employees in today’s GDM world were hired primarily for their intelligence and their learn-ability. Over time, the fixed relationship of the work-pay equation leads to disappointment for both the individual and the enterprise. This disenchantment leads to reduced performance and other challenges.
E2.0 can allow an individual to control her personal destiny by:
- Active identification of opportunities
- Competency building to leverage opportunities
- Improved Work-life balance -- hallowed as it may be
- Creation and promotion of her own brand
We have seen earlier how the humble job board in an E2.0 enterprise has the potential to revolutionize the support model in the next decade. This same platform can be extended for all the tasks defined for an employees’ role. If an employee sees that a particular technology (for ex: Web 2.0) tasks have higher value; she would invest time in skills development through training, and a job poster could see her competencies in a face-book style add-on app. This creates tangible value for skills (which will now be pull-driven rather than pushed by a mandate).
These competencies, along with a record of the employee's jobs and their ratings would act as her progress barometer. The enterprise can thus spend less time on routine assessments and focus more on market leadership. Each individual will thus have the impetus to be a more integrated company than the erstwhile ‘i-am a cave’ model.
Companies can become leaner and competency-driven. They could re-organize around the McKinsey ‘no-HQ’ model; i.e, coalesce around competencies and locations where talent pools can be found. Today no large Indian GDM player is in Tallinn, Estonia; although it is well established that Tallinn has strong mathematics and programming competencies.
D. How many platforms will I need?
Andrew McAfee (the father or Enterprise 2.0) uses the term “emergent social software platforms” to bottle the multitude of technologies that are grabbing a handle on E2.0. In this author's view E2.0 will have the following key characteristics:
- Available to search -- to enable google-like algorithms to provide insight and intelligence
- Cross-referenced and integrated
- Context-sensitive, secure and always-on
I see the integration of various stacks into a single, branded cohesive platform. There will be multiple platforms based on existing and newer technology stacks -- and each enterprise will choose what’s best for it. So the answer to the question is five (really).
The Matter of the Crux (Summary)
E2.0 will allow a re-write of the GDM DNA. In the second decade of the 21st century, firms with E2.0 at their heart will create new competency based models, that will look far less like today’s factory style assembly-lines and more like mini “intel-labs” -- where small teams will come together around a goal that will scale to form a very different company.
The evolution of this model will need support from intellectuals in cross-border taxation, changes in labor-laws, improvements in network security and development of theories of new employment and post-employment societal structures.