Technology in Indian Government and What Entreprises can learn from it?

For those who are following what’s happening in India for the last 15+ months in terms of Government using Social Technology tools to simply collapse bureaucracy and escalation layers to connect to common people is amazing.

Its not just the Prime Minister who keeps tweeting about his meetings, discussions and selfies with global leaders, but also it is spreading to others as well. His use of technology to reach out people, seek their opinion about the Govt policies, addressing issues and complaints – particularly in the areas of pension payments for widows have brought a fresh air to the governance in India where apathy is plenty everywhere.

One particular incident a couple of months back comes to my mind. A women traveller in a train was being harassed by a rude co-passenger and she tweeted about it tagging the Railway Minister tweeter account. Within seconds apparently she got a reply asking for train/seat details and the next station. In the next 15 minutes when the train reached the station, Police came into the compartment, sorted out the issues and moved the male passenger to a different section. Things like this are unheard of and its amazing how technology, and more so the political leaders are adopting it to provide basic services and security to the students.

Examples of Indians stuck in foreign land with stolen passports and in countries during troubled times, reaching out to the External Minister and she providing specific instructions and complete solution to their problems are many. I think no other country is providing such speedy resolutions to their citizens in foreign land so much alacrity.

This is not just the ruling party of BJP. Yesterday I was reading about how the young Deputy CM of Bihar is responding to the common citizen’s requests. Apparently a girl tagged him on a complaint that her scholarship money was not being released by the relevant State Govt agency for many days and how she was tired of following up. After she posted that, she got her scholarship amount released in just two days. Not just that, it was reported that the Deputy CM reviewed all the pending Scholarship payments across the State and specifically instructed his officers to clear everything in the next 2 weeks or so.

Apart form this, Prime Minister, CMs, Ministers having real time Video Conferences with multiple stakeholders to review a specific situation and taking collaborative decision is common in Indian administration.

All the credit should go to Chandrababu Naidu for this technology revolution in Government sector in India. It was almost 15-16 years back he took the initiate for e-Governance across Andra Pradesh and brought in gadgets, video conference, Internet and hi-tech bus.

In spite of all the problems, Indian is at cutting edge technology when it comes to Consumers and Services. As a Country we have always been a mix of opposites co-existing. I still remember the a couple of photos we used in all our PPTs while I was at Infosys – (i) a villager on a bullock cart opposite Indian National Parliament and talking on the cell phone, and (ii) Security forces carrying electronic voting machines on Elephants to remote villages that did not have basic road and electricity services.

Having your Prime Minister, Railway Minister, HRD Minister, Foreign Minister, Deputy CM accessible almost real time on the other side of Twitter or Facebook – is an awesome Citizen Empowerment, Engagement and Service. The impact to society is real and fast. As I mentioned, for a Country like India its manyfold – it creates a positive emotion and purpose in  people’s minds, gives them confidence that some local gunda or a government clerk cannot hold him/her for ransome – which has been the story for decades.

Now the question is what are the lessons Entreprises can get out of this? Are they even listening? Collaboration is not just posting pictures of picnics or pet animals. If the Collaboration is not Context sensitive, like it is in Government, then it is of no use. Can the Leadership team engage with Employees using technology the way the Indian Government is doing? And in doing so build a completely Engaged eco-system of Happy Employees?

Work, Society and Why am I an Entrepreneur?

“ಕಾಯಕವೇ ಕೈಲಾಸ” – ಶ್ರೀ ಬಸವೇಶ್ವರ

(“Doing one’s work honestly is like being in Shiva’s abode” – Shri Basaveshwara)

Every kid in Karnataka will hear/read/is thought the above single line philosophy from very early. Growing up in parts of North Karnataka this was engrained in my head even before I could understand what WORK was. Teachers, Parents and their friends, elderly visitors to the house, neighbourhood uncles/aunts – everybody quotes this to make the kids do things that they don’t want to do – particularly homework and housework. This philosophical foundation of Basaveshwara created a social revolutions in the 12th century by giving a religious connection/understanding to the hardships of one’s Work and Duty.

What I learnt in my childhood has stayed with me and assured me that I was not wasting my time when I put in those long long hours in my pre-college/college days and at work after that.  Particularly when I was running from 2nd Ave to 3rd Ave on Union Street at 10:55pm to catch the last bus to Bellevue in those cold rainy nights in Seattle after 14-15hours of work. There have been many more tough phases of life with respect to work, but I have sailed through them well.

Somewhere along the way, I put my hands on Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”. These were pre-cell phone and internet days and most of my Sunday mornings in the US were spent in Barnes & Nobel or Borders.  The Prophet is phenomenal and monumental and the simplicity and the contextual expressions were just awesome. Along with everything else in that book, I loved what he says about Work.

Refer to a few gems from his words (you can refer here for his complete writing on Work) –

“You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.”

“When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.”

“And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.”

“And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.”

And the best is – “Work is love made visible.”

This is so true and completely complements what I was brainwashed (in a good way of course) in the childhood that “Work is Worship”.

At the same time I heard one more context to work. And this was from Narayana Murthy of Infosys and this was before 2000’s. I don’t remember the specific context or the exact phrase, but what I remember goes something like this – adults spend most of their time in offices and with their colleagues. Its Organisation’s responsibility to make this entire experience better for the Employees so that when they go back home to their family and loved ones, they do not carry the stress and tension with them. Otherwise, they are not nice to their loved ones – they are moody, snappy or unsympathetic. This creates unhappy families and in-tern builds unhappy societies.

Murthy of 90’s was really awesome and very inspirational. I still remember the 20+ min speech he gave when 13 of us joined Infosys on 10-May-1993 and it still guides me in most of my decisions. He single handedly motivated the entire generation to work hard and make a difference to the society in building the “India” brand different from “land of snake charmers and elephant riders” along with his entire team.

He made us believe that we could change the world and build the future of India by making a difference to the Customers world wide.  He had a dream and vision, and we had energy and enthusiasm, and the combination created ripple effects and heavily influenced India narrative from that point onwards. Its a different matter that Infosys fell into the ‘predictability’ trap after 2000, and walked away from those basic qualities of risk taking which made it different in the first place.

And most recent reference to work came a couple of days back. I downloaded fresh episodes of HBR Podcasts and happened to listen to Gerath Jones’ “Simple Rules for Creating Great Places to Work”  (Episode# 494) promoting his new book Why Should Anyone Work Here?.  Listening to him talk about authenticity, trust and summarising at the end – “without good work, we can not have good society” – connected all the dots in my mind and provided the answer to the “WHY” (from Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” theory) of Employee Experts.

I have worked in large Organisations across the globe and very well understand how hard it is to be an Employee – to manage all the processes, escalations, updates, emails, status reports, people, politics, tasks, Customers, vendors, partners and few other things using as many different technology tools. Apart from Infosys in late 1990’s and Dell in early 2000’s, its been quite a challenge for me to find a Good Work Place. More often, we find the Technology and Processes significantly contribute to the not-so-good work place.

Technological limitations during early days of automation in 1980’s and the lack of innovation thereafter, are the reasons for the difficult work place environment. Traditional/legacy ERPs are focused on Departmental/Functional automation and their technical, functional and process architectures are centred around the Admin user as they were the only users of the automation efforts early on. This has driven the entire Enterprise Technology and Process architecture inward looking – focused on each process owner.

This results in a regular Employee using 10-15 different systems to get his/her work done in the Organisation creating a lot of frustration and headache for Employee as a user.  (a quick read on the beginnings and relevance of legacy technology and process architecture to current enterprise context).

This is the context in which I turned an Entrepreneur 4.5 years back and co-founded Employee Experts along with Maragathavalli Inbamuthiah. We reimagined Enterprise operations centred on an Employee and built all of Unified Talent Management, Employee Operations, Employee Service, Employee Engagement of an Enterprise on the same Singular platform.

We want to create better Experiences for Employees in all their Enterprise touch points.

No 10+ Systems. No Interfaces. No Different UIs. No Data Latencies. No Frustration. Its a single touch work tool inter-connecting Employees, Managers, HR team – all within the Organisation, with Candidates, Placement Agencies, Background Verification Agencies, Travel Agents, Customers and whoever else may be part of the Enterprise eco-system. This is our vision of Future Work Place tool.

We want to create HAPPY EMPLOYEES.

We want to enable our Customers build Good Work Places using Technology.

As an extension, we want to partner with our Customers to create Happier Families and Societies.

We have a very huge goal in front of us – to change the way Organizations function. To look at operations from end-user, Employee, perspective and not from Departments/Functions point-of-view. To shift the focus from process adherence to service quality and outcome measurements.

Its early days for us and the excitement so far among our Customers and the end-users, their Employees, is very motivating for us. They prove to us that we are on the right track in creating a Digital Workplace for the Future of Work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enterprise Tool Selection – Changing Players

Enterprise technology landscape is changing and changing very fast. The ERP/tool buying process has matured over the years, and Organizations have applied same processes and measures to select all tools in an uniform way. This worked in the last decade or so as the overall architecture and output experience of all tools were in the same ballpark range.

This may still continue for backend ERPs like Finance, but they will undergo significant change in HR/Employee related Enterprise technology tools.

Each Employee in his/her role as an “Employee” has very different expectation (ease of access, experience, contextual collaboration, etc) compared what some of the same Employees performing the “Admin” roles expect from the Enterprise software – how easy it is to manage exceptions, MIS reports, reconciliation, etc.

The reality is that at all stages of the Enterprise Technology tool selection – for the demo, feature comparison discussion, shortlisting, influencing commercial discussion – mostly these “Admin” users are there and drive the discussion completely based on their needs.

Its not till the later in life cycle when  “rubber hits the road” that the regular users get to see the system and complain how inconvenient the experience is while using the tool for everyday transactions. If the functionality and experience are good – its very good for Employees and the Enterprise. If not good, its a wasted investment and a wasted opportunity to create engaging touch point for Employees in an Organization.

This is true for almost all areas of Enterprise Operations – Recruit, HR, Travel, Finance, CRM, Service Desk, etc. A few tools like Finance ERPs may not be that impacted by the “Employee Experience” yardstick as  all those users will be “Admin”s. But others tools are definitely to be measured with this new yardstick more and more going forward.

The solution providers should apply their best “Design Thinking” hats to look at the best possible holistic Experience to be delivered to Employees with in an Enterprise. Only those products will successfully enter into the FutureOfWork world filled with Millennials.

And this “Design Thinking” is driving us at Employee Experts re-defining Enterprise operations process/technology architecture centered on Employee and Employee Experience.

Enterprise Technology – Beginnings and Relevance

I have been doing it for more than 22years now – consulting, designing, building, re-engineering, testing, maintaining and everything else in the Enterprise software space. As part of this journey, I got opportunities to work for some great global Organisations and some not so great ones. I have enjoyed the benefits of fast changing technology since early 90’s and seen the way the workplace has changed.

Two things to highlight –

  1. There is not much Process Re-architecture over the decades within the Enterprise.
  2. As a natural extension, all Enterprise technology innovations/adoptions have been incremental.

Here I am talking about the automation focusing on Employee Operations. And not Communications; Email in the early part of 1990’s and Mobile/Socials tools in 2010’s have been a big boost to communication processes in general.

Let’s look at the Enterprise technology context in the early 1980’s when the first seeds of automation started.

  • The personal computers were costly and complex
  • Only 1 or 2 people in each Departments had access to them
  • These “Admin” users were the super talented early digital adopters

Old PC Imageold-pc2 old PC

The need and focus of early stage automation was to improve the quality and speed of critical resources in a department.  Most Business processes were re-drawn to go through these “Computers” and “Admins”.

As the time passed – there were more “Admin” people with Computers in the Organizations and more point solutions were identified and built. And in parallel, the original point solutions evolved to include some of the peripheral tasks into the original scope.

The result of these initial steps were – Departmental or Functional focused ERPs, the ones we see today in the Enterprise technology space – HR ERP, Finance ERP, Sales CRM, Travel ERP and a host of other ERPs sprang up in the Enterprise space. Please note – these were all focused on specific functions within departments to be used mainly by the Admin users.

The database structures, technology architecture, workflow design, notification engine, User Interface, MIS reports and everything else that goes into a product was done with the confined scope of “Admin” users of a Department.

When Employee Self Service, Manager Self Service, Performance management and a few other Employee driven automation needs came up, the old/new vendors leveraged the same architectural aspects to extend the new functions – but again specific to one purpose.

In the last 2 years or so, the context of Enterprise Technology is changing – its purpose, relevance and type of users.

  • almost every Employee has a Computer and also a more advanced and powerful personal device which he/she uses more often and is more comfortable with.
  • From an overall business perspective, involvement of all the stakeholders is necessary to achieve faster communication and decision making
  • Effective collaboration needs boundary-less connections – cross functional AND/OR cross Organizational
  • Changing workforce needs easy access with engaging User Interface across all devices, particularly personal ones

smartphone-3 smartphone-2 Smartphone-1

Even with these big changes that are happening in the consumer technology world, the Enterprise technology vendors and the decision makers within the Organizations tend to look at incremental innovation based on a different set of parameters – to protect the investments, to manage the existing IT eco system, ability to handle the quantum of change from a support perspective – and continue to add more and more departmental focused (legacy architecture) ERPs with incremental UI changes and desperately hope that they will work in the current context.

But the big QUESTION is – will the legacy architected Departmental focused, Process oriented ERPs (even with the new UI) meet the EXPECTATIONS and NEEDS of the current workforce?

Has the time come to throw away the legacy architectures and reimagine the Enterprise Technology framework centered on Employee? We surely think so.