Monday, 10 February 2014

Next Generation Digital Platform for Enterprise Collaboration

Charles Darwin, in his famous book, is supposed to have said “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed”. The Darwin Correspondence Project doubts whether Darwin ever said so. Regardless of the wrong attribution, the world of business vindicates this quote, especially in the present situation in which a new wave of digital technologies is testing the ability of enterprises to improvise and collaborate.

Diane Morello, Managing VP at Gartner confirms that “The impact of digital business will be undeniable: It will introduce new business models, cause industries to be 'digitally re-mastered' and change the way that businesses put great minds to work”.

Putting great minds to work has always been a challenge, especially in the knowledge industry! This article discusses traditional approaches and challenges to enterprise collaboration before proposing a strategic platform, to improve collaboration based on digital technologies.


Most enterprises quickly understood that collaboration, co-creation, co-ordination and combined capacity are the key to sustainable wealth creation. Since this awareness, enterprises attempted practicing several approaches to inspire teams to interact to ignite new possibilities. “We have already observed how the most innovative businesses and organizations are starting to develop a new collaboration system that goes beyond the open innovation” confirms Alfons Cornella – the founder of Infonomia and co-society. Teresa Turiera & Susanna Cros of co-society have published fifty examples of business collaboration that prove Cornella’s observation. They serve as case studies of successful collaboration. Methods used by organizations that produced those case studies are worthy of an independent study.

However, enterprises have traditionally used following approaches for collaboration:
  1. Portals, based on content management systems, not only automate business processes but also promote collaboration, by collecting and disseminating information, achievements, ideas, reusable components, risks etc.
  2. Co-location and Accelerated Development Environments insist that client and service providers work in dedicated environments for faster, effective results.
  3. Advanced Technologies such as desk based video-conferencing; work-space sharing have helped drive collaboration to some extent.
  4. Incentives for collaborative work help not only showcase benefits of collaboration but also ignite teams to work together.
  5. Expert driven Cadence helps sustaining current techniques of collaboration.


Cornella of co-society notes that several approaches to collaboration have emerged by chance and only a few enterprises have used systematic approaches to design and perfect collaboration methodologies. For majority of the enterprises, collaboration is a challenge, often due the following reasons:
  1. Enterprises Mishandling Collaboration: Inability to think beyond structured systems such as portals, reservation to embrace social approach to team work, nervousness to empower staff with collaborative infrastructure inhibit fostering a culture of collaboration.
  2. Technology limitations: Cloud, mobility and social technologies have emerged only recently, especially in affordable fashion. Still there is scope to improve them – for example – to strengthen the use of context to increase effectiveness. 
  3. Lack of Integration: Collaboration is not built into the organization’s business processes and is often left to the personality of local managers. 
  4. To further complicate the matter, organization’s insists on quantifying and benchmarking complex attributes such as growth in adoption of collaboration, percentage effort savings due to collaboration etc. Effort involved in collecting these metrics often de-motivates staff to sustain innovative experimentations.
  5. Staff Sentiments: Unverified assumption about the ability of the self, company culture, job grade and role sensitivity inhibits a normal employee to openly collaborate. In such situation, the natural tendency of the employee is to guard individual reputation.
Subsequent sections explain how the use of a digital platform helps overcoming some of these challenges.


Digital technologies include 
  1. Analytics and business intelligence 
  2. Mobile technologies 
  3. Cloud Computing 
  4. Collaboration technologies. 
According to Gartner, these occupy the top four positions in the CIO’s technology priorities for 2013. Each component of digital technology brings distinct advantages to performing enterprises as shown in the picture below.


Increased communication and collaboration is a function of individual traits – especially openness – and type of technology. The following table illustrates how collaboration varies with variety in both dimensions.
The table projects a possibility that enterprise digital technologies will achieve higher degrees of collaboration regardless of the employee’s openness to collaborate.


Here is a platform based on digital technologies that coexists with the current enterprise applications. It provides innovative tools for self expression, knowledge discovery, reuse, ideation, sales enablement and collaborative excellence. By integrating the operations of the platform into business processes, a culture of collaboration can be designed into the enterprise.

Components of the platform are explained below:

  • Personal Digital Space provides facilities for the individual to host his/her profile and express his/her thoughts in terms of blog posts etc. It can also be made to provide seamless access to other components of the platform.
  • Project And Experience Database serves as a social and collaborative space for the project. It can contain project specific details and host a social environment to collaborate with its stakeholders. Over time, it feeds valuable information to presales, CoEs and other bodies within the enterprise. 
  • Collaborative Excellence and Innovation Fabric is like a governing body for various Centers of Excellence that run within the enterprise. It can be made to govern the platform as well to ensure best use of digital technologies within the enterprise. It consumes project information through the context toolkit to feed its CoE members.
  • Digital Presales Tool consumes project experience, personal thought power and CoE outputs to create cross-sell and up-sell opportunities to drive the revenue.
  • Context Tool Kit acts like the brain behind the proposed platform and ensures delivery of right information to the right person at the right time. It uses the power of metadata, provided by modern digital technologies such as
  • Employee Relationship Management provides high quality services to the employee just like the CRM. It helps services  within the enterprise to treat employees like customers and improve service quality.
  • Social and Mobile Fabric provides tools and technologies to enable interaction between the enterprise and the outside world using social networks. It also mobile enables platform services. 
  • The Cloud provides affordable, modern, innovative, flexible tools for the proposed platform. Some components of the platform can also be hosted within the enterprise boundary using private clouds.
  • Digital Governance ensures security of the enterprise systems by providing methods, policies and tools for Governance. It also ensures that the collaboration is integrated into the enterprise business processes. 


Forbes, in 2013 compiled a list of twelve habits of highly collaborative organizations. They are applied to the digital platform proposed in this article to verify benefits. 

My findings include the following:
  1. The platform is strategic in nature and is designed to adapt and evolve over time. Loosely coupled components can be modified and replaced.
  2. The platform provides a supportive environment for employees, managers, centers of excellence, innovators, sales and end clients of the enterprise. 
  3. The platform provides a mechanism to listen to key stakeholders of the enterprise.
  4. The platform helps ensuring that individual benefits are not compromised over those of the enterprise. 
  5. The platform ensures that the collaboration practices are weaved into the enterprise business processes.
  6. The platform consists of tools to measure key metrics for self improvement. Context toolkit ensures collection of such metrics without burdening the employees.
  7. The platform uses affordable cloud based systems and works in conjunction with existing systems. 


Enterprises are using digital technologies to innovate and survive. A framework based on digital technologies promotes an on-going culture of innovation and collaboration within the enterprise. The framework helps making the enterprise a Digirati that outperforms its peers over time.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Time to ditch the bell curve

I am angry with performance evaluation systems used to classify, label and reward employees. I have nothing against performance “evaluation” but I have serious objections to what happens after the evaluation. Many believe that my anger is not justified - "this is how works" - they say. "As usual, they talk about utopian systems" - they say.

This worried me. But a little research on the Internet revealed many blog posts, books, survey results discussing bell curves. Most of them criticized it confirming that I am not alone. It is also heartening to know that many knowledge industries (Adobe, Motorola according to this blog post) have started “ditching” ratings and even annual reviews!

Before I continue, I hope that readers are aware that enterprises require that their staff to be “fit” into a “bell curve” representing ideal frequency distribution of performance bands.  

I gathered the following from the Internet
  1. It was originally called as The Forced Distribution System. It is an apt name as employees are forced into a probability model that does not exist in reality. Explanations, rationalization and formulae are created to facilitate this “curve fitting”.
  2. Jack Welch of GE introduced this within enterprises. Now, only 20% of fortune 500 companies use this system. GE does not use it! Recently Microsoft abandoned it, but Yahoo introduced it. I am not surprised about Yahoo doing so. 
  3. It has many other names – Forced Ranking, Staff Ranking, Rank and Yank, Differentiation Curve, Skewed Normal Curve etc.
  4. The idea behind the model is that 10% of the workforce are “superior performers”, 80% are “normal” performers and remaining 10% are “poor” performers. 
  5. Some companies show extreme arrogance by saying that they intend to “eliminate” bottom 10% of performers year on year. In reality, they just fire around 5% after ensuring that the company does not face any legal challenges.
  6. In my view, companies actually mean “good, bad and ugly” when they use honey-coated language to label each performance group. 
  7. Between the good, bad and the ugly – there could a few more categories. Here are the groups, their size and names of three companies that I looked at.

Why do companies like this model of performance appraisal?

It is said that this “tool” helps managers not to be “lenient” with poor performance. Of course, it helps budgeting the next year’s compensation using predictable (and controllable) numbers. It is also expected to bring “rigour” and “discipline” into the performance appraisal system it seems! Some claim that it is an objective approach as it uses numbers. I am surprised at the growing population that believes that being objective is akin to using numbers. It goes beyond that folks!

What's Wrong With The Bell Curve?

If there is nothing wrong with it, then why only a few of the fortune 500 companies are using it, why top branded knowledge industries are ditching it and why the number of companies stopping to use it is decreasing by two thirds year on year?

Leaving those questions aside, let us get technical. My first fundamental question is “why are we using a probability distribution model that works on random samples in an ecosystem of humans related by common causes?”. Performance of an employee in an enterprise context is not a random occurrence of an event. It is not an isolated event – hell, it is not even an independent, non-repeatable event. My second question is "at what sample size does this distribution reliable and how do we know this for sure?

Granted, the system calculates weighted average score to determine the performance band. But those bands are built using arbitrary notions such as
(a) there exists a uniform distribution that depicts human performance
(b) bottom tier needs to be sent out or re-classified
(c) the model creates "positive energy" etc.

What if the enterprise has 20% of its workforce “down there” (bottom layer) and only 10% are shown the door? The company is still left with 10% uglies. Now what? Will the remaining 10% dramatically start doing better? And what if the top band has a select few who inject "negative energy" into the team?

The model has no answers for above mentioned questions as each question has several subjective, arbitrary words.

Another major concern is that the model is highly tweakable. It is not typical to see promotion candidates rapidly move across the performance bands jumping from 3 (commons) to 1 (galactic stars) to earn the promotion. And right next year, they will be back to band 3 (Commons) of the new grade confirming that superiority and commonality are a function of context.

The system produces several counterproductive results. De-motivation, disbelief in the system, frustration, reduced self esteem, conflict with co-workers and managers, poor teamwork, stress of superior performance … the list goes on. There are several law suits against companies for having discriminated using the forced ranking system tool.

Those who argue that this system continuously raises the performance bar over time should read this paper from MIT. This paper explains how the company ends up rewarding “visible performance” instead of the actual performance and how this erodes the social capital of the enterprise over time.

My painting – Show of Hands

In 2010, I expressed my anger over rating and judging people through a work of art.

It is called “The Show Of Hands”. It depicts several human hands. I have kept them intentionally alike to denote that all are same. Each hand has several colours and patterns. This shows that each human comes with unique abilities. In order to achieve results (create patterns), you need to align different hands in different ways. That’s the job of the enterprise – aligning workforce to achieve valuable results.

This picture is on display at Saatchi online gallery.
To view it, go to

What do you say?


Monday, 20 January 2014

Have you verified your SFDC Certifications?

Probably you already know that Salesforce has provided a facility to verify the status of your Salesforce certifications.
If you visit, you can see that the panel of tabs has a new entry called Verification.

Clicking on Verification will let you look for your certification information either by entering your name or email.

Search results are presented as a list as shown below.

Clicking on View Certification will show a pop up box containing certification details.

It is good to know that it is possible to verify your certification status very quickly. But the facility is very ordinary. It is not at all comprehensive as the site simply lists the name of the certification and the date on which it was cleared. It does not list the maintenance exams cleared or any other valuable information. There are complex certifications having multiple stages to clear. For example: DEV 501 and SFDC Architect certifications have three stages. If you have cleared interim stages, they are not listed here. Also, the UI does not show whether the individual has cleared the certification but has chosen not to disclose it to the outside world.

Had the UI been like as shown below, it would have been more useful for the individual as well as the person who is checking on the individual.

Another help would be the ability to get the URL of the window that displays actual certification details.

Right now, the URL you can share with the world to announce your expertise is limited to This URL will list search results, not the certification details.

Good beginning Salesforce, but, IMHO, this facility is not good enough for me.

Value - Volume Analysis during architecture design

There are several best practices for designing an effective architecture. They seem to promote the art of balancing requirements and available choice of solutions. But more often than not, architecture design is driven (or should I say “biased”) by popular products and what the client is “willing to go with”. Leaning on such information a bit too risky. It could help an architect to deliver an architecture within client expectations with less friction. But the resulting architecture may not be effective. The process of architecting should be followed diligently say the veteran architects.

There are many schools of thought that explain “the process of developing a software architecture”. All of them tend to identify a series of small iterative steps, grouped into logical layers and sequenced in a particular manner. Experienced architects, on the other hand, have a set of personalised, useful, proven best practices for architecting, which may not conform to any single methodology. Developing a software architecture is likely to be a work of art practised by software artisans. Individual methodologies contain customised processes, often invented by self and shaped by experience.

One of those “closer to heart” process is what I call – “the value and volume (V&V) analysis”.

This process helps viewing the problem statement (architectural requirements) in four layers.
  1. High Value, High Volume needs 
  2. High Value, Low Volume needs 
  3. Low Value, High Volume needs 
  4. Low Value, Low Volume needs 
Here the need could be data, control or business transactions.
You may consider it to be a type of traffic analysis on the architecture.

If you are able to visualise architectural requirements in these four layers, you will notice (or realise) that, one solution or tool or pattern does not fit all four cases. You might need different solutions to fulfil requirements under these four headings. This drives alternate thoughts, make the architect think about scale and dynamic behaviour of the chosen solution.

The advantage of V&V analysis include
  1. Traffic analysis – helps understanding value and volume of data or transactions
  2. Opportunity to choose architectural components based on the nature of data and transactions
  3. Insight into the “scalability” of the chosen solution
  4. Easier visualisation and communication 
There are a few concerns about this methodology. Some of them include
  1. What’s high, what’s low is difficult to determine and measure.
  2. The obvious next step of V&V analysis is to propose different tools/approaches for different scenarios. This could increase the perceived complexity and implementation cost of the architecture.
  3. What’s high in one scenario, could become low in another scenario. 
In my experience, the benefits of V&V method have outnumbered the issues that they have caused. It is a simple, yet powerful method to test the scalability of the chosen solution.

What do you think? Have you tried it? Let me know.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Digital - the new wave that integrates SMAC

As an enterprise you have the SMAC - Social, Mobile, Analytics and the Cloud - to varying degree. What would you do now? How would you leverage the essence of the entire SMAC to create a single focus transforming the entire enterprise to drive sales and customer satisfaction?

The answer? Just one word. "Digital". Okay, need two words? "Digital Transformation".

So - what is Digital? When we were in college, it was the pure circuit wizardry. When I was with the ICT KTN, it was converting archaic analog systems to modern digital equivalents. We were handing out funds promoting research in this area. I remember one application where the innovator was trying to use old TV aerials for broadband Internet.

The modern view of digital is to harness the four major enterprise transformation engines (SMAC) to sharpen the focus on higher revenue and greater customer delight through smart marketing and CRM on all channels.

I have created this picture to explain this integration of SMAC

I went to Gartner's site to see what they have to say about Digital and I was taken aback by the detailed diagram that they have published for Digital Marketing! 

Here is a snapshot of it.

This looks like London Underground Tube Map. This awesome picture was created by cataloguing 1800+ vendors representing 12 areas (tracks). Tracks include

  1. Ad Technology
  2. Analytics
  3. Creative
  4. Commerce
  5. Emerging Technologies
  6. Marketing Management
  7. Mobile
  8. Real-Time data
  9. Search
  10. Social
  11. Strategy
  12. User Experience
Please visit the Gartner's site to play with the original diagram. You can switch on/off various tracks.

All these tracks go through the Digital Marketing Hub station. Although this infographic seems to have a Digital Marketing focus, but it successfully provides a view on other possibilities. 

These tracks run through 7 suburbs.
  1. Ad Ops
  2. Design
  3. Social Ops
  4. Web Ops
  5. Data Ops
  6. Marketing Ops
  7. Mobility
This infographic is so mind-blogging and attractive, that I was playing with it for over an hour choosing various tracks and thinking about intersection points, new stations that I can add, trying to logically organize stations, trying to add cloud as a new track. Well done Gartner, hats off to you.

So, Digital is the grand unifier of many intersecting technologies. It is more than a collection of customer facing technologies

The question is, how would we bring all these together for an enterprise? 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Capgemini at Dreamforce 2013: Session Videos

Here are links to Capgemini sessions at Dreamforce 2013

  1. Case Study: 3 Ways to Increase Employee Morale Using Recognition: This featured our Sales Performance Management solution. 
  2. Capgemini Digital Transformation – Beyond The Hype
  3. Capgemini – Which Apps to Move to the Cloud – Balancing Cost and Risk: This featured our Cloud Assessment solution.
  4. Accelerate Salesforce Operational Efficiency with BOSS from Capgemini: This featured our BOSS solution. . I too spoke for a while in this presentation. I answered a few questions.
  5. Onsite Executive Interview 
  6. Salesforce Live Interview

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Capgemini at Dreamforce 2013: Press Coverage

We launched the Capgemini Cloud Assessment solution at Dreamforce 2013.

It was covered by the press. Here are the details.

ExecutiveBiz (blog) - Nov 19, 2013
Capgemini Unveils Cloud Assessment Offering; Vikrant Karnik Sr. Comments
Capgemini has launched a cloud assessment framework for customers to migrate from on-site platforms to public or private cloud environments.

Talkin' Cloud - Nov 19, 2013
Dreamforce: Capgemini Launches Cloud Assessment Tool
Capgemini unveiled a new cloud assessment tool at Dreamforce. The new tool was designed to six- to eight-week assessment framework for enterprises deploying a cloud architecture.

Consultant News - Nov 20, 2013
Capgemini launches Cloud Assessment solution at Dreamforce 2013: Capgemini's Cloud Assessment offer gives enterprises a sound methodology and deployment roadmap for smooth migration to the cloud.