Technology & Performance Management

I am these days reading a book about Big Data, and going through some of the applications of the technology, I was thinking about some of the ways Big Data can be applied in people matters. I tried to google about usage of Big Data for Performance Management, and didnt quite find much (or maybe thats because the search terms show results for application performance management). One aspect of using technology in HR, I feel, is in the realm of Performance Management.

Today, appraisals are done in an objective manner, with ratings which try to capture achivements and performance. However, as we know, these are a sort of force-fit. What does a rating of “Exceeds Expectation” mean? Does this mean, for instance, that performance is high, or does this mean that expectations are low? Somehow, this seems to be like fitting a square peg in a round hole, or a round peg in a square hole, if you prefer it that way.

An alternative to this could be the usage of technologies like Big Data to handle this. To begin with, managers could have the option of writing their observations, along with specific examples or scenarios as part of the appraisal process. This kind of input gives us rich information about people performance. Instead of trying to fit performance into a quantitative scale, this has the possibility of giving us qualitative inputs into performance.

Add to this the fact that plenty of business-related data is available from finance, sales, and operations, and we have immense data, both quantitative and qualitative, with which to work. Using this data as the starting point, Big Data technologies could be used to build correlation between manager comments and business performance, and deriving employee performance based on this correlation. This has the benefit of giving a descriptive picture of performance, one which describes achievements in a more meaningful way which can be used to drive talent processes.

Theres much more that Big Data can be used for, as this post by @josh_bersin describes.


TM & SCM – Contd

Continuing from this post, I was thinking about more details about this parallel between Talent Management and Supply Chain Management. The first principle, from which I am trying to derive things here is that in both cases, there is a demand (in one case for talent, and in the other case for products), which needs to be met, and frameworks or processes put into place to match supply with demand. With products, the source of demand is simple to visualize. Not so with talent. So lets begin by taking a look at that.

The need of strategies, processes, and practices in the organization is to meet the business vision of the organization. To meet this vision, some work needs to be done by some people, and therefore, there is a need for people, equipped with the talent to do this work. So, the demand for talent arises from the work to be done to meet the strategic goals of the organization. Add to this the fact that there is specific talent available within the organization, and from there, its a question of trying to match available talent to the demand for talent, and based on this, determine what talent is required (in which area) to meet this demand. The supply of demand comes from employees, contractors, applicants, and L&D. I say L&D because learning is one way for creating talent supply to meet the talent needs of the organization.

Having said this, the basic concept which is the core for SCM is the concept of the part number. This is the unique identifier which tells anyone across the supply chain which specific material or product is being talked about. There needs to be a concept similar to this, something which uniquely identifies the attributes of the talent required (somewhat like part number which uniquely identifies the specifications of the material being spoken about). Different organizations meet this requirement in different ways. As you will read here, IBM solved this with the concept of JRSS, the Job Role Skill-Set, which is a composite of the job role, the role that an individual performs, and the skill sets that the individual has. This is the common identifier which can uniquely define what talent is being spoken of in the talent planning process.


Cloud and Enterprise Apps

This is a topic which quite a few of us would have been thinking about … what are the implications of cloud for IT service providers? The reason this question gains importance is because with cloud paradigm, the levers of value for customers become different from what they have been. The days of mega implementations, for example, having 500 people teams working for 4 years to deliver a project are no longer to be seen. With cloud coming into the mainstream of technology, project profiles are changing further. Release cycles are much shorter, with larger number of releases coming out in quick succession. Project lifecycles are much shorter too, as is the scope of development or customization.

One is the fact that it is no longer possible for companies to differentiate themselves on the basis of IT as technology becomes commoditized. The paradox is that when IT was a specialized space, IT was almost an afterthought in organizational strategy, while today is becoming centre-stage in the strategy landscape.

As IT becomes more commoditized and more and more of the technology components in the organization, there is more reason for organizations to oursource more of their IT functions.

For enterprise apps, for instance, the cloud era seems to be one of short implementation lifecycles, far less customization, agile development, and accelerators. This means that for services organizations, this is a whole new paradigm, with the sales folks not keen on selling these engagements as the revenue potential from these is much less, and yet, organizations have more focus on cloud engagements. Services organizations would need to change the engagement model, probably with more shared-delivery in implementation projects, and reducing the distinction between implementation and support engagements from a delivery perspective.


Social Supply Chain

Came across a post by @SameerPatel about Enterprise 2.0 conference … What i found cool was the idea of different tracks which brings to focus the idea that social media is the tool which can help bring more effectiveness into various parts of the organization. This is welcome because with this we are moving to the application aspect from the concept aspect.

When coming to the concept of social for supply chains, this is something which can help an organization bring about quite a bit of efficiency in the supply chain. While supply chains have always been about collaboration, without the social aspect, supply chain management tends to look at supply chains as business processes and the collaboration is assumed to be happening as part of the process. In theory this is nice, but keeps the people out of the collaboration picture, with people only coming in as users of systems. With the social aspect, this part comes to the front.

What i am trying to say here is that when supply chain partners collaborate, it is the people in these supply chains which collaborate, and the context (content, if you may) for the collaboration comes from the SCP, CPFR and other tools. The social aspect of supply chains, by bringing together people driving the supply chain processes in these partners to interact and collaborate could bring in the sticky knowledge which is relevant to specific parts of the supply to the fore. In a way, brings the concepts of SCM and KM together, would you say?


Social Apps, Business Processes …

I had written earlier about social enterprise apps, where i had takled about how the interactions of people with business processes are a very important part of knowledge creation, this being an important reason for why enterprise apps need to facilitate connections between people who complement each other with knowledge requirement and availability. Taking up from there, one would need to look at how this could be done.

To begin with, enterprise apps need to recognize that these connections as it is exist. You would be working with so many people, out of whome, with some you interact more frequently than with others, because of the nature of work. This is something which could be leveraged to enable creation of connections within the organization. A production manager, for example, must interact quite frequently with the inventory managers, and the software developer must interact more frequently with others working on the same technology, and with others from the same vertical (in addition to the pantry folks, for when the coffee machine goes kaput), or the sales folks need to interact more frequently with the dispatch folks to make sure material or services are delivered on time to customers.

This is not to say that knowledge flows in organizations can be straitjacketed along business processes, but there is a higher probability of people collaborating on a business process interacting with each other, and needing inputs from each other on a regular basis. Once this is understood, an app could help to surface connections between positions, in addition to the social networks that people develop among themselves. What this means is that the Shift Incharge has a higher probability of building a connect with the Stores Manager, and this could be facilitated by the apps.

While this does look like an appendix to the workflow management system which the apps would already have in place, this is bringing in a perspective to workflow management which is people-centric rather than being purely process-centric. Somewhere between the people and process centric approach? Or am i leaning too much towards the process aspect?


Social Enterprise Apps

Over the last few days, i am seeing some posts coming on the topic of social components in business apps. This is an encouraging trend, i feel, give that these are two aspects of the organization which need to be aligned with each other, but this is something which is usually not appreciated. Agree, number of enterprise apps players have built social capabilities into the apps (something i have written about before), but there are other questions which then become important for organizations to look at. This is something which is important to effectively utilize the social capabilities which are being built into enterprise apps. This is a development in the right direction, something I have written about before.

To begin with, the fact that enterprise apps and social media are not mutually exclusive is something which must be understood well by organizations. ¬†The usual thought process is that business and people aspects of organizations are separate from each other. I suppose thats where the concept of hard skills and soft skills comes from? Even if that be so, the point is, that organizations tend to miss out on an important aspect … that people and business processes are two facets of the organization which go along with each other. This is going a bit beyond the usual “people are the most valuable assets” philosophy, and understanding that end of the day (beginning as well), it is the people who make business processes work, and this interaction of people and business processes is an important point of knowledge creation.

This is where an important benefit of blending social tools into the enterprise apps will come from. The idea is, as people interact with business processes, they need to bring to bear upon processes knowledge which may or may not be available with them. This is why this is the point where the apps need to facilitate the connections between people who can complement each other in terms of knowledge requirement and availability. This usually is something which is done today by SOP’s, or other manuals which more often than not are not quite easy to understand, quite apart from not being able to capture the nuances or jugaad (workaround, though that doesnt quite get to the spirit of jugaad) of these processes which people interacting with these processes on a regular basis understand.

This is one of the important reasons why social components are an important aspect to enterprise apps. More about how i feel this could be done later.


Of Systems

In today’s work environment, disaggregated systems are a reality. As much as ERP vendors would like to push for one, centralized system, this doesnt seem to be becoming a reality. Quite of a few of the systems seem to have been integrated in a large number of organizations, but this is something which is an ongoing process, though i am not sure how far this is going. Which is something Rachel Happe has written about in her post about The Future of the Social Web. Interesting reading …

The way i like to look at it, systems within the organization can be classified as personal (ok, so you might put productivity tools as part of this classification), and enterprise apps. Personal systems, like IM, blogs, wikis, communities are tools you use to enhance your way of working. Enterprise apps, on the other hand (i reckon ERP to be probably the largest piece here), are those which you are told to use by the organization (ok, even here, there seem to be islands of information). The point here is, there doesnt seem to be any amount of talking happening between these two disparate systems. As i had written earlier, SAP was working on incorporating components of web 2.0 into their apps (though we havent heard much about this after this, or maybe i missed it … please do let me know!), but one doesnt see them bringing out comprehensive social computing functionality in their apps. As such, the gap between the enterprise and personal tools seems as though it would remain.

And this is one of the sources of information which organizations seem to be missing out on. Between the different terms like Data Warehousing, Business Intelligence (personally, i havent been able to make out the difference, but then, thats not surprising … i have been a Supply Chain consultant for quite some time), and a number of others, there seems to be quite a bit of information that seems to be slipping through. And maybe, this gap is one of the reasons that organizations are not able to make the mostof knowledge which is essentially personal in nature, and gets expressed and shared on the personal platforms, and enterprise apps have no way of accessing this.