Rajiv Jayaraman, CEO, and Founder of Knolskape, a provider of talent transformation solutions upholds the fact that the old ways of developing leaders, rooted in industrial area are fast losing ground in the digital era. The digital strategy might still be restricted to an organization’s top management but digital leadership and execution is no longer a C-Suite’s prerogative.
In an interview with ETCIO.COM, Rajiv Jayaraman, CEO, and Founder of Knolskape discusses the attributes of a digital enterprise.
Tell me how Knolskape got started and what you’ve set out to do for customers.
Knolskape was founded in the year 2008. For the first few years, we were focused on the academic market to make classrooms more experiential using simulations, games, and hands-on learning tools. Initially, it was all about working with the top 10- 15 B schools across the world like MIT, INSEAD, Kellogg School of Management, ISB in India, so on and so forth. While doing this we built a lot of products that would make learning process more fun, value-based and experiential. People would then refer to those experiences and apply the experiential learning back in the job. So we understood the art and science of making learning more effective by using the experiential software.
Along the journey, we realized that organizations needed help in dealing with diversity in their workforce. They were scouting for effective ways to assess, engage and develop talent in a new age digital format. That was the main ask. So having worked with a lot of B-schools across the world, we understood the art and science of building leaders and managers across different levels within the organization and using our software tools we were able to help organizations across the entire spectrum of talent management- onboarding, assessment, talent engagement, and development.
Today, we work with 300+ large organizations across 22 countries. We have offices in Singapore, Malaysia, India, and USA. Primarily, there are three areas we are focused on – assessment, development, and talent engagement. Technology is at the heart of what we do because we use simulations, AI, mobile, to accelerate employee development. We help build leaders across the different levels within the organization by using behavioral science simulation and experiential technology. As a provider of talent transformation solutions for the modern workplace that’s our core value proposition.
What according to you are the dimensions of digital maturity of an enterprise?
A digital enterprise has four dimensions. I call it the Digital BLUR™ . The four dimensions of a digital enterprise are -boundary-less organization, limitless digitization, unbounded innovation and relentless iteration.
The acronym ‘BLUR’ is an effort to define a truly digital enterprise. A digital organization looks at itself as a boundary-less organization both in an internal or external environment. It does not have any geographic or physical boundaries. Take, for example, a platform based business like Uber. It aggregates unused capacity by using the platform as a service to push boundaries of its business. It has fuelled a trend called the ‘uberisation of workforce’.
The second element is aligned to the limitless digitization. This is all about data. Most traditional organizations face a struggle with the availability of data. Most organizations don’t have the right data. Some that do have data, don’t collate it or gather it in a format that is accessible for future reference. Data accuracy is another hurdle enterprises face because the data is in multiple formats and is spread across multifarious systems. Such data does not provide actionable insights and hence cannot support reliable decisions. Organisations need to build an infrastructure that makes data available, accessible and accurate.
The third element called ‘unbounded innovation’ is spurred by agility. If you think about uber or Airbnb, they function on a real-time basis. They know precisely the demand and supply scenario based on which they build their business model on surge pricing. These businesses are living and breathing data to power their business.
The next element is around design. In the industrial age, efficiency was the name of the game. Everything was about economies of scale. It was all about faster, cheaper and better. Customer experience was not a critical parameter. But in today’s context, platforms are able to build economies of scale. What’s more important, however, is the customer’s journey and the experience with the enterprise. Design and empathy is the name of the game. You cannot create a frictionless customer experience without the two.
The last dimension of a digital enterprise is a relentless iteration. Today new product releases and updates happen so seamlessly that the customer does not even realize. That’s because the speed at which customer experience that needs to be bettered or changed is fast. The whole idea of relentless iteration is not just in software but also in production, manufacturing and building the prototypes so rapidly that you are able to innovate like never before.
What is the survival kit for an organization to cruise through digital transformation?
We often give our customers a mathematical formula which is easy to achieve a certain digital outcome. First is a strategy, and to realize that strategy you need capabilities in your team. For those capabilities to get unlocked, you need to a supporting cultural leadership. Strategy + Capabilities + Culture= Outcome.
In many organizations, we find that the digital strategy itself is not well defined.
Once a strategy is defined, organizations have to look at the digital transformation from the capability standpoint. There are certain methodologies that everyone needs to embrace in the digital world be it design thinking or lean startup a methodology for agility or data-driven culture for boundless innovation.
Then you have a cultural element as well, Digital transformation is all about change management and employee mindset. There are certain stark differences between industrial mindset and the digital mindset. First thing is about being open. In the industrial age, the emphasis is about the product. In the digital age, it’s about creating experiences. In the industrial age, power is derived from authority. In the digital age, power comes from the influence you have in the market or the community that you built up. Similarly, in the industrial age differentiation comes from your R & D team. But the digital age is all about open innovation and crowdsourcing. In fact developing a digital mindset is the toughest part to crack in the digital conundrum. People can understand strategy cognitively, they can learn the methodology through practice but the mindset is extremely hard to change.
And that’s where we are adding a lot of value through simulation and behavioral science. The best thing that can change mindset is creating an experiential learning process. Through learning by doing, people are put in a scenario where they are shown that their older mindset will not work anymore and this makes them more accepting of a new way of doing things.
What are some of the issues that can derail digital transformation project within an organization?
I call it the digital fault line. It brings me back to the concept of clearing the digital BLUR.
Creating a boundary-less organization is about changing the organizational structure itself. Being a platform business entails perceiving the whole world as your marketplace. You should have the mind of an orchestrator. The earlier model was driven by a completely inside-out view of things. Having that mindset in a digital world will set you up for failure. That’s first fault line around the organizational structure.
Another important thing that many companies on digital transformation path will stumble upon is who is the custodian of digital transformation in an organization? Oftentimes, organizations hire who is an expert in the technology domain. This person comes with a lot of technology understanding but he really doesn’t understand the organization, its stakeholders, culture. Such technologists will not be able to steer digital transformation of the enterprise. I’m thinking in terms of conglomerates trying to become digital- a steel company or a manufacturing company or even a public sector bank. They hire a Chief Digital Officer, but this person may not be really well placed to drive that kind of change. Keeping it as a standalone or a silo or center of excellence doesn’t allow digital to play the full-fledged role.
You are in the final stages of writing a book. Its titled “Clearing the Digital BLUR”, right? What are you trying to convey through this book?
Precisely. The book details how digital BLUR is impacting different industries. Some industries are more blurred by digital than the others. For example, banking is one industry that is completely blurred. With fintechs coming in, there is no boundary at all for the industry right now. Payment banks have attained the status of banks. Private banks have become lifestyle partners because they are also selling movie tickets.
But in a lot of the industries like pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, the blurring is still slow. There are areas where digital marketing is coming in or there’s an element of smart manufacturing using IOT but the industry itself has not changed fundamentally. Rest of the book is about what an organization should do from a strategy, execution, leadership and cultural perspective to stomp out the competition in the digital age.
Source: ETCIO.com May 2018 Edition
Links: Top 20 Digital Transformation Books for 2020
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