The Future of Enterprises – Social by Birth
Large enterprises have a massive opportunity to use social networks and tap into the collective intelligence of an organization
more thoroughly than can be done through emails, phone conversations, and private chats. However, the structure of enterprise
social networks has several subtle differences compared to consumer platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. Unlike the consumer
web where people flock to the platform, the success of enterprise social collaboration depends on the ability of the social network
to permeate different business processes. This is why we believe that future workplaces should be 'social by birth'.
As we head towards an era where more and more employees and customers come from the 'web worker' and 'prosumer'
(producer-consumer) demographic of highly web-savvy, socially networked individuals, the nature of work across the enterprise is
changing. In the workplace of the future, co-creation and co-innovation will become critical processes.
However, organizations still face many challenges in enabling seamless collaboration, such as:
People and process silos: Often, work processes create silos within the organization. An organizational evolution is underway to
encourage the breakdown of silos and promote a culture supportive of sharing.
Multiple stakeholders: Existing systems within most organizations limit the engagement and participation of internal and
external stakeholders. Organizational processes have traditionally been walled off from external stakeholders. To enable more
inclusive and sustainable growth, organizations need to expand their processes to incorporate closer collaboration with
stakeholders outside the enterprise.
Lack of agility: Business needs are outpacing technology adoption.
Reliance on email: Email is a linear means of communication and not really conducive to collaboration.
Enterprises have been focused on digitizing processes and integrating various lines of work. Somewhere along the way,
relationships with people began to seem less important than the IT infrastructure. The enterprise of the future needs to have a
multi-dimensional perspective to collaboration: person-to-person, system-to-person, and system-to-system.
Enterprises can use social media concepts and features as baseline user requirements. The structure and user interface should be in
accordance with the mental model of design and development of successful projects.
An organization-wide collaboration strategy should span people, processes, and technology.
As an enterprise grows larger, the employee becomes atomized and often suffers a loss of identity. An organization that has this
problem is barely ready to welcome the next generation of employees.
The next generation of employees will expect a workplace to enable:
A participatory environment: Enterprise software must enable the engagement and participation of different types of
stakeholders across the company, and even beyond it. It must enable conversations and collaboration across lines of business
and hierarchical structures. It is important that software systems are highly user centric and offer an engaging experience.
A culture of real-time feedback: User expectations, both at individual and system levels, include the need for real-time feedback,
which can foster constructive communication and reveal workplace sentiment and dynamics.
Personal reputation management: Connections are more important than designations. Employees will have a personal brand
identity and will care about their reputation in the network. The enterprise needs to focus on having portable reputation
systems that take into account the user's reputation on various platforms and activities and display a unified personal brand
value within the enterprise.
Defining a Holistic Strategy for Collaboration
A Point of View
Enterprise processes typically follow predictable workflows, which are repeatable. But there are processes that need the augmentation of
collective decision making. How does the enterprise handle these 'exceptions' to get answers from the relevant experts in each situation?
Each exception may require collaboration from a different set of people who are spread across the enterprise. Today, such exceptions are
usually handled by phone calls, emails, and discussions between a few stakeholders and experts, and this knowledge may be lost after each
episode. But exceptions may occur frequently and it is risky for an organization to keep them out of records. Participatory business processes
and social exception handling will be the key to success.
The way enterprise IT systems are designed, delivered, and developed needs a fundamental rethink.
Systems of Engagement
Designing holistic Systems of Engagement (SoE) is critical, since an organization cannot differentiate itself on the basis of Systems of Record
alone anymore. SoE systems will be self-learning systems that are 'anti-fragile' and can withstand shocks and aberrations without fatal failure.
There will be a sense of 'perpetual beta' in the new systems. The concept of 'fail fast and learn fast' is essential for future survival.
For example, TCS has carried out 140 production deployments for its System of Engagement (called Knome) in less than 14 months. That is
practically three production deployments every week. Such an environment might be called 'unstable', but we would categorize it as
The team could manage all these deployments because of:
1. A flexible, open source stack
2. A highly motivated development team
3. A super passionate user base
This is very different from most enterprise applications, as they do not stay in such an agile 'perpetual beta' mode, but have planned releases,
usually every quarter.
Thus, we have a highly responsive system that binds a global organization together, increases its agility, and optimizes its tacit knowledge.
Enterprise App Store
Today, software is commoditized in the form of apps distributed and delivered via app stores. It is important for an enterprise to embrace
this trend and set up an enterprise app store on which employees can access, download, and install corporate-approved software apps.
This helps the organization to not only provide greater employee experience but also control and optimize the IT expenditure.
Co-creation with Users
Users should be involved in the design, development, and deployment of the system. Continuing our example of TCS' Knome platform, a
large part of the deployment effort goes towards solving problems reported by users and implementing features based on user ideas. In
the 14 months the platform has been live, users have participated actively, requesting 2,350 items in the form of new ideas, features, and
Moments of Engagement
Systems should be designed for interactions and moments of engagement. Enabling the engagement and participation of different types of
stakeholders needs to be part of the way an enterprise does business.
Until a decade ago, it was common for a user to interact with a system for one particular transaction, typically through a standard desktop.
But the social network revolution has completely disrupted this linear flow. Today, interaction has potentially unlimited dimensions on a
dozen end-devices. From 'touch'-based interactions, we will soon leapfrog into eye movement and 'thought'-based interactions with devices.
In the future, it will not be enough to 'transact' business: organizations will need to keep internal and external users 'continuously engaged'
with the systems.
 Perspectives - TCS Consulting Journal, ’A Closer Look at Transformation – Part 10’ by Frank Diana, October 2013, retrieved on January 17, 2014,
Decentralized Social Graphs
A social graph represents the web of relationships in an online social network. Most enterprises have a fragmented and dispersed social
graph. Each social graph is usually within a 'walled garden' inside an LOB. It is important for the enterprise to build a single social graph
(or multiple interoperable social graphs) that is comprehensive and decentralized.
Companies are currently building social networks as 'add on' horizontal platforms. But as the work force and work patterns change, future
workplaces will need to have social networks permeate different business processes. As we have examined in this paper, the need for social
capabilities integrated with people, processes, and technology will increase significantly in the near future.
We believe that, in the future, enterprises will need to be 'social by birth' in order to truly realize the benefits of collaboration and to achieve
About the Author
Parthasarathi V is an Innovation Evangelist in TCS. In his current role, he works closely with the TCS Innovation Labs on ideation, planning,
managing, and execution of go-to-market (GTM) strategies. He is involved in conceptualization of solutions, developing solution story
boards, executing proofs of concept and pilots for the Labs, coordinating innovation workshops, and writing thought leadership blog posts.
He works on Emerging Technologies, which include areas such as Systems of Engagement, Workplace of the Future, Gamification, Cyber
Physical Systems, and Big Data technologies.