Opportunity To Join The ThoughtWorks Enterprise 2.0 Team

The Knowledge Management/Enterprise 2.0 team in ThoughtWorks is expanding !! This team focuses on building next gen enterprise collaboration/knowledge management applications for use within ThoughtWorks. The impact of social software on enterprises has been huge and we are all set to leverage these trends in innovative ways. Here is your opportunity to be part of this team.

We are currently looking for a Senior Developer, Developer, Solution Specialist and Quality Analyst. Read on if you are interested :

Senior Developer

Number of position(s) : 1

Location: Bangalore

Years Of Experience : 5+

Position Responsibilities

  • Architect, design and build next gen enterprise collaboration/knowledge management applications [ Enterprise 2.0 Apps ]
  • Constantly endeavour to discover or develop better tools and techniques
  • Mentor and support colleagues when they’re working in areas where you have expertise
  • Work collaboratively with solution specialists, developers and QAs to deliver great applications

Skills and Experience

  • Good experience with web application architectures
  • Deep understanding and appreciation of Web 2.0 concepts and it’s use in enterprises
  • Deep knowledge of object oriented design, including design patterns
  • Demonstrate expertise in Java. Expertise in Ruby or Python is also acceptable
  • Good experience with Ajax, Javascript and web services
  • Experience with the Google Apps stack + Google App Engine and Force.com would be a plus
  • Familiarity with multiple programming paradigms and openness to learning new ones
  • Good experience with relational databases
  • Exposure to Test Driven Development would be a plus

Developer

Position requirements for this are mostly similar to that of a senior developer except that we would not look for serious architecture/design skills

Number of position(s) : 1

Location: Bangalore

Years Of Experience : 2+

Position Responsibilities

  • Help build next gen enterprise collaboration/knowledge management applications [ Enterprise 2.0 Apps ]
  • Constantly endeavour to discover or develop better tools and techniques
  • Work collaboratively with solution specialists, developers and QAs to deliver great applications

Skills and Experience

  • Deep understanding and appreciation of Web 2.0 concepts and it’s use in enterprises
  • Exposure to object oriented design, including design patterns
  • Strong skills in Java. Expertise in Ruby or Python is also acceptable
  • Good experience with Ajax, Javascript and web services
  • Experience with the Google Apps stack + Google App Engine and Force.com would be a plus
  • Familiarity with multiple programming paradigms and openness to learning new ones
  • Good experience with relational databases
  • Exposure to Test Driven Development would be a plus

Solution Specialist – Enterprise 2.0

Number of position(s) : 1

Location: Bangalore

Years Of Experience : 3+

Position Responsibilities

  • Work closely with internal stakeholders to understand and refine requirements
  • Map requirements in the Knowledge management/Enterprise 2.0 space to relevant tools/platforms
  • Set up proof of concept demos to internal stakeholders
  • Work closely with developers as need be

Skills & Experience

  • Excellent business analysis skills
  • Excellent functional understanding of enterprise collaboration tools and content management systems
  • Good understanding of pros and cons of using these platforms in multiple contexts
  • Hands on experience in configuring and customizing these tools for demonstrating value to internal stakeholders
  • Excellent communication and presentation skills

Quality Analyst

Number of position(s) : 1

Location: Bangalore

Years Of Experience : 3+

Position Responsibilities

  • Test software during development
  • Prepare software for deployment to production environments
  • Respond to questions/issues logged by users of a live system
  • Help refine our QA best practices

Skills and Experience

  • Experience in testing complex web applications with multiple integration touch points
  • Experience reviewing requirements and creating prioritized test plans based on business needs
  • Participation in full life-cycle business system development with teams of developers, analysts, and testers
  • Experience with integration and regression testing
  • Familiarity with defect tracking
  • Exposure to automated testing would be a big plus

Write to me if you are interested with your CV : dinesht [@] thoughtworks.com

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The Nature Of Knowledge

This is a great post by David Weinberger on the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom pyramid and why it completely misses the point about the true nature of knowledge. Towards the end, he says :

But knowledge is not a result merely of filtering or algorithms. It results from a far more complex process that is social, goal-driven, contextual, and culturally-bound. We get to knowledge — especially “actionable” knowledge — by having desires and curiosity, through plotting and play, by being wrong more often than right, by talking with others and forming social bonds, by applying methods and then backing away from them, by calculation and serendipity, by rationality and intuition, by institutional processes and social roles. Most important in this regard, where the decisions are tough and knowledge is hard to come by, knowledge is not determined by information, for it is the knowing process that first decides which information is relevant, and how it is to be used.

This is one of the best descriptions of the nature of knowledge I have come across. This dovetails well into what Ross Mayfield had to say a few years back about leaving complexity where it belongs – in social networks.

Evolving A Collaboration Strategy

Evolving a collaboration strategy is a complex affair – there is no one right way to do it. Having worked in two dramatically different organizations over the past 8 years or so, here are a few things I think are key :

  • Who and how you hire will eventually affect your ability to build a collaborative work culture. This in my experience is one of the most obvious and often over looked areas when evolving a long term collaboration strategy. And to add to this, HR/OD/OB strategists are rarely involved in these strategy sessions. Key to building collaborative capability is to look for traits that matter to make collaboration happen – empathy, trust & respect  to name a few. Irrespective of the tools we deploy, people have to choose to share and collaborate and these are voluntary decisions people make.
  • Physical Workspace Design. Building and workspace design is another area that needs to be factored in. Do your physcial workspaces allow seamless collaboration? Are they flexible enough to be reconfigured? Can employees move seamlessly between heads-down and group work and will workspaces assist them in doing this?
  • Understand decentralized decision making. Re-looking at Thomas Malone’s decentralized decision making structures would be interesting given where we are with Enterprise 2.0/social software. Understanding the right structures for the right scenarios will enable decision makers to choose the right set of tools. New experiments like SAP’s 12sprints are interesting in this context.
  • Prepare for porous enterprise boundaries. There are numerous theories around the development of organizational capabilities and RBV has been one of the earliest ones. Resources no longer need to reside completely within the enterprise and models like Innocentive have proved this. Preparing for a future where knowledge flows seamlessly within and outside enterprise boundaries is something a collaboration strategy needs to take into account.
  • Understand Incentives. This has been a very controversial and highly debated topic for a long time and will remain so given the complexity involved. Dan Pink’s TED talk on the science of motivation is a great source to get started on understanding incentives and rewards better. Understanding altruism, self-interest and everything in-between is challenging but any effort in this direction will have an impact on building support structures/mechanisms for collaboration to happen.
  • Foster Communities. Nothing new here but understanding informal communities and it’s role in building organizational capabilities is important. Fostering communities would also mean that decision makers acknowledge the existence of an informal organization.
  • Invest in social software. There is a specific reason why this is the last point – between throwing tools at people and they doing something with it, is one important magical thing that remains constant – the choice people make to use it or dump it – It is important to create the environment where people will choose to use these tools and then change manages itself. And creating that environment involves leadership,strategy and a commitment top-down and bottom-up.

Altruism In The Workplace

Enough has been written about how Enteprise 2.0 can possibly help with expertise location. A few days back, Mike Gotta highlighted some of the potential flaws in this argument by pointing out problems that we need to solve – with or without technology. Towards the end of the post he says:

However, I typically find “expertise” over-sold when framed in techno-centric manners or when it is based on altruistic participation and contributions that may not exist in many workplace environments.

As I was reading this, I was wondering if building altruistic work cultures was something HR/OB strategists need to be thinking about. Maybe, but then it is important to remember the tension between self-interest and altruism and how both of these are deeply influenced by the culture of the organization. Self-interest may not be bad after all within organizations as long as we have the mechanisms to relate those actions into a peer recognition model.

Warning: The example that follows refers to “mailing lists” – E2.0 purists please avoid.

Lets assume we have mailing list that a community uses within the organization. Someone posts a question and 10 people from around the world reply within a few hours and the person who asked the question thanks the people who answered the question. Let’s dissect this a bit – Why did the 10 people take time out to help this person who asked the question – Is it altruism? Is it self-interest? Is it a mix of both? What is the impact of the person who asked the question thanking the people who answered the question? This happens in the organization I work for almost every single time – almost every question gets answered on mailing lists – and at least in this case, I believe people contribute not because they are altruistic but because they want to let the community know that they have a point of view and use this as a way of positioning themselves in the community as an expert – and this peer recognition matters in this culture – the fact that peers look up to you for suggestions matters – This may not be the case in every culture. However, the point I was getting to was that people acting out of self-interest in a community is ok as long as there are mechanisms to ensure that this act is socially situated [ happens in a mailing list or a workspace of some sort ] , is visible and fits into a larger peer recognition model.

Organizational Capabilities & Knowledge Flows

I came across this interesting document on organizational capabilities and have been thinking about how Enterprise 2.o could affect some of them. Specifically, understanding the implications of informal communities in helping organizations identify, build and expand organizational capabilities is an interesting area.

Some of the capabilities mentioned in the document are more foundational than others – some of them are necessary for other capabilities to be in place. For instance, collaboration and learning have a huge impact on other capabilities like speed, customer responsiveness, efficiency etc., Building institutional capability leveraging formal organizational structures and frameworks has never been easy.

Part of the problem is that formal structures and process frameworks like P-CMM try to force fit a solution to this problem with  linear models while completely ignoring the existence of the informal organization. Informal communities of practitioners play a significant role in keeping the knowledge flows going in the informal organization. The interplay between these communities and more formal structures responsible for institutionalizing organizational capabilities is becoming increasingly important. Orchestrating this coordination is an area where Enterprise 2.0 can play a key role.

Informal communities tend to have a greater sense of emerging opportunities given that they bring practitioners across multiple formal business units together. They usually send out signals that may be of importance to strategists. For instance, in the organization I work for, I am seeing a new community – about 10-15 people speaking a lot about functional programming over the past 6 months – Having mechanisms to detect these conversations and helping the community scale [ with the help of an associated formal business unit/practice ] if there is a business driver is a key capability for organizations. So how can Enterprise 2.0 help? By helping organizations orchestrate knowledge flows between informal communities and formal organizational structures – Not that this was not possible in the pre-E2.0 era, but just that it has become all the more easier from a technology stand point. Many a time, informal communities may not have the time and space to take ideas to a logical end whereas formal units may have the time and space but not the ideas. By setting up/identifying the right knowledge flows and having mechanisms that allow people to be part of these flows and creating a culture where managers keep their ears to the ground, you have the opportunity to accelerate the institutionalization of key capabilities that matter to your organization. I believe, orchestrating knowledge flows inside the enterprise and across the value chain will be a key organizational capability. The complexity that is inherent in these extended networks is likely to be a key competitive differentiator in the coming years and the Enterprise 2.o mindset will be at the heart of this.

What organizational capabilities do you see E2.0 impacting in the coming years?


Enterprise 2.0 With Google Apps And Google App Engine

This is a short post on my experience with Google Apps and GAE in trying to execute an E2.0 strategy. While there are a host of advantages of going the Google way, there are a bunch of limitations as well:

  • The lack of a road map for enterprise customers – As a technology strategist you have no clue into whats going to get switched on in the stack tomorrow, in a weeks time or the next three months. So one day there is no support for groups [ Google Groups ] – the next day groups get switched on. This presents new complexities for strategists on the best ways to fill in gaps in the Google stack while waiting for them to do so.
  • No central profiles as yet – There is no enterprise equivalent of Google Profiles and APIs to extend that – Currently profile information gets scattered across multiple apps like Google Groups, contacts etc.,
  • No unified activity stream -There is no “workstream” – a sort of a unified feed for an individual’s activity on the Google Apps stack – This is a space startups like Socialwok address to an extent
  • Limitations of the GAE – To add to this, the current state of the GAE with it’s limitations on multiple fronts pose additional challenges to fix the gaps in the Google Apps stack.

What has been your experience with Google Apps/GAE in the E2.0 space?

E2.0 Impact On People Practices

I have been trying to make sense out of some stuff I have been reading and explore how some of these ideas could redefine people practices in organizations. Innovation and collaboration are two areas where the impact of E2.0 has been significant and a lot has been written about these. There are three other interesting ideas that are important to HR/OD/OB professionals which can be augmented using E2.0:

Identifying Natural Leaders & Experts

There was this fantastic post in WSJ about Natural leaders sometime back. Quoting from the post : [ emphasis mine ]

Natural leaders today have the means to challenge ossified and change-resistant power structures. Thanks to the reach of the Web, a lowly but brilliantly effective leader can mobilize followers across a global organization and beyond—by writing an influential blog, by using that notoriety to get a platform at industry events, by hosting a Web-based discussion on a hot topic, by building an online coalition of similarly-minded individuals, by disseminating a provocative position paper to hundreds or thousands of fellow employees, and by using email to ensure that supporters show up at key meetings. The same technology that allowed Barack Obama to challenge the old guard in the Democratic party can help natural leaders in your organization outflank the bunglers and the obstructionists.

This in my view is a potential game changer for many organizations – Cisco’s council/board management model together with it’s adoption of social software is a great example of enabling this. There needs to be an openness though from senior management to “let” this happen. Continuous apathy from decision makers can still stifle potential leaders. The biggest take away is that “identifying and allowing natural leaders to emerge” has to be part of any E2.0 strategy. And this goes beyond just throwing in technology – you need to align your people practices to the possibilities  that these technologies bring to the table.

Talent Relationship Management

I bookmarked this post on Talent Relationship management from Gartner sometime last year. Quoting from the post: [ Emphasis mine ]

What do I mean by talent relationship lifecycle?  It is the relationship an organization has with a person over time.  I might be a student at a university and I schedule an interview on campus (become a candidate). I might then apply for a specific job, get hired, work for the company, decide to work part-time, leave the company (become an alumni), work as a contractor for the company,  maybe get re-hired by the company, and retire.  This is just an example.  The reality may be even more complicated for an individual as they might have as many 20 jobs before he/she retires.  The dynamics of the relationship between the organization and individual changes as the relationship changes.  When I am a passive candidate for a job, a company may use social networking as a way to find me (referral), interest me in the job (help me connect with like-minded and interested people in the organization), and ultimately, sell me on the job.  This is one way to do candidate relationship management.  It also might use me as a referral source.  When I am hired, an organization might want to foster a collaborative work environment leveraging social networking as a way to make connections between workers (internally and externally – customers, partners, vendors, etc.).  Relationships also play a role in movement within the company (think promotions, transfers, development, mentoring, etc.).  This is classic talent management territory.  When I leave the company, hopefully on good terms, the company may still want to continue the relationship with me as an alumni because I might come back as a part-time and/or contingent worker or I might end up working for a customer, partner, vendor, or even competitor.  The nature of the relationship changes over time.  Even after the employment relationship ends, the relationship still has considerable potential value.”

Gautam Ghosh of 2020Social calls this – Social Employee Relationship Management – which I think is an interesting name.

Let me go slightly tangential. I believe a more subtler thing that happens when you manage talent the right way is employee engagement. Social software gives HR/OD/OB professionals the leverage to impact major people practices that directly impact employee engagement – mentoring is one such area. One of the biggest challenges in scaling mentoring in large organizations has been time – time mentors can spend with mentees. This has largely been a limitation of the need to meet face to face always. With E2.0 it now becomes possible for a mentee to shadow the mentor virtually – A simple example is the mentee following the mentor on Yammer with the mentor posting stuff on what he is thinking about/reading/major things he needs answers for etc., I think E2.0 gives HR pros the opportunity to think about mentoring as a far more organic process rather than a formal program of some sort.

Fostering Trust

There are two forms of trust that are important in knowledge sharing scenarios – benevolence based trust and competence based trust – See paper here . When the seeker believes that the source will not harm him/her intentionally, that is benevolence based trust [ for instance trusting that someone will not hold back knowledge when I ask for it ] and when the seeker believes that the source has the necessary knowledge and skills to answer to help him/her, that is competance based trust. For effective knowledge sharing to happen, both forms of trust are necessary. And trust is also influenced by demography, age, shared context etc. E2.0 gives us the opportunity to make competence based trust explicit by showing a reputation score/badge against each name.  Benevolence based trust implicity surfaces by virtue of a person participating in a social system and leaving digital trails – comments, ratings, answers, questions etc., Huge opportunity for HR/OD/OB pros to scale and make trust a more tangible element within organizations.

What do you think? What are the other people practices that are likely to benefit from E2.0 and social software?