New Book Introduces the Enterprise that Thinks for Itself
Originally published October 19, 2017
How can businesses stay agile and competitive in the face of massive data volumes that are exponentially increasing in complexity and the growing need for real-time answers, decisions, and responses? In his new book, The Sentient Enterprise, technologist and visionary Oliver Ratzesberger, along with co-author Mohanbir Sawhney, outlines a revolutionary methodology for aligning data, systems, and people within the organization to make agility and decision-making scalable commodities.
The World Transformed produces a podcast series called FastForward. In a recent episode of this show, Oliver provides an overview of the Sentient Enterprise methodology and explains why a new approach is so needed for businesses today.
“Companies are looking for a road map,” Oliver explains. “There are so many technologies to choose from that executives even struggle with knowing where to start. Drowning in technical decision making, these leaders lack the focus and time they need to paint a multi-year road map for getting the enterprise to operational excellence.”
“The Sentient Enterprise is like a north star for companies, showing them where they can take their businesses,” he continues. “It outlines a five-stage maturity model that focuses not on bits and bytes, but rather on the core capabilities businesses need to scale agility and decision making.”
The core to understanding the new model begins with some very simple observations. An enterprise is made up of people. Each individual within the organization is a sentient being. As humans, we share some common behaviors and tendencies: we listen, we think, we interact, we learn. These traits are critical to business success, and yet they are enormously difficult to scale. They do not transfer easily from the individual to the group. “The problem is that the more of us you put together in a company, the less we do those things,” says Oliver.
In other words, an enterprise made up of hundreds or thousands of sentient beings fundamentally lacks the ability to listen, to think, and to make decisions. It is quite a paradox.
It was interest in this paradox that brought Oliver, Chief Product Officer for Teradata, together with his collaborator, Mohanbir Sawhney of the Kellogg School of Management. An initial meeting between the two in 2013 led to an extended conversation in which they began to sketch out the core capabilities that make up the model – quickly coming to the realization that what they were describing was the basic blueprint for a sentient enterprise.
The Five Stages
“The five stages of maturity capability are not linear,” Oliver explains. “Each enterprise approaches them in the way that makes sense for their particular needs. But the stages are interrelated and they build on each other.”
In the podcast, Oliver cites several diverse examples of companies already achieving success with the Sentient Enterprise methodology, including Volvo, Blizzard Entertainment, and the San Francisco Giants. And he predicts that there are many more such stories to come.
“Agility is a continuous improvement process,” explains Oliver. “Companies must expect a lot more of themselves than they have before, and align themselves with ever-increasing velocity. That's the key not only to being a survivor, but also to redefining your industry.”
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