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Terra Cotta Army, Mobility and Social Engagement Platforms

This week I had the pleasure of teaching a SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) strategies workshop in Brussels for a very large insurance and banking company.  Following the workshop, my colleague in the mobility practice, Hugo Taborda, took me to see a visiting display of the Terra Cotta Army from China.

For those not familiar with the Terra Cotta Army, it is a collection of over 7,000 terra cotta statutes found by a Chinese farmer in 1974.  Seven thousand soldiers and horses in long lines, standing silently, ready to escort their king into the afterlife.

Yesterday on my return flight to Boise, Idaho I had ample time to meditate on terra cotta statues.  They were buried around 210 BC.  They have stood silent, ready for duty, for over 2,000 years.  Whether their king journeyed into an afterlife or not, they remained buried in Lintong district, Xi'an, Shaanix province, China.  They were immobile.  They have withstood the ravages of time (most of them), but cannot share their experiences or witness to the events of history.  I know, as I tried to interview one.

How does a Terra Cotta army relate to social engagement platforms and enterprise mobility?  Well here it goes!  Many companies are blessed with large numbers of brilliant employees that bring with them in-depth industry experience, vast amounts of knowledge, skills, innovative ideas, and problem solving capabilities, but they are never effectively utilized.  They are a modern day Terra Cotta Army, ready and willing, but immobile and silent, there is no effective engagement platform in place.

We have done a good job of automating business processes with ERPs and other systems, but when there are exceptions, problems, disagreements and opportunities, we almost completely fail at providing effective platforms of engagement.  ERPs and other tools that capture, standardize and automate the routine, usually operate in silence and with minimal social interaction, however, the real-world operates in a noisy, chaotic, and non-standard place called reality.  It is here, where innovation, negotiation, new products, new businesses, brain-storming and problem solving happens.  It is here where profits are made or lost.

It is time for companies to research and learn about social engagement platforms.  How can you better utilize and benefit from the brilliance lying dormant, silent and waiting to be discovered.  I recently read an article where the author predicted the next big productivity wave will come from effectively utilizing existing resources through social engagement and enterprise collaboration platforms.  I agree!

As in our personal lives, social engagement is enabled by social networking platforms and tools.  Likewise, in our companies, social engagement platforms, purpose built to support effective business engagement and collaboration can provide huge benefits. These platforms will have a mobile first approach.  Mobile apps will be the primary means by which participants engage.  Apps that enable your best and brightest minds, no matter their physical location, to be able to contribute.

The world already has seven-thousand terra cotta soldiers.  We don't need more.  Today, we need an army of bright minds, engaged and contributing.

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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for SMAC, Cognizant
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Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict is the Senior Analyst for Digital Transformation at Cognizant, a writer, speaker and SAP Mentor Alumnus. Follow him on Twitter @krbenedict. He is a popular speaker around the world on the topic of digital transformation and enterprise mobility. He maintains a busy schedule researching, writing and speaking at events in North America, Asia and Europe. He has over 25 years of experience working in the enterprise IT solutions industry.