Pathway To Becoming A Sentient Enterprise


by Gary B. 

Many of you have seen the new VSE logo. If you haven’t, here it is:

The fresh design is simple, elegant and uses a chat bubble to depict our connection to (and connecting of) people talking with one another.

Something new you’ll notice is the piece that says “A SENTIENT ENTERPRISE.” The word “sentient” means able to perceive or feel things. Furthermore, it describes things that are alive, and show awareness or responsiveness. People, therefore, are sentient beings.

Connecting sentient to enterprise brings life to VSE. Our work, our processes, everything we do at VSE which drives our business, supports this. Making the business smarter and more responsive will let us scale to a much larger and more diverse organization, from the people who make up our enterprise, to the types of revenue streams, new lines of business and products we bring to market. Our efforts around automation, innovation, smart contracts, smart reporting, and big data initiatives all bring life to VSE; they keep our business growing and thriving.

Below is a more expansive description of a sentient enterprise. Much of this description came from a post by Oliver Ratzesberger on his company’s blog, describing various stages of a sentient enterprise. Here is the beginning of our own incredible journey in this realm—I believe we are at different places simultaneously, in each of the 5 stages to becoming a sentient enterprise (in a way, we’ve learned that what we originally thought of as “stages,” or linear steps, are in fact criteria: goals for VSE that we do not necessarily need to achieve in order). I hope you’ll learn the ways we’re becoming a sentient enterprise at VSE, continually shifting how we operate, designing an exciting workplace, and creating positive impact.

Stages For A Sentient Enterprise

#1 Acquiring Data Agility

By removing impediments to data agility–streamlining access and standardizing data collection–we put ourselves in a position to leverage big data, predictive analytics, machine learning, and increase collaboration; we can also then spot market opportunities (or threats).

Governance, policies, business rules and analytics engines help us mitigate risk and embrace opportunity to become a more robust organization.

For 2017, our Data-Driven Decisions circle is heading a project (aptly named “Big Data Project”) to migrate all data from siloed space–warehoused or in different formats–into the cloud. Our goal is perfect data on demand: easy access and total collection (structured and unstructured data).

#2 Adopting Behavioral Analytics

At any moment in time, we want to be genuinely interacting with and open to our customers needs, while shifting away from an outlook mainly focused on transactions.

Transactions are just one kind of behavior. By expanding our field of focus, and trying to see a customer’s individual situation, we open ourselves up. We can ask new questions, observe previously “hidden” customer behaviors. More data points will allow us to deeply connect and build greater brand loyalty with customers.

#3 Having Space and Tools for Collaborative Ideation

How can we internally, as a whole enterprise, participate better? How can each one of us contribute to data collection and more freely share our data? With these questions in mind, we differentiate between working in the business (executing) and on the business (process improvement), while actively trying to improve both.

Currently, we have an innovation program that lets people take 20% of their time to step away from normal work, form teams, collaborate and advance ideas and projects they’re excited about. Tools, data applications and platforms empower people to participate in and contribute to an emerging collective intelligence.

#4 Transitioning to Analytics Application Platforms, with a Growth Mindset

To cultivate a pro-agile environment, we can’t just let our data and insight sit idle; we need to put it to work. A growth, or evolutionary, mindset is required. At VSE, we are seeking people who actively ask themselves, How can I improve? How can I make this process better? while simultaneously cultivating a culture around innovation and continuous process improvement.

Paired with data tools, apps, and algorithms for all employees to drive smart, iterative changes in the business, the enterprise as a whole can move closer to a state of responsive, ever-evolving and agile operation, reacting to the internal ecosystem and external environment (the marketplace)–just like a living, sentient being.

#5 Free and Self-Determined Decision Making

Autonomous-decision making is key. With an an abundance of data, people in all roles will have the opportunity to leverage analytics tools for making decisions in real time. Utilizing a non-hierarchical and self-distributed authority system, like Holacracy, people are free to embrace and actualize a growth mindset.

Intrigued by what it means to be a sentient enterprise? Or how we work at VSE? If so, post your comments and questions below.

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