Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a multinational organization in IT Services, Consulting and Business Solutions, with over 469,000 of the world’s best-trained consultants in 46 countries, has established itself as a pioneer in Software Research and Innovation. TCS’ investment in Research and Innovation is significant and runs into 1.0-1.3% of its global turnover with the direct involvement of over 4000 employees. TCS operates a network of over 30 Innovation Labs globally; connected to a network of over 2300 global start-ups and has invested in research in over 60 academic institutes all across the globe. The company strongly believes that in order to sustainably grow and drive value from its Research and Innovation investments, it needed to transform the culture of the wider organization.
TCS wanted to instigate a ‘culture spill over’ from its Research and Innovation teams into the broader organization so that the workforce at large could become a new engine of ideas, creativity and innovation. It wanted to mine employees’ rich contextual knowledge about customers, markets and industries in a systematic manner to leverage this for business benefit. Digital technologies are blurring industry segmentation. Each industry wants to learn from others and TCS wanted a robust way of cross-pollinating these ideas. Furthermore, TCS values its employees’ cognitive surplus and wanted to initiate a mechanism to encourage and reward this. Building scale for any initiative needs special consideration, as it is often at this point that initiatives fail. In a large organization that is resource intensive, to set-up and execute culture changes of this magnitude, it was imperative for TCS to execute it in an agile and resource optimal way.
The company launched a program called TCS Manthan during 2016-17 to spread the innovation culture. The name, which has its roots in the ancient Sanskrit language, means churning an ocean of talent for useful knowledge. TCS’s Global Chief Technology Officer was the principal sponsor of the program. Senior leaders from various lines of businesses and human resources became additional sponsors and a lean team was chosen at the corporate level to put the program in motion.
The earlier phases of the program were spent interviewing and surveying a large number of stakeholders internally and externally. Armed with this information on business needs and propensity of their employees to feel engaged, they evolved a number of event types that enabled creativity and problem solving. For example, ideation contests, hackathons and design jams. They next created standardized playbooks and procedures for each type of event, including guidance on bounding and articulating problems, communications, compliance, reward and recognition and closure. A five-phased operational approach was put in place for each event and the playbooks grew with every contest; making it very easy for new challenges or events to be rolled out.
For a large company like TCS, to digitize the program, some key decisions had to be taken such as what initiatives would be driven under the program banner and how to standardize them. This included, for example, shared spaces for knowledge repositories, flexible options for virtual or face to face competitions, hardware and “garage-style” space for hands-on experiments, and webinars for sharing innovations. The rich repository of the Playbooks and the plethora of digital tools put in place enabled TCS to scale execution of these within the organization such as through specific business teams, units, or client relationship teams. A strong communication mechanism was put in place to highlight the successes of the program and feature case studies of employees who had participated. This amplification helped TCS increase program engagement and the curiosity to get involved. Most importantly, they also celebrated failure as, in the case of innovation, ideas often do not get implemented, despite exhibiting great potential in the early stages.
Within a few years the program has generated a large repository of ideas that are being algorithmically mined. These ideas then serve as the basis for Research & Innovation teams to design solutions around them, thereby shortening the ideas to value cycle. While the team rated itself on the number of events conducted, coverage within the company and external impact; each event also had its own metrics related to the solutions provided and business improvements generated. There were participant Rewards & Recognitions such as awards and badges, management recognition in town halls and on the intranet.
A clear set of metrics was laid down right from inception. While an organization-wide easy-to-use framework was the output of the exercise, hard numbers were also collected year-on year. Quantitative Lead Metrics captured engagement in the form of participation at an individual level. These showed that 17 events were held, involving 29% of business units in 2017, which further increased to 68 events and 67% business unit involvement by 2020. Also, the 1009 entries received for the shark tank-type contests (TCS Innovista) from 76% of business units in 2017, increased to 6457 entries with a coverage of 97% business units by 2020. Quantitative Lag Metrics measured more strategic outcomes over a longer period of time, such as new products or services that originated through the program. These showed that 22 of the ideas implemented as new products or solutions in 2019, increased to 28 in 2020. Furthermore in 2019 and 2020, TCS was certified as a Top Employer Globally by the Top Employers Institute and ranked as the No.3 Most Valuable IT Brand by Brand Finance.
Two ideas that emerged in the Program’s shark tank-type contest have now become major business initiatives for
the company. TCS iON, a winner at TATA Innovista, is one of the fastest-growing business units at TCS. It has transformed itself into the world’s most secure and scalable assessment platform, with over 200m candidate assessments. TCS Ignio was another winner. Ignio’s functions digitally transform operations, moving from outdated manual methods into digitally streamlined work. Overall, the TCS Manthan Program was acknowledged in the 2019/20 annual report for shareholders as being critical in developing the right culture for business sustainability.