Blockchain Demystified

‘Bitcoin’ and ‘Blockchain’ are today the most discussed topics in tech circles. To give you a perspective, the word ‘bitcoin’ was the most searched word on the internet in 2017 and Blockchain is the most in-demand skill (among 5000 skills) according to the latest Upwork survey. There is a lot of confusion among people about Bitcoin and Blockchain. A lot of people think they are the same. Let me start this article by first clarifying the difference. Blockchain is a protocol that enables decentralised and distributed storage of information whereas; Bitcoin is the first use case on the Blockchain protocol.

What is Blockchain? Let’s try and understand the phenomenon that is Blockchain.

Blockchain in simple words​ ​is​ ​a​ ​shared,​ ​trusted,​ ​public​ ​ledger​ ​of​ ​transactions,​ ​a sort of ​distributed​ ​database​ ​that​ ​maintains​ ​a​ ​continuously​ ​growing​ ​list​ ​of​ ​transaction  data​ ​records,​ ​cryptographically​ ​secured​ ​from​ ​tampering​ ​and​ ​revision.

Blockchain is referred to as the ‘decentralized web’ or more famously as the ‘Internet of value’ (a term coined by Don Tapscott in his book ‘Blockchain revolution’). The​ ​Blockchain​ ​is​ ​a​ ​novel​ ​solution​ ​to​ ​the age-old​ ​human​ ​problem​ ​of​ ​trust and in eliminating middlemen. It uses a combination of three elements: Peer-to-peer networks, Cryptography and Game theory to achieve the objectives of transparency, immutability and ensuring there’s no single point of failure.

Before Blockchain, buying and selling required an intermediary, a bank or broker who housed your financial data in their computers. When you transfer funds or make a purchase, a banker connects to the bank’s system to record the change. Blockchain replaces this central system with a decentralized ledger of chained records. Each record is connected to the one before and the one after it, yielding a traceable history of every transaction. No record can be deleted and no existing records can be altered.

Key Benefits of Blockchain

  • Time savings in complex multi-party transactions
  • Huge savings in costs because intermediaries and duplication are eliminated
  • Tighter security because of cryptography and shared ledger
  • Enhanced privacy
  • Improved auditability
  • Increased operational efficiency

Examples of existing Blockchains

There are many Blockchain protocols, but prominent among them are bitcoin Blockchain, Ethereum which are public Blockchains and protocols like Hyperledger and Corda which are permissioned Blockchains

Blockchain challenges

The biggest challenge is power consumption. To give you an example, Bitcoin Mining is expected to Use 0.5% Of World’s Energy By End Of 2018 (Source: Gecko Research). Some of the other challenges are as follows:

  • Speed/Scalability
  • Regulatory Uncertainty
  • Time taken for widespread adoption
  • Standards
  • Industry consensus

Is Blockchain technology ready to change the world and are we ready for it?

Blockchain technology is evolving and hence comes with its own set of challenges as seen above. Blockchain is today where internet was in the early 90s but it is expected to be adopted faster and make an impact on our everyday life as early as 2020.

As a society, we’re experiencing a time of unprecedented technological change and Blockchain is leading this change

 About the author:

 Satish Salivati

CEO, InteliTix Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

 Satish Salivati is the co-founder & CEO of InteliTix Solutions Private Limited. InteliTix offers Blockchain solutions to enterprises. Satish and his team have won prizes in multiple national and international Blockchain Hackathons. The InteliTix team has also executed Blockchain projects for different customers.  A keen contributor to the Blockchain eco-system in Chennai, Satish speaks in various Blockchain forums across the country and is also a faculty in India’s top Blockchain course.

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Blockchain Demystified

My experience at the Founder Institute (a global accelerator)

It’s been just over three months at the Founder Institute (FI) for me and I already feel like an accomplished entrepreneur. It’s true that in reality, it would take me a lot more effort to get there, but the fact that you get to live the experiences of people who have been there and done that, the difficulties they faced, the joy and their accomplishments that it makes it a real life-changing experience.

Some of the important outcomes of any learning programme should be to make the learner come out of it with confidence and a sense of purpose and some great learning and I have got all of that at the Founders Institute. So here are five things that I loved about this programme:

Interaction with Mentors: The mentors at FI come with lots of experience; in their respective domains and more importantly as entrepreneurs. Their willingness to spend time and offer guidance and support is one of the differentiators of the FI programme.

The gruelling curriculum: Imagine having to do what takes 2-3 years in 4 months. Yes, the founders are expected to start with an idea and graduate with a viable business model. This is possible only because of the rigour of the course, the topics covered and the assignments.

The assignments:  The assignments would make us go crazy, but when you complete them you realize the value of what you get. Sometimes the best things happen to you when you get pushed and then you realize the value of the push. For me the best part of the assignments were that they made me think and bring out the best in me week after week.

The founders: They say the best institutes are defined by the people who studied there and for me, the group of passionate people I have shared the classroom with for the last 4 months have made this experience memorable. They say, entrepreneurship is a lonely place and it’s true, but in FI, you find support in other founders who are just like you: struggling to convince the world of their ideas but passionate nevertheless to make it big. I have truly enjoyed collaborating with my co-founders at FI and we will continue to help each other in our entrepreneurial journey.

The ecosystem: A good programme is characterized by the quality of the content and the ecosystem. The FI ecosystem is not only great, but very different from all the others. The defining feature here is the openness to share everything happening all over the world so that founders can get best value.  With access to world class content, practical templates and the opportunity to network with brilliant minds, the FI ecosystem is a trendsetter in all respects.

I look forward to graduating soon and to put all the learning to good use and build a great company. It’s been one of the best decisions I have made and I recommend budding entrepreneurs to learn more about the FI and other programmes to make the most of your to build solid companies.

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About me: I am the Co-founder of InteliTix Solutions, a new age HR technology services company. At InteliTix we offer gamified assessments, predictive Interviewing platforms, digital Onboarding solutions and Talent analytics services. We are also working on using Blockchain in employee background verification. Follow me on twitter@salivatisatish

My experience at the Founder Institute (a global accelerator)

Are you employing a time bomb?

There is no denying the fact that human capital is the key differentiator between good and great companies. An Organization’s ability to attract, engage, develop and retain good talent makes all the difference. We are witnessing a huge change in the way HR is being perceived now as also how HR professionals are looking at the profession and their role/contribution. This has brought about a fundamental shift in thinking, has helped break a few barriers and has encouraged new ideas and disruptions.

Some examples of this new thought process include doing away with the bell curve, looking at quality of work and not work hours, increased interest in flexi-working, focus on diversity management and so on.  The employee of today is very different from the employee of the past and hence the need to look at policies, processes and procedures that serve to enhance one’s ability to perform to his/her full potential.

While there are a lot of positive changes in all spheres of people management, one area that needs attention and disruption is ‘employee background screening’. Data is everywhere and everything is becoming digital which is good but with it come bigger risks and threats. In my interaction with a few senior HR leaders, I understand that employee fraud is on the rise and a single instance of fraud has a catastrophic effect on the company. The fundamental reason for this issue is poor background screening.

Companies do invest time and money in verifying as many details as they can, but there are huge gaps in every step. The three main aspects to employee verification is Accuracy, speed and authenticity and there is a scope of improvement in all of these areas.

I was talking to the Head of HR of an IT company and he was telling me about how an employee forged a letter (in the company letter head)   claiming a huge salary to take a loan which he did not repay and the authorities came questioning. Others talk of how the verification reports are incomplete and don’t help them take an informed/right decision.

With the mad rush to hire talent, sometimes established processes also get bypassed and it’s a time bomb waiting to explode. There are many other gaps that need to be filled including the timing of the verification, the seriousness given to the process, compliance and so on.

What’s the solution?

It is not an easy solution, but there is a need for all stakeholders to come together on this with openness to embrace technology and a will to comply with agreed processes.

  • Educational Institutions need to digitise the academic certificates and cooperate with employers and verification agencies for quick and accurate information.
  • Employers need to come together and ensure that ‘employment information’ requests about exited employees are given priority and that correct information be given within a reasonable time.
  • Employees also have a key role to play. They need to provide the right information and cooperate completely in the verification process.
  • I think the biggest role is that of verification agencies which need to innovate and bring in new technologies, processes to make the screening robust, secure and fast. With a big push for digitization of records and identity management, this is the time for something new and disruptive in this space.

A lot of interesting developments are happening around us. Instant verification of Identity through the UIDAI system, the government’s NAD (National Academic Depository) initiative, increased traction in the e-criminal records database, advancements in behavioural assessments, mapping of digital & social footprint and secure technologies like Blockchain  and Machine learning are bound to change employee background verification for good. The question is how soon can we bring about this change.

I look forward to your views and perspectives to keep the debate going and to find best practices that can be adapted and implemented by all.

Are you employing a time bomb?

Technology mastery; the next frontier for HR

nex-gen-tech

The last couple of years have seen a constant buzz in HR circles on the impact of technology. Discussions center around ‘will technology take jobs away’, are there ways to reduce unconscious bias’, Is there a better way to get real-time feedback from employees’, can talent analytics bring business value’ and so on. There is a lot of interest in what technology can offer in the near future, so let’s crystal gaze and look at new technology innovations that are going to change the face of HR.

Talent Analytics: It has become a business imperative for C-Suite executives to make continuous efforts to understand the workforce in greater depth. It helps them to recruit, develop and retain the best talent more and more efficiently.

Leveraging talent analytics technologies will help Organizations do much more than tracking fundamental performance indicators. Talent analytics can be leveraged to identify high potential employees, predict employee turnover, support the succession planning, and eliminate unconscious bias while selecting talent.

Artificial Intelligence: A significant number of jobs will be replaced by AI technology.  Studies show that almost every other thing professionals do on an average workday can already be automated by AI. BBC has predicted that nearly half of the most commonly held careers are above a 50 percent risk of automation before 2035! Examples include helpdesks, Personal assistants (schedule appointments, reminders), Resume shortlisting and many more.

Blockchain: Many of you would have heard/read about Bitcoin, the digital currency developed in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. It’s a complex design built on Blockchain. Essentially, Blockchain is a distributed database which facilities the creation and transfer of digital records without third party intervention.

A typical use case in HR is that of a comprehensive ‘employment transcript’. In a world where the average tenure of employees continues to shrink, there is no single source that consolidates information about an employee. Information of an employee’s work history, roles handled, performance, compensation and trajectory, etc. that can be accessed by multiple stakeholders in the employment chain can be very valuable in employee verification, role fitment and succession planning.

Chatbots: Chatbots can perform specific tasks for you based on voice or text-based interaction. The concept is not new, they’ve been around for many years, however, improvements in machine learning and natural language capability have transformed these tools, making interaction with a Chabot seem decisively human-like and capable of performing complex tasks on your behalf.

Chatbots in the HR space have already emerged in the market and some of the current ones perform simple tasks such as helping employees get their leave balance or payslip enquiries via an e-mail request. Employee feedback is another area where Chatbots are being deployed. Imagine a system that can randomly gather feedback from employees on a daily basis without affecting their work schedule and provide you with real-time analytics and insights!

Augmented Reality: The increased use of devices/ wearable will help provide information tailored to the context and space in which an employee works. The information can appear as visual or audio supplements that help an individual more efficiently undertake a task. PCs, mobile phones, and tablets all are active platforms for AR, but smartglasses, and their hands-free use, will drive the next wave for AR.

Examples include mobile phone apps that will track an employee’s training and direct him/her to materials tailored to their style of learning. Imagine a scenario where an employee points his/her phone at a poster (say a new employee policy) and it takes them to a video, an online training course, or a book that could offer more in-depth information on the topic.

Virtual reality: Virtual Reality in HR holds the potential to transform the future of work. Virtual reality is the computer-generated simulation of three-dimensional images, giving users a immersive and realistic experience that connects at a deep sensory and cognitive level.

VR can be a great tool for screening candidates on skills needed for a position because recruiters can use VR to remotely assess a candidate’s set of skills using work simulation tests. It can also be used in Onboarding of employees where candidates can understand the environment, and the types of people they’d be working with. They can see what a typical day would be like and virtually meet potential colleagues.

Why these developments are significant: Preliminary findings from a state-of-the-art study by Patrick Wright and Lee Dyer of Cornell University suggest that the effect of technology on human resources will, like so many other professions, be profound.  The key words to keep in mind are “faster, better, smarter.”  Tomorrow’s technology will require HR professionals to stop thinking in terms of months and years and start thinking in terms of weeks and days.  This will require a change in mindset from being a strategic partner within an organization to being a change agent.

“We can’t do HR the traditional way.  We have to blow it up and entirely reinvent the way we do HR” Scott Pitasky, director of strategic growth for Amazon.com

 

Technology mastery; the next frontier for HR

Usage of Talent Analytics in India – findings from a survey with senior HR professionals

‘Talent/HR/workforce analytics’ has become the buzzword in HR circles in India. Everyone is talking about it. It gets discussed in every HR forum, on Linkedin, within HR teams in companies and since talent management is an Organizational priority today, CXOs and are also showing a lot of interest in understanding the value it can bring to the table. But what really is the current state of maturity and usage of talent analytics in India?  To get a clear user perspective, we at InteliTix ran a survey among senior HR professional across industries in India. The survey was done over a 6 month period (Aug 2015 to Feb 2016) and we were able to get inputs from 202 HR professionals.

The survey collected inputs on the following:

  • Use of talent measurement tools
  • Use of Social media in talent sourcing
  • Use of technology in talent management
  • Perspectives on value of talent analytics
  • Talent Analytics As-is Scenario

The overall findings are presented below in the form of Infographics for the benefit of all HR professionals/C-Suite executives.

Use of talent measurement tools_final

Use of Social Media in Talent Sourcing   

intelitix-talent-analytics-survey-findings_1440225329269_block_4

Use of Technology and data in talent decisions

intelitix-talent-analytics-survey-findings_1440225329269_block_2

Perspectives on Talent/Workforce analytics 

 intelitix-talent-analytics-survey-findings_1440225329269_block_1

 Talent Analytics As-Is Scenario

Talent Analytics As-is scenario

The survey findings show an increased interest in the perceived value of assessment and analytics, but the challenge is in getting existing HR resources trained on using analytics and in putting together a specific team comprising of HR professionals and people with a strong background in statistics to manage the talent analytics practice.

Usage of Talent Analytics in India – findings from a survey with senior HR professionals

The business case for developing frontline managers

Manager challenges

People leave managers, not companies. Numerous studies also validate the premise that managers are critical to keeping employees happy and productive. In my view they are also the most overlooked group in an organization (when it comes to developing talents) – in particular, frontline managers.

Importance of frontline managers

It’s a no brainer that when it comes to translating a company’s strategy into results, there’s no denying the importance of the frontline manager. Studies indicate that close to 65% of an organization’s workforce is managed on a daily basis by frontline managers.

Managers on the front line are critical to sustaining quality, service, innovation, and financial performance” –  Harvard professor Linda Hill

 Bottom-line impact of frontline managers

  • They account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units (Gallup)
  • When companies increase their number of talented managers, they achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition.
  • A survey by DDI concluded that one in four organizations reported a dip in profit due to frontline manager failure.

Key Challenges faced by frontline managers

  • The transition from being an individual contributor where one is responsible for one’s own performance, to managing the performance of others is a huge challenge.
  • A frontline manager is often required to manage the work of his/her erstwhile peers – a shift that is difficult and without preparation, results in costly mistakes for the organization as well as the individual.
  • Most of the time, frontline managers operate as cogs in a system, with limited flexibility in decision making and little room for creativity.
  • In most companies, people who have excelled as individual contributors are straight away moved up and given managerial responsibilities for which they have very little or no training at all (according to a survey, 26% of first-time managers felt they were not ready to lead others to begin with, and almost 60% said they never received any training when they transitioned into their first leadership role).
  • Once the manager settles into the role, the burden of the business-as-usual takes over and there is no time or inclination to focus on identifying and developing necessary managerial skills.

Way forward

The first step in the journey is the assessment of an individual’s capabilities and behavioural dispositions to understand strengths and gaps. This is to be followed by focussed training, development and mentoring. Since development is an iterative process, regular reviews and periodic re-calibration is also required to check for relevance to the current business context.

Good companies understand that assessment, training and development of frontline managers is a sound investment for the future and spend time, energy and resources in ensuring that frontline managers are well equipped to excel in their roles.

The business case for developing frontline managers

‘HR as Performance facilitators’ – Lessons from a Sports Performance Analyst

Human Resources

I was at the NHRD monthly meet last week in Chennai, India and we had a very interesting session. The session was titled ‘Managing High Performance & Leadership – Learnings from a sporting context’. The speaker was Dhananjai (known popularly as DJ) who was the Performance Analyst of the Indian cricket team till 2014 and now offers his expertise to Mumbai Indians in the IPL.   The session was very enjoyable, one   because it was full of anecdotes about our favourite cricketers and second (and more importantly), because of the similarities between facilitating the performance of Sportsmen and how we as HR professionals facilitate employee performance in organizations.

I am highlighting a few of the key takeaways and look forward to hearing all your views and perspectives:

  • Performance monitoring as an ongoing activity – Technology has become an integral part of sports today and one of the key aspects of its impact has been in monitoring performance and offering insights for improvement. It was fascinating to know that Analysts record things like Intensity of players in a practise session, sleep patterns, diet, technique and so on.
  • Personalising the inputs given – Players come from different walks of life, bring with them their own values/belief systems, skill sets, personality preferences and learning styles. Giving them feedback and inputs on their games requires ‘personalising’ it to a very large extent.
  • Offering simple yet valuable/actionable insights – With the amount of data that is being collected about every aspect of an individual’s game, opposition, weather, playing conditions, strengths/weaknesses, we can imagine the complexity and rigour of data analytics that is required to actually offer practical and meaningful insights and inputs to each individual player. What’s great to know is that, we have advanced to a level of analytics where players/teams do get inputs which have helped turn games and win from virtually impossible situations. A simple example to illustrate this is that advanced systems can predict when a bowler bowls a slower ball (say 3rd or 4th ball of very over) which helps the batsman prepare and play accordingly.
  • Focusing on Strengths – ‘You are what you are because of your strengths’, so analysts understand a player’s strengths and help them leverage it to their and the team’s advantage.
  • Positive reinforcement – How we give feedback can make or break a person’s confidence. A negative feedback (area of improvement) is always preceded by positive reinforcement of things that went well or a reminder of an individual’s potential.
  • Simulations play a key in role in identifying potential and in development of a player – Simulating the environment that a player is going to encounter is a key aspect of selection and preparation. We have read/heard of famous examples of how Sachin practices facing a leg spinner bowling out of the rough on the leg side to counter the genius of Shane Warne. Another Sachin example is how he believes in being in complete match gear while practicing since it would help with ‘muscle memory’.
  • Arresting ‘default’ behaviours – There was an interesting point about how we as Indians are better at reacting (example of how we have always fought wars where we react to a provocation and how that pushes us to give it our best). We hear of how champion teams have this incredible ability to win from improbable situations and our Indian team was famous for losing the advantage after being in winning situations. The point here is about knowing how we do things normally, and in being able to adapt to changing situations to be effective and successful.

I think the linkages between how performance of Sportsmen are managed/enhanced and how HR does this (or should do this) in a larger, organizational setting is clear. HR as a Performance Facilitator is about being in the background (like the Performance Analyst), but playing a very important role in helping an organization realize the true value of its human capital.

‘HR as Performance facilitators’ – Lessons from a Sports Performance Analyst