Having dealt with the initial challenges around keeping the lights on and maintain business continuity brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are now gearing up to address the ‘next’ as they look at recovery and long-term growth and stability. Among the many changes that have taken place during the current crisis, some might even end up being permanent. Needless to say, the new normal will require CIOs to recalibrate.
Somit Kapoor, Vice President and Global Head – Enterprise Operations Transformation (EOT), Wipro Ltd. in conversation with Shipra Malhotra, Executive Editor, dynamicCIO, talks about IT recalibration, digital adoption trends and technology prioritization in the new normal. As Wipro’s global head of transformation and automation, Kapoor shares his vision of what business transformation will mean in the post COVID-19 scenario and its key tenets.
Shipra Malhotra: As businesses get back on track with the unlocking process and face the new normal what kind of recalibration of IT and digital will that require for CIOs?
Somit Kapoor: As we settle down into the new normal, I can see three major trends that are shaping this and there are certain recalibrations required for CIOs to make their organizations adapt to it:
a) Remote ways of working: Many organizations announced that they will permanently shift to this model post unlock also. This will also give rise to on-demand labor. CIOs need to invest in the remote working technology like SaaS based applications to ensure that collaboration, efficiency and security is not affected. Also, to enable on-demand labor through precise sales and supplier predictions they must leverage AI and analytics.
b) Changing consumption pattern: Priorities of customers have changed with increasing distinction between essential and luxury items and it is true for customers of every industry. There is a need to precisely define customer preferences and create propensity models for predicting customers’ buying behavior. A customer-centric framework is essential to ensure resources are directed towards fulfilling these needs without any waste and impact on market shares. All this requires redesign of IT infrastructure and integration by capitalizing on insights gained from AI and complementary technologies
c) Demand for transformation: The organizations that had embraced digital transformation were able to get back on their feet faster by leveraging their digital + human workforce to ensure productivity and other KPIs are least impacted. CIOs have realized that they should turn their organization into an Intelligent Enterprise. This requires investment and focus on the right set of automation, AI and analytics technology which fits the vision of the company
SM: What are the next set of challenges for the CIOs as they look at growth and recovery? How can digital help in solving those challenges, especially automation and AI/ML?
SK: Digital transformation technologies like automation, AI/ML and smart analytics will play a pivotal role in ensuring organizations get back on the growth path sooner than later. They can solve the following challenges which all organizations have to tackle on their growth path post this pandemic:
a) Optimal allocation of workforce: There is a need to optimize and reallocate workforce when they are working remotely or from the office depending on the redefined KPIs. A combination of automation and analytics can be used to ensure the digital and human workforce are utilized to their full potential and any exigency is met without impacting productivity
b) Supply chain disruptions: Disruptions in supply chain operations will continue during the growth period. The organization has to ensure flexible allocation of resources to improve cost efficiency and prevent stockouts. A supply chain which leverages all the above 3 technologies will ensure real-time update of the entire value chain, predict the changing demand using smart analytics and AI and ensure accurate and speedy transactions with automation and AI.
c) Variable and uncertain demand: Customer’s priorities are still changing. This calls for having a forecast model in real-time and following it up with quick decision making. An organization backed by digital decision support (applied AI + analytics) and real time product customization can ensure that every demand is met in the least possible time to have an edge over their competitors.
SM: What does business transformation mean in the post COVID-19 scenario and how different is that going to be as opposed to business transformation pre COVID-19? What will be the key tenets of this transformation?
SK: Business transformation post COVID-19 is not different when compared to the pre COVID scenario. It is best described as a very fast version of the latter. Organizations are willing to implement their business transformation roadmap which was previously of 5 years in 18 months. It has always made sense, but adoption has been slowed as decision makers dealt with the overwhelming concepts and technologies, the sheer size of the task and struggle to figure out where the value is coming from. Now the needs are compelling and urgent, and organizations that fail to transform will likely be left behind and risk becoming irrelevant and uncompetitive.
The key tenets of this transformation would be:
- Digital roadmap designed on tangible business outcomes to suit the business need, strategic direction and organizational readiness.
- Evaluate opportunities with detailed analysis and redefine with the right set of tools and technologies.
- Scale delivery with the right innovation expertise at every step.
SM: What digital adoption trends do you foresee going forward? How will the budget constraints impact CIO decisions on which technology spends to prioritize?
SK: The top 5 digital trends which will do the rounds of everyone’s virtual or physical meeting room going forward are: hyperautomation, as a service model, blockchain implementation, multi-experience and AI security.
Till now, more than 60% of such complex and large digital initiatives do not achieve their stated goals. It is not budget constraints, but rather lack of a clear roadmap for organization wide transformation, which stalls these initiatives. Another mistake that stops them from realizing the full potential of automation is siloed choice of technologies. Going forward, budget will be a talking point, but as long as the CXOs agree on the transformation roadmap for the organization money won’t be a roadblock. It will depend on which initiative can make maximum impact on operational efficiency and customer (both internal and external) experience.
SM: Which technologies do you foresee as the game changers post COVID-19 and why?
SK: RPA, AI and analytics have been around the block for a long time now with blockchain, IoT and public cloud computing creating buzz in the last few years. Going forward, it will not be any one technology in particular which will pave way for digital adoption. Rather, it will be a combination of all these technologies chosen according to the organization’s need. An integrated approach which brings all this together is “Hyperautomation”.
It involves orchestrated use of multiple technologies, tools or platforms (including but not limited to, AI/ML, RPA, iPaaS, packaged software solutions, decision, process and/or task automation tools) to enable a customer-centric Intelligent Enterprise. However, this is a journey spread across multiple years and not a one-time initiative.
SM: What will be your top 3 suggestions for CIOs to wade their way through this crisis times and enter into the new normal?
SK: CIOs across organizations have tackled the disruptions during the last 4 months while keeping their team safe and productive. As they move forward, they will have to deal with additional ambiguities. Their decisions and action plans will prove their leadership mettle. My suggestions to them would be:
- Have a vision for the future with a set of clear actionable priorities: The vision and actions should encompass the organization’s growth, employee safety and customer satisfaction at its core.
- Create a playbook with multiple approaches to arrive at your goal: During these times of uncertainty don’t put all your eggs in one technology or solution. Prepare multiple options to achieve your target, have a discussion with all the stakeholder and be prepared to take the best alternate if your first choice doesn’t work out.
- Be empathetic, honest and clear in your communication: With most people working remotely information can disseminated in many ways. Be sure that communicate with them in a way which leaves no ambiguity in their minds.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed by Somit Kapoor in this interview are his personal views.)