COVID-19 has presented an unprecedented challenge of a global scale. Technology companies across the world are channelizing their resources and expertise to help businesses stay afloat amid the current crisis.
Prativa Mohapatra, Vice President – Sales, IBM India/South Asia in conversation with Shipra Malhotra, Executive Editor, dynamicCIO talks about how IBM’s stack of technologies and services is helping support mission critical workloads, optimize supply chain operations and continuity, enable seamless connect to customers and tackle cyber threats for businesses. She also addresses the big questions on CIO’s mind, shift in technology adoption trends and technology enabled use cases gaining relevance under current circumstances.
Shipra Malhotra: Do you see any fundamental shift in technology adoption trends since the COVID-19 crisis?
Prativa Mohapatra: COVID-19 has accelerated the entire disruption and adoption of digital with cloud at the front and centre of everything. While consumer focused businesses like telcos and banks already had their digital game strong, B2B businesses were yet to adopt digital in a big way. Now we are seeing an acceleration in adoption there as well. It’s no longer about sitting on the fence but doing it here and now.
SM: Talking about cloud, have you seen a surge in demand in your cloud business and any interesting trends there?
PM: In the last two months since the outbreak we have seen a lot of business and interest generated around enabling different kinds of workloads and businesses on cloud. For our industrial customers, they were fine to take SAP workloads, etc. on to the cloud. It is the financial services companies that have really opened up to cloud adoption since the COVID-19 outbreak. While we still haven’t seen core banking moving to the cloud, we are seeing these customers ready to take the digital hub around the core banking like analytics, etc. as well as their DR and development environment into cloud. The opening up of the financial services sector to take the surround applications to cloud is an important development that we see.
SM: Besides cloud, which other technology areas are seeing accelerated adoption?
PM: Besides cloud, we also see IT adoption particularly peaking in the areas of security, AI, data and analytics over the next few months. At one year, if we make it a little broad-based, then Blockchain will become critical as the technology will be an enabler for the entire human to human interaction, who went where and all those connections.
SM: What are the top questions in the minds of CIOs as they grapple with the current crisis? And, how is IBM working on addressing those?
PM: Some of the questions crossing the minds of CIOs are – How do I quickly enhance the resiliency of my IT and ensure continuity of my business? How do I protect my business and workforce from new cybersecurity and privacy threats? How do I move to fully digital customer interactions and keep them engaged? and so on. These questions align with what businesses key requirements are.
As we crystallized these pertinent questions on our clients’ mind, it drove us into creating seven business propositions or themes where IBM can help them.
- Accelerate agility and efficiency with IBM cloud to make a seamless transition to remote business with a secure, flexible cloud and digital services for mobility, virtualization, collaboration and support.
- Enhance IT resiliency and business continuity to protect enterprise and customer data and reduce pandemic-related downtime.
- Adopt new models of engagement with customers to provide an omni-channel experience.
- Remote business requires a dynamic response to protect employees, clients, business and address new cybersecurity risks.
- Reduce operational cost and ensure supply chain resiliency with new tools and insights that address current volatile supply chain in real-time.
- Empower remote workforce to stay engaged and productive as they learn new ways of working.
- Support scientists and healthcare care providers who are on the front lines of the fight against the virus.
Overall, we have come together across the company to provide businesses with 11 free cloud offers spanning AI, data, security, integration, remote learning and more – all via the IBM public cloud. These are all SaaS based offerings keeping in mind the requirements we see from our customers across different verticals.
SM: Has there been a change in IBM’s approach and strategy?
PM: I don’t think that there has been a fundamental change in our approach. Rather, it is acceleration of the journey that we were already on around cloud, SaaS models and security. The shift we are seeing is tweaking around to offer more bundling and providing more products as a bouquet of services. I believe that now more and more bundling based on the end user use case is the order of the day.
So, we are bundling certain solutions together to cater end-to-end to certain use cases that are relevant today. For instance, for secure WFH enablement we are offering workplace virtualization, which is a pure infrastructure service and security service bundled together. The use case is to enable employees work from home in a secure manner. These are two IBM offerings of workplace virtualization plus security together. Another area is bundling our consulting service with IBM Sterling as a supply chain continuity and optimization solution.
SM: What kind of technology enabled use cases are you seeing become more relevant in the current crisis?
PM: Enabling Work from Home (WFH) use case is, of course, in high demand. Another use case that is becoming more and more relevant is around enabling contract/vendor management process in a collaborative environment using technology, which doesn’t require the two parties being physically present. We are enabling that using the features of IBM Aspera file sharing, which is a highly secure way of sharing contracts and documents with a high speed file transfer process. In fact, a lot of our end customers have used that. And, then overlaying that with the digital signature process.
The other use case becoming relevant is around immersive product trials and experience using AI. We have already seen that happening with clothes trials on some eCommerce sites. That is going to gain more momentum. Even automobile companies are looking at providing 3D experience of a test drive.
The whole use case around interactive and personalized learning using technology is seeing significant traction. IBM’s personalized cognitive learning platform, YourLearning, is the right fit for this use case.
SM: While you see digital adoption accelerating, there is no denying the cost pressure on the CIO. What kind of impact will this have on IT spending?
PM: For companies whose backbone is IT itself, like an eCommerce or payment company, we expect to see rationalization and re-pivoting of IT spending from on-premise solutions to the cloud and security buckets. So, they will re-pivot their spends, but the overall IT spend may remain the same.
On the other hand, companies that didn’t have technology as a big component of their expense statement, will actually bring in more IT spend into their agenda. As more WFH happens, enabling that will require bringing in more technology. They might have to take out the cost from somewhere else.
SM: What are the next set of challenges you foresee for companies?
PM: Right now it’s business resiliency and ensuring business continuity through enabling work from home and collaboration between teams. The next important question that the industry is grappling with is what happens when the lockdown opens and offices resume functioning.
For the next six months or so I don’t see too many people going back to work in offices and there will be a cultural and mindset shift around adopting WFH as a norm. Having said that, certain functions and industries will resume offices while following social distancing norms. Businesses need to be prepared for the next set of challenges around how to manage office layout, keep seat separation, ensure health and safety of employees and as trivial as how do the employees enter lifts, how to bring in security into that, etc. For manufacturing companies, which will be operating at 50-60% with people working in shifts, how to ensure that that each team comes in a separate shift and one team is not functional when the other team comes in. This will create a lot of operational challenges around modelling, shift planning, production line layout, etc., requiring lot of automation changes and technology interventions in the manufacturing setup.