The world is facing an unprecedented challenge in the form of COVID 19 virus outbreak. The world’s economies are in a downward spiral and recession looms large on the horizon. Businesses have been shut down and populations locked down. These are indeed difficult times for businesses. In an interaction with dynamicCIO Executive Editor Muqbil Ahmar (DC), Sunil Kanchi (SK), Chief Investment Officer and Chief Information Officer at UST Global, talks about the challenges faced and the innovative solutions that the organization leveraged to maintain business continuity.
DC: The last few months have seen various changes in work culture due to an unprecedented lockdown. Enterprises were caught unawares and found it difficult to function. With remote working, there is suddenly a lot of changes they have to adjust to. How does it impact? What are the unique challenges you have faced?
SK: The current situation has caught many unawares. No business continuity plan could have possibly ever covered such a pandemic crisis. UST Global has always been at the forefront of providing innovative solutions to complex business challenges for our clients, including bridging physical distance to bring people together through virtual means. Being a digital transformation and technology company, we could quickly adapt and make changes in terms of policies, infrastructure, etc., so that our employees could be deployed to work remotely without any glitch or delay. In almost 24 hours, we were ready for our employees to work from home or remotely, without any disruption on our delivery to our clients globally.
In terms of challenges, cybersecurity is one of the most pressing challenges. Today, when so many people are working from home, it also gives cybercriminals an unprecedented opportunity to breach and steal the data. UST Global’s subsidiary company, CyberProof, helps us additionally in the deployment of cyber security programs that can scale and flex against the unknown threats of today and the future. The other challenge is the constant evolution of the new normal for us and for our employees and the process of adjusting to it.
DC: How have the situations that emerged from COVID-19 outbreak impacted the HR function? With most of the workforce going remote how are you, as an organisation, maintaining timelines, employee experience, productivity etc.?
SK: UST Global has a global presence in over 25 countries and we have over 25,000 employees. We were already using Oracle HCM cloud solutions to manage our workforce. Owing to the nature of our work, where we have employees based out of various locations, we had HCM cloud in place to manage all the HR activities and employee experience. As for the COVID-19 outbreak, we have implemented Oracle Workforce Health and Safety solution for managing the current pandemic situation. The solution works in tandem with the Fusion Core HR and provides a robust and easy platform for tracking, managing, and preventing the spread of COVID 19 across the employee workforce. The solution was deployed and rolled within a few days. This solution is helping us and our employees to track any infection within the organisation. Additionally, we have also deployed Oracle Learning & development cloud, so that our employees can use this downtime to re-skill or up-skill themselves.
DC: In the wake of the new normal, where every organisation is now accepting WFH as a given, how do you think the HR function can leverage digital technologies like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, etc. for flawless functioning?
SK: AI is becoming increasingly important and will be an integral part of the workplace soon. From the mundane work like document processing to highly creative work like designing, AI is enhancing human productivity and effectiveness in all aspects of work. AI, through conversational interfaces that include Siri, Alexa, and UST Global’s own personalized chatbot DIA, makes it possible for humans to interact with machines in a more human way. AI can enrich all the aspects of HR – from hire till retire – the entire talent circle.
In the time to come, as AI matures, HR leaders will be able to leverage it to augment more subtle aspects of culture like ‘empathy’ and ‘intuitiveness’ using AI. AI will significantly help in removing heuristics and biases from workplace decisions. The current situation has made technologies like AI ML imperative for businesses and hence has accelerated the speed of adoption of these technologies.
DC: You deployed Fusion HCM at UST Global. What is this product all about? What all functions does it cover? How has it helped?
SK: We are using Oracle’s cloud HCM solution. So, inherently it is scalable and has its own disaster recovery (DR). The advantage that it especially brought to us was that it helped us in enabling functions that we were worrying about earlier and made our life a lot easier. It’s one of the primary reasons why we went with it. The Oracle HCM Cloud provided us with the opportunity to move in an accelerated fashion towards the digital transformation for our organization.
With Oracle’s cloud solution, we do not have to worry about the upgrades and all, as everything is automated. Moreover, as a global organisation operating in 25 countries, it was extremely difficult for us to declare that our HCM solution would not be available for 24 hours. Oracle ensured that the solution was deployed with a negligible downtime. Additionally, I would say that solutions such as intelligent bots, CRM solution, etc. became a lot easier to deploy. We have got a business enabler software advantage, that we lacked initially.
Initially, we were only providing innovative and innovation-led digital technology services. Anticipating the future, we realised that our employees should be comfortable working hand in hand with high-end technologies such as – Artificial Intelligence, behaviour analytics, robotics, automation, etc., and be comfortable in dealing with extreme kinds of data analytics. Hence, we worked together with Oracle to improve our process efficiency by 30 – 40 percent, by deploying new tools and technologies and by making the best possible use of Oracle Taleo solution. That is how we worked to create a new vision for our employees and our organisation.
DC: What was the value that you derived from Oracle Fusion HCM cloud solution? How did the solutions help your employees and their well-being in these difficult times?
SK: As I said earlier that we have been using Oracle’s Cloud HCM for quite some time now and for facing the current challenge we have opted for Oracle Workforce Health and Safety solution in extending support and creating a tracking system for affected / high risk employees and during this crisis period.
Oracle Workforce Health and Safety module helps automate reporting of workplace incidents both now and in the future, as we adapt to heightened health and safety concerns. For example, consider the task of reporting when a conference room has not been cleaned overnight. Under ordinary circumstances, such an incident might not be a top priority, but under the current circumstances, it is critically important for it to be reported and for action to be taken immediately.
Once an employee or HR manager reports an incident, the system immediately routes the incident to whoever is assigned to remediate it and act. It also sends an email confirmation to the employee who reported the incident, noting the report has been received and is being acted upon. In addition to providing an easy, effective, and confidential process for handling health and safety matters, the module also gives reassurance that reports are being appropriately acted upon.
DC: What is the plan for the future? How do you think the post COVID-19 scenario will be and in that changed scenario, how will UST Global’s HR function cope up?
SK: We are looking at a three-pronged strategy, where number one – we are observing the evolution of the new normal and helping our employees and customers to adopt via technology. Secondly, we are planning for our employees to come back to the office by keeping appropriate technology (checking temperature, monitoring, wellness, etc.) in place. Lastly, we are helping our customers to adapt to new technology, for example, for our retail customers, the solution to see that a crowd is gathering at a particular aisle and hence helping the retailer to take appropriate actions. In the new ecosystem, we see organizations using innovation as a tool a lot more aggressively, a lot of automation happening, with security remaining the most pressing concern. In the post COVID world, we look at ourselves to continue to “Transforming the lives” of our employees, customers, and overall, society.