The global pandemic drastically changed how businesses use technology, and has inspired innovations across sectors. In fact, this crisis has forced every industry to adjust to uncertainty more rapidly than at any time in history and spurred digital transformation in countless organizations over the last one and a half years. There’s a catch however. as Sanjay Srivastava, Chief Digital Officer, Genpact, tells CXOToday in a recent conversation, while ‘digital’ is easy, ‘transformation’ is not. That’s because what makes transformation harder is that it’s about simultaneously orchestrating change across four different dimensions – technology, data, people, and process across the corporation and that’ needs to be a rigorous, well-planned process. Srivastava talks about the challenges companies are facing in their digital transformation journey and how they can overcome those barriers. He also sheds light on the changing role of chief digital officer and Chief information officer and explains how Genpact is helping its clients adopt digital technologies for making better and faster decisions, and many more. Below is an excerpt from the interview.
Digital transformation has become a buzzword, more so in the pandemic times, when more companies are taking the digital route. What are your thoughts on digital transformation in the enterprise in recent times?
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that regardless of an organization’s size, industry or geography, digital transformation is no longer a “nice to have,” it’s a “must-have.” As we adjust to the new normal, entire business models and value chains are changing. And as a result, we are seeing a significant acceleration of digital transformation across the globe. Firstly, the pandemic has greatly accelerated the transformation to an all-digital world, but this pace of change will only speed up. We will see technologies, such as AI, cloud, and robotic process automation being used extensively to make life and society better. AI will be deployed in ways that reduce suffering. For example, it will be used for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and to track adverse effects at scale.
Secondly, technology execution is no longer the long pole in the tent. It’s the business ideation, insights monetization and process innovation that are now the real challenges. What makes transformation harder is that it’s about simultaneously orchestrating change across four different dimensions – technology, data, people, and process across the corporation.
Now, coming to the future of Work. Customer expectations are changing, and you need to understand and plan for the experience you are trying to build. Clients are redesigning the experience and moving from product to services, with a focus on subscription models. The concept of Human in the Loop – as the man-machine relationship evolves, will elevate the role of humans, to train machines and drive domain context to technology. The blueprint of work is changing -as we work distributed across multiple locations, how works gets done changes.
What are the technologies you see at the forefront of digital transformation efforts? What do you think is the biggest technology challenge that most companies are facing in their digital transformation journey?
We have seen tremendous amounts of innovation – elastic compute is now available on tap, mature hyper-automation software as a service are digitizing virtually any processes, and composable services are rapidly being assembled into a composite capability to address new business requirements. Data for the first time is a first-class citizen of enterprise architectures and deep learning engines have come to be very inexpensive to train, accelerating productive deployments that deliver real value. The timing couldn’t be better – resilience and response to the pandemic have driven a sharp focus on new capabilities needed in the new normal. And all this innovation in technology is providing the much needed and necessary platform for it to be delivered.
We are on a journey from automation to autonomy. In the first wave of automation, enterprises had already automated what they thought was automatable, but cloud and AI have opened new possibilities, and changed the definition of what is automatable. We have seen cars go from manual to automated with lane change warning or cruise control, and we are now looking at auto park or auto steer with autonomous driving. Much in the same way, enterprise processes are moving from automated to autonomous – and the difference is in automating some components of a process to automating the entire process end to end.
We are seeing autonomous systems in so many areas now, from data center operations to online commerce, from IoT enabled edge applications, to fully autonomous enterprise processes like finance and accounting. But to get to autonomous, we need to automate more of the complex decisioning and edge use cases – and this requires more AI, cloud, data, and intelligent automation. Cloud is giving us the ability to deal with lots of data and computing power – which opens use cases for AI that we didn’t think existed before. As a result, we foresee that a lot of processes will move to no-touch, low-touch, or fully autonomous processing with the help of these technologies.
Today, companies understand that they must accelerate their digital transformations or be left behind. However, digital transformation requires the intersection of three vectors. The challenge lies when all three do not come together, that is when initiatives fail. These vectors comprise of deep understanding of domain, digital tools, and capabilities to architect the new business framework, and large-scale program management to orchestrate people, process, technology and data. In that way, it is possible to drive change and deliver business outcomes in a predictable managed fashion.
Besides, here are some areas of focus when it comes to digital transformation efforts:
Prediction capability in Augmented Intelligence: AI is not artificial intelligence for us, it is augmented intelligence. AI and data analytics combined can bring possible solutions for us at amazing speed, but the actual decision still belongs to humans. The prediction capability in AI requires judgement and action in responding to that prediction, thus introducing the concept of “humans in the loop”.
Need for modularization: The top barriers to AI adoption are the lack of skills to design, implement, and maintain AI solutions, and no clarity on where to use AI effectively. There is a need to think about AI in modules – in small components that can re-aggregate into larger business processes.
Ethical governance: AI is intrinsic and influential. There have been concerns regarding how organizations use it to make decisions, including bias in AI systems and lack of skills to design AI solutions. are not new, but there seems to be an increase in board-level recognition of the pitfalls of this and the need for ethical frameworks.
With these frameworks, businesses can build trust with consumers, which supports AI adoption and brand reputation.
While emerging tech and processes are crucial, having the right skills is essential to any digital transformation. How is Genpact making an effort to reduce the digital skills gap and leverage AI/data analytics/blockchain for companies to make better decisions?
Given the pace of transformation, partially accelerated by the pandemic, there is a serious shortage of talent supply compared to the demand. There is a vital need to reskill the workforce in order to continuously grow and transform. According to our CIO Report created in partnership with the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, 45% of engineers have agreed that upskilling talent was the top investment that helped them adapt to the changing business environment . However, mandated, one-size-fits-all reskilling and training programs don’t enable employees to discover their passion, identify their skill gaps, and hone their potential.
We believe the best transformation results come at the intersection of technology and domain, and data and this is the talent we’re fast building. We call this multilingual talent – and we think this is key to success. With Genome, our internal learning framework, we are continuously preparing internally for the future of work by enabling our talent to acquire new skills and evolve quickly as industries and technologies change. Genome harnesses the collective intelligence of Genpact’s more than 90,000 employees. The learning strategy was designed to ‘reskill at scale’ and is integrated through the enterprise: it currently touches 90,000+ people across 30 countries and delivers opportunity to learn on 500 granular skills in 72 domains. Our colleagues at Genpact have undertaken over 10 million hours of learning on Genome so far.
We have also opened this up to the external world at no cost, to help professionals boost their skills and competencies to succeed in the digital age.
What is the business roadmap of Genpact for the next one year?
At Genpact, we continue to identify new opportunities as well as build differentiation in existing offerings. As the market continues to evolve at speed in current times, clients in every industry are focused on leveraging digital technologies and analytics to gain competitive advantage. We partner with them to realize sustainable business transformation for them while also creating value beyond costs.
We’re seeing 3 competitive differentiators that are helping us win:
- Our ability to orchestrate data and analytics in the cloud as it’s becoming core to every client’s transformation journey;
- Our deep expertise linking services, such as finance and accounting to supply chain, or, financial crimes and risk to banking operations, or, supply chain to sales and commercial operations; and
- Our focus on driving value for clients beyond just cost and productivity, such as increased growth, lower receivables and inventory, or lower losses and fraud. In each case, linking client outcomes to commercial constructs.
Our portfolio of services, investments in data and process models and digital expertise are proving to be incredibly relevant for clients in this business environment.
With our expanding addressable market, we are bringing more transformation services and intelligent operations solutions to our clients, setting the stage to continue our long-term journey of delivering annual double-digit global client growth and deliberate adjusted operating margin expansion. In all our core areas of strength, we are committed to helping clients implement their cloud strategies at speed and scale. We continue to have a solid M&A pipeline, and we remain vigilant in searching for companies that can strengthen our capabilities and our chosen service lines.
How has the role of CDO or a CIO changed over the years? What are your new focus areas and responsibility in the organization with the world increasingly going digital?
As the power of the cloud, data, and AI redefine the future of work, the CIO role is also evolving exponentially but not equally. Our latest study based on a survey of 500 CIOs and technology leaders uncovers three core groups: the pilots who drive transformation; the co-pilots partnering with business leaders; and the engineers who simply keep things running. The study reveals that a majority (57%) believe the CIO will become more responsible for cross-functional collaboration, 55% will have more responsibilities for driving business transformation, and 53% expect to have increased oversight over other technology-related functions currently not under their purview, resulting in their responsibilities becoming more strategic over the next two years. The CIOs who drive alignment across the C-suite and put the organizational focus on building resilience and innovation will be the co-creators of new business models and future-ready companies. Their role has evolved from value delivery to co-creator of innovation, new business models and future-ready companies. Their ability to lead through this change comes at the paradoxical intersection of being an outsider and an insider.
First, it’s critical to have a really strong outside-in perspective – to think outside the contours of their company, separate themselves from the internal inertia, and incubate and innovate with emerging technologies. There is a need to leverage the innovation ecosystem, look through new capabilities and quickly figure out what’s going to work and what’s not. And to attract and build a team around them that is innovative, entrepreneurial, and change agents. For all of these reasons, they need to think like an outsider.
But the reality is that true transformation is fundamental – it’s actually a groundswell that requires deep internal change and orchestrating across technology, data, people, and process. In order to drive transformation, stakeholder relationships are key – the internal credibility and the buy-in of a broad set of business leaders. All of that requires technology leaders to also be insiders – to understand the business, nurture the connections, leverage the operating history, and get the people behind the change they are driving. This is the defining attribute that drives success in the role: the balance between the outside-in and the inside-out mindset.