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January 22, 2016

Find And Ye Shall Solve

Posted by Binod Hampapur Rangadore (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:15 PM


These are incredibly exciting times to work in the technology arena, and not just from a technology point of view. Although Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain, Advanced Mobility et al are pretty nifty in themselves, together these digital technologies are destined for much bigger things - a human revolution, no less. The core purpose of this human revolution is to help people - ordinary, regular people like you and I - exceed their boundaries to achieve things they never thought possible.

Interestingly, last year, a survey of about 3,500 representatives from nearly 550 companies in different industries and regions around the world painted a less than rosy picture of the IT industry. While respondents were appreciative of the industry's execution abilities, they wanted to see a lot more when it came to thought leadership, or advisory and strategic skills.

The technology services companies have always been good at doing things they've been told to do, and they're getting better at doing them better, faster and cheaper than before. Granted, that's important. But it is equally important that they transcend their known boundaries to scratch deeper than the surface of their potential. One of the most fundamental ways in which IT companies can amplify the capabilities of their organizations (read their people) is by learning to identify the actual problems that need to be solved, before attempting to solve them. So far, they have generally put the cart before the horse. But now digital technologies, with all their intelligence and capabilities, are opening up unprecedented opportunities to understand the world around us in greater depth, including what ails it the most. When IT organizations leverage those opportunities to the fullest, they will add incredible value to their own enterprises as well as to those of their clients. The following real life example is illustrative.

A major retailer of sporting goods in the United States was struggling with long checkout times at their stores. Rather than expanding the number of checkout lines - which is what most people would have done - the retailer along with their IT partner decided to investigate the issue further. That led to the discovery of the real problem, which was the time spent in identifying items whose hangtags were missing. The retailer's existing POS system's item lookup functionality unfortunately lacked the ability to search for items based on visual attributes, such as color and size, which would have sorted the issue.

Once it had found the real problem, the IT partner was able to suggest an innovative solution that obviated the need for costly customization of the POS system. This innovative solution involved leveraging the item description field in the system to facilitate search by size or color. In the interface file that sent out item information, item color and size were concatenated along with the description and sent to the POS system. When it would be finally implemented, this innovation was expected to prevent up to US$ 6 million worth of sales from being lost because of missing hangtag issues.

By focusing on getting to the root of the problem, the IT partner was not only able to resolve it successfully, but also cemented its credentials as a thinking organization capable of delivering much more than merely efficient execution.

And did I hear someone ask how I came upon this rather interesting anecdote? Well, I should know. The IT partner I speak of is none other than Infosys.

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