Infosys experts share their views on how digital is significantly impacting enterprises and consumers by redefining experiences, simplifying processes and pushing collaborative innovation to new levels

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April 20, 2016

CXO survival kit- '3D framework' to ride the great disruption wave

Few weeks ago, I had the chance to hear Mark Hurd, the affable and humble Oracle CEO, about what do the CEOs around the world want. Mark pointed that they just want to survive and he went on to explain the 'why' of it. The CEO survival rate is abysmally low, more so in this era of great digital disruption which is around us in every industry and every walk of life.  On top of it, it's a tough job. They have to think of now and also of what might happen 10 years later. From my interactions with fortune 2000 clients over multitude of business problems, and seeing our great technical teams come up with innovative digital ways to solve them, I have devised my own framework, which I call the '3D framework' to undertake the all-round business readiness to be successful and flourish in today's highly disruptive environment.



Any transformation would typically have 3 parts:

  1. Finding the Right problem to solve

  2. Finding the Right solution for the right problem

  3. Right execution  of the solution

The 1st D - dT helps find the right problem, Digital helps arrive at the right solution and DevOps helps to execute the devised solution the right way. We as the techno-business digital partners of our times have a great role to play and partner with leading organizations of the world and empower them to make the world a better place to live in...Piece by piece.

Finding the right problem to solve: dT

Too often we see that companies lose the way despite not doing anything wrong. Recently Stephen, the Nokia CEO said in an interview : "We didn't do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost." The cost of not doing new things is far greater than the cost of failure in a doing a new thing. But what could be that completely new thing, the next big idea?  The Stanford University recommended Design thinking is a powerful rigorous human-centered innovation tool to tackle the unknown. It's a means of going on an expedition without a map, the destination, but with a confidence that you will end up somewhere great. The 5-step process of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test is arguably the shortest way to fell where-in the cost of failing is negligible and the rate of prototyping is very fast and thus by extension the chances of stumbling upon the next big idea in a systematic way is highest. dT can provide actionable insights about unmet needs and untapped opportunities of incremental or big-bang innovation.  For more on Infosys design thinking services, you can visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9frq6eC3fts

Finding the right solution for the right problem: The Digital way

The great Nicholas Negroponte once said that- 'Computing is not about computers anymore. It's about living'.  It is one of the most used lines that I use, since it perfectly illustrates the paradigm shift we're living in. The gamut of new-age technologies makes it possible to design solutions for almost any business problem. The great digitization has helped us in dissolving unnecessary layers and empowering the end users to do more with less for more. Until the Digital era we used to think of computer as a different channel. Today it is no more about websites, content and apps, it is about the experience. The pervasiveness of digital has led to collapsing of boundaries between physical and digital world.  The great realization is upon us that we can do each and everything better and in transformed way using digital. There is no limit to this. Digital is just the new way of doing all the company functions from HR, Finances, to sales , to marketing, to employee engagement, to procurement to supply chain management to after sales services, almost everything in a better way. In doing it the digital way, it may so become that some of the extra layers may not be needed, some of the repetitive tasks will be automated. All this will lead to free up resources which can be used better to do creative things, the things which machines cannot do (yet).

Here we shall briefly discuss how we helped one of our iconic clients by implementing digital solution. Follett is a well-known name in US in the area of Retail college bookseller, ebooks, library books and university merchandise. When they approached us about how the centuries long establishes business is facing the survival challenge because suddenly they had to compete with Amazon and google in digitization of the education experience. Infosys digital team went deep into the business model and developed a gamut of digital solutions to help modernize Follett's business systems and the way they interact with their customers. For more about this you can always watch this video where Michael speak about how Infosys helped transformed the old state college bookstore company to a dynamic and constantly evolving education service provider.

Executing the solution the right way: DevOps

In today's fast changing environment, companies have this innate business need to adopt continuously. Companies that depend on great technological solutions to run their business are increasingly turning to agile development practices to help them stay competitive. Agile processes are highly collaborative, iterative and all focused on the rapid and repeatable delivery of software. The ability to upgrade the software solutions in line with changing business scenario as fast as possible is critical to keep the market leading position. To this objective, the DevOps execution methodology is a great enabler.

As I interacted with more and more clients within Infosys, It became crystal clear that every transition little or small as necessitated by changed business needs has its own set of challenges/opportunities and it requires the right values, the right culture within us and right support beside us. But when we come to think of it, realization dawns upon that with these 2 guiding engines, transitions don't even matter and perhaps that's the constancy we are seeking in today's fast changing digital world. This constancy can be achieved by way of great Digital solutions and continuous and constant integration of new features, the new codes using DevOps. Continuous Integration using DevOps enable project delivery teams to implement frequent integration builds, so that it becomes a regular activity that includes: Compilation, Refactoring, Rebuilding database, Executing automated tests and inspections, Deploying software and Receiving feedback. The agility in execution is not just about following few process, few daily chores and few thumb rules. If we are trying to change an organization's culture then it cannot be forced. It has to become a lifestyle, a Muscle memory.

Conclusion:


"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy." - Rabindranath Tagore

Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, Tagore was a great Indian visionary, who also happens to be the author of Indian National Anthem. This quote of his is at least 100 years old and I am still amazed by how it is becoming increasingly more relevant in today's digital world, where software is fundamentally and greatly empowering the end users by providing them with great capabilities in the way of digital services. The trend that we see today, is that each and every product company is wanting to be a services company. It's great times to be working in a services company, more so in an iconic one like Infosys. The expectations from the technology partners have changed rapidly in past few years. The world today and the great organizations in it are looking for techno-business partners who can help find the right problems, devise the right digital solutions and help implement the same in the organization's context. All this requires a great service mentality where you don't just dump the same solution to every problem because every problem is unique, so is the solution and so is the execution of it.

The 3D framework of dT, Digital and DevOps combined with great consultants from a solid transformation partner like #InfosysDigital, can help you do all this and much more. Here's wishing a great and grand good luck to the CXO community as they take on the journey to fearlessly try and change the world, piece by piece making it a better world to live in.


April 11, 2016

Why the time could be up for enterprise middleware?

Since the onset of Information Technology, there has been multiple solutions addressing a very common problem any enterprise had to face and that is “Integration”. Basically to transfer data or information from one application to another essentially to simplify, automate or optimize business processes. This took many forms such as a centralized middleware platform to domain specific or unit specific middleware or pattern based integrations. The premise however for Integration was its mandate and it eventually grew within the enterprise. Even today many of the leading analysts’ reports on IT expenses put the integration expenses to vary between 30% to 60% of the overall IT budget which is quite a conspicuous cost under the radar for any CIO.

There are many names given to the architectures, patterns, usages to solve this “integration” whether Point to Point, File Transfers, Landing zones, Message bus, MoM, EAI, ESB, SOA, EDA, Message Broker, Pub-Sub, EDI, ETL etc. Probably someone can write a 1000 page book on how every company uniquely choose to have certain constructs, bought leading proprietary software of those times and even continues today with decades old technologies either in part or whole. At the same time this middleware or integrations have been so infamous in a IT organization that any production issue first will be routed to the middleware support correctly or incorrectly.

Over the years, the maturity has improved among the software vendors, IT organizations and systems Integrators. Effective technologies, standardized protocols and proven architectures have significantly improved the middleware operations. The availability of low cost open source software as an alternative has also challenged the status quo and given enterprise leaders a leverage to deal with proprietary vendors. All sounds favorable to the Enterprise Middleware.

But!, the nature of middleware as it stands today is not relevant to the needs of a Digital enterprise and future of Information technology. You may ask “why”?

More than half of my professional life has been spent as a middleware specialist integrating systems, applications and processes using myriad ways in a variety of enterprises. In the past couple of years, having discussed with many CTOs, VPs and senior directors who directly manage this type of portfolio, there is a common concern about the middleware being the bottleneck in this age of digital projects requiring quick releases.

To summarize the key drivers and trends going against the grain of middleware:

1 - Enterprise will and must evolve from on premise to numerous Cloud Applications. Each Cloud app will be self-sufficient to handle the set of services. The integrations between these cloud-apps will be on standard protocols (RESTful APIs) which doesn’t require a conventional ESB or middleware product.

2 - Small will be big. There is no appetite for large programs, big ERPs, multi-year journeys and yearly releases. Forward looking multi-year plans laying out the visions and strategy will obviously exist and needed for any enterprise but the executions will be broken down in small independent projects and functionalities. To execute such small programs, independent but complete teams will be needed. Bureaucratic hurdles accompanying centralized systems and middleware teams and platforms will no longer be tolerated.

3 - Application owners will expose APIs or create micro-services to expose the right APIs. One of the key requirement of middleware was to translate messages from one system to another. This will not be needed if every application exposes standard APIs governed by acceptable principles.

4 - Automation of business processes. More and more functions will be automated requiring less and less workflows and user interventions. Automatically, integrations will be needed but easily solvable by standard APIs.

5 - Leading Silicon Valley companies don’t have any middleware. Businesses are seriously considering their IT units to adapt progressive technology practices.

For modern enterprises to take the next leap, they need to dissolve these centralized middleware constructs and adopt Microservices, DevOps and APIs to accelerate enterprise integrations.

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