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December 31, 2012

The App-side of BYOD

Posted by Puneet Gupta (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:05 AM

Employees love it. Companies can leverage it. And IT administrators have learnt to live with it. So "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) will come to be. But that's just the beginning. Going forward, consumer mobile usage patterns will probably suggest even greater possibilities for leveraging enterprise mobility. One of these is a corporate app store.

Mobile devices are increasingly becoming the interface of choice for accessing the Internet and the mobile web is accessed through apps over 80 percent of the time. The reasons why almost everything has an app are easy to understand - there are over a billion mobile web users now and apps deliver an easier interface, require minimal user input and create great user experiences. From there, with BYOD taking root at an increasing number of organizations, it's easy to make a case for corporate apps, and a corporate app store to enable employees in a mobile computing environment.

In general, corporate apps can enable IT administration to secure and manage the devices used for work, addressing the primary concern of the BYOD phenomenon. Beyond that, the possibilities for app development are determined by the unique nature of the business's needs. For example, a biotech firm would need an app that helps the process of drug discovery and also a medical app which allows for the mapping of medication to side effects. The focus needs to be on fit-for-purpose apps developed by role, function or department with emphasis on productivity, communication and collaboration.

A recent study of Millennials reveals that state-of-the-art technology is a major (positive) influencer in their choice of workplace. Companies, therefore, have the opportunity to leverage their app store as a symbol of a technological culture that resonates with the 'oh-there's-an-app-for-that' generation. Beyond just the cultural dimension, companies can create engagement by developing and delivering apps that go beyond professional productivity to serve the lifestyles of their employees. Employees also need to be involved in the curation of the app store, either by contributing ideas or by being involved in the development process itself.

Corporate app stores have the potential to transform BYOD from a convincing model to a compelling one. Organizations that have adopted BYOD have reportedly improved productivity and employee retention. And, what's more, it doesn't just stop with the mobile. The mobile apps model, in many ways, is a step towards total transformation of traditional web experiences from large web applications to applications that are a sum of multiple micro-experiences.

Perhaps then, going from BYOD to the corporate app store, is to take that one step closer to full enterprise mobility.

December 28, 2012

Living Up to those Millennial Expectations

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:48 AM

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Sometimes a literary or musical movement can define a generation. Bobbysoxers danced to Big Band music. The Beatniks wrote about people who came of age in the early 1950s. Then came rock and roll. By the 1990s, the author Douglas Copeland captured the concerns of the generation born in the late 1960s and '70s in a terrific book called "Generation X." Remember how corporations were suddenly referring to "Xers" in their marketing initiatives?

Now we're dealing with the generation after X. They're commonly referred to as Millennials - those people born after 1980. And they make up half the world's population. We've known about their tastes and purchasing patterns for quite some time, especially if you're in the marketing field. But we're truly dealing with them because they're well out of college and graduate school and their first jobs. Companies around the world are recruiting them to take on leadership positions. They're a discerning bunch. And they're much different from previous generations largely because of one factor: they embrace technology as a part of their work and personal lives because they've never not known it. I once referred to the cultural divide between Millennials and the rest of us like this: Think about the early 20th century, when there was a generation that grew up amidst the automobile. They were too young to remember anything but the horseless carriage.

Organizations are facing that same kind of fundamental technological divide today. Many of us grew up without email, the Internet and instant messaging. Some of us still enjoy writing letters and going to the library to find actual books made of paper. (Never mind that Kindle ebooks outsold paper books last Christmas) Of course,  the Millennials, wouldn't be caught dead without a small stash of digital communication devices at all times. In fact, 96% of all Millennials are hooked on digitally one way or the other. That's why companies need to make sure they're not perceived of as quaint by this large and influential generation that's already come of age. And that's why it's time to ask if our own companies have come of age as well. We can do a lot to make sure our corporate procedures and structures meet the expectations of Millennials. Their expectations might seem a bit picky to those of us born well before 1980. But just think about the gang who thought the horseless carriage was a new-fangled technology. Their younger colleagues probably winced at their reticence to embrace the bold new century ahead of them.

What's important for our businesses is to think about how we relate to emerging innovations like the Cloud. If you don't have a comfortable, working relationship with all things Cloud, Millennials will detect it from a mile away. A company that doesn't embrace the Cloud tells the world - and especially the Millennial talent thinking about working there or doing business with it - that it hasn't thought about a cogent strategy for its future. Also think about that social networking and digital strategy. I have a friend who's a financier at a prominent Wall Street bank who used to love reading a certain business publication. He cancelled his subscription when that publication would only send him print copies. And it would correspond to him through snail mail. My friend shook his head and said that the 1980s were long over. Young, nimble executives from the Millennial generation want to consume information digitally. If that magazine - which was once a very reputable one - didn't have a clue as to who its readers were or that they wanted to receive the monthly issue on their personal digital devices, then how good could their coverage of the financial world be?

How does your company engage with it employees? Is an Intranet set up to enable them to correspond, plan meeting, and come up with new ideas in a virtual space? Employees from all around the world innovate on Cloud-based systems wherever they are on the planet. True, a manufacturer of trains and jet engines might not have needed an interactive Web site 20 years ago. But today, as business leaders, we need to make sure that our Millennial employees understand us and that we understand them.

The pool table and pinball machine that came to  characterize a "hip" company during the late 1990s just don't cut it anymore. There, I've said it!

December 26, 2012

Is Fruitful Partnering Measurable?

Posted by Sanjay Dalwani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:05 AM


For transformation partner-client relationships to deliver on the enterprise-transformation agenda, beyond trust and proven skills, there needs to be a strong foundation of alignment and synergies around what the measures of success and business value are. But above all, there needs to be a shared vision of how the partnership will help the client enterprise prepare for tomorrow. This view is reaffirmed, every time a client trusts a vendor partner to join force through their next business mission. To me, that is the recognition of a vendor's true perceived partner-value born from their ability to help the client enterprise achieve their business goals through innovation, operational efficiency and winning market moves.

And, this is of how I measure the efficacy of our partnership role too.

Transformation partnering - the whole thing is getting tougher in this age of high uncertainty, where every business unit and function within the corporation has a different interpretation of the environment, and a different game plan for surviving it. As the enterprise battles with market uncertainty, the last thing it needs is a partner unable to help all these functions converge at a common meeting point, or worse, pulling in a whole new direction. On the other hand, a partner, who proposes an agenda to win in the here and now, ensures enterprise-wide alignment to this immediate agenda, but has a view to develop it into the organization's blueprint for tomorrow, works like a transformation catalyst.

That's not all. Partnering is also about shouldering the responsibility for executing this plan. Like the little boy who cried wolf, there are only so many chances to get away with saying something on which one doesn't or can't follow through. A partner can get a reputation mighty quickly for making all the promises in the world, when it comes to strategy, but not delivering on any of them. And this, in an era of rapid technology evolution and resultant risk of business process and model obsolescence, is no mean task. In addition to market understanding and business savvy, the transformation partner must also bring technological excellence to the partnership. So that clients can leverage technology to its full innovative and transformative potential, not merely use it as a tool of automation or efficiency. And, yet, drive the organization's day-to-day efficiency and productivity agenda, while looking at a tomorrow-plan that includes priorities like non-linear growth and scale.

So, when we are entrusted with that second, third and even fourth business transformation project from the same client, for the results we deliver...when repeat business is our mainstay...we accept this honor with pride, we reaffirm our commitment to our clients - that we will spare no effort in helping them transform their business, accelerate innovation and improve efficiency as they evolve into tomorrow's enterprises. It's what makes our day.

December 24, 2012

Got the Technology? Now get Innovative.

Posted by Madhu Janardan (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:49 AM

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From merely supporting business competitiveness to becoming a catalyst of change and tomorrow-readiness, technology has come a long way. There is growing understanding and increasing consensus about its potential to seed opportunities of the future. Few will argue about the proactive role technology is playing in shaping business; and we all agree it's an equal participant in generating ideas for "what else" business can or needs to be. Yet, often times, I think it's not the technology, within the enterprise, so much as the organization's innovation quotient, when it comes to levergaing that technology meaningfully and innovatively, that can make that 'survive-or-thrive' difference.

Really, it's quite simple. Imagine, for instance, a race where one participant's technology is a Formula 1 car. Behind the wheel of that hotrod sits a teenager who has scant experience maneuvering any car, let alone an F1 model. Now imagine that a regular SUV represents the technology owned by the racer's arch rival. But suppose a professional driver operates that car. Even with the underpowered car, there's no doubt that the seasoned professional will win the race against the teenager in the hotrod. The pro knows how to squeeze every last ounce of power from his machine. He knows how to make the car operate to its fullest potential. To be sure, I'm not an advocate of investing in sub-standard technology for the organization. I'm simply demonstrating the role of experience and skill when it comes to leveraged technology - innovatively. Effectively. Even though the novice driver might have a superior machine at his disposal, he doesn't know how to make it do what it was designed to do - win races. He doesn't have what it takes to exploit the real potential of the F1 model.

Today's competitive marketplace is filled with daily races won by those enterprises that know how to utilize the technology at their disposal. Think of those banks that have expanded their customer base profitably to include the hitherto unbanked. They leveraged the humble yet ubiquitious mobile phone to make that happen. Look at smart firms around you modernizing infrastructure. They are not replacing hardware or undertaking on-premise transformation. They've simply moved to hiring Cloud infrastructure and capacity on demand. Many firms have stopped grappling with the challenge of building new products all by themselves. They are innovating with existing technology to co-create products and services with customers, and integrate customers into their core processes.

A savvy retailer client of ours is using Bluetooth and allied communications technology to scan for individual shoppers within their stores. Once a shopper launches a particular application on her mobile device, (made available for easy and free download by our client) it notifies the store's system about where the shopper is within the store. The system can build upon that shopper's buying preference and actually direct that person to particular aisles where there are items that she is more likely to buy. By using mobile technology in harmony with supply chain management systems and a customer database, they custom-target each person within their stores with a unique message. They also use all the derived collective intelligence, from these interactions, to evolve their store experience. That's the kind of strategy and execution that comes from a marriage of technology and innovation within an enterprise. Their rival retailers, of course, have many of those systems at their disposal. But without innovation in using the technology to differentiate and evolve business, they might as well put up a large billboard with sale items for all customers to see.

Speaking of billboards, there's a reason the advertising industry, that used to be run by creative teams, and now run by algorithms. It's a variation on the supply chain theme: Innovative enterprises use their customers' Web shopping preferences to stock merchandise and develop new items they know their customer base is sure to demand in the future. They use technology to data-mine for buying preferences; customers are driving merchandising decisions.

As business leaders look to grow in these turbulent times, a significant number believe their success depends on doubling their revenue from new sources over the next couple of years. To me, that reads as - "Technology with a big dose of innovation"

December 21, 2012

Making Organizational Change Work

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:35 AM


The way we define business transformation can differ; but strategic enterprise-wide change programs that have a significant impact on the business typically go by that name. Such programs tend to focus on leveraging opportunities created by existing and changing markets, increasing efficiencies on a domestic or global plane; and creating fertile grounds for pro-growth strategies. Transformation can take two shapes; The first entails fundamental one-time change that generates a disruptive impact on business. These 'big bang' programs usually involve external players and majorly impact significant portions of the business across functions. Then there are those transformation programs that generate sustained but incremental improvement, creating cross functional performance improvement often including technology re-platforming.

Whatever the transformation type, it's non-negotiable that the change program delivers the intended returns. And it's the people-factor that often plays that make-or-break role. It's important to ask some critical questions early on in the program execution phase: Are employees really engaged in implementing or accepting the change introduced by the transformation program? Is this employee-connect a metric that's being tracked on leaders' dashboards? Is the transformation partner, engaged to drive the program, adequately equipped in skill and confidence to support this agenda? Leaders can ensure they understand and guide employee sentiment by monitoring their behavior regularly - not just during and after change implementation - but as early as the phase through which transformation is strategized. 

Because, if it's your organization's success that is its raison d'être, shouldn't the success-makers - your people - be the biggest and strongest champions of the transformation?

December 19, 2012

It takes an Innovator to lead a culture of Innovation

Posted by Sandeep Dadlani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:44 AM

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Harvard Business School professor Bill George speaks at the Infosys Executive Leadership Summit.

Bill George teaches leadership at Harvard Business School. Imagine my delight when he announced to at the recently convened Infosys Executive Leadership Forum that one of the first cases he ever wrote at Harvard was about Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys.

Mr. Murthy's achievements are well known to those of us who have worked for the company he founded. Beginning in 1983 and with just $250 in his pocket, Narayana Murthy would build a global corporation within one generation. The rapid rise and initial success of Infosys came from Mr. Murthy's invention of the Global Delivery Model, now the gold standard throughout the services industry. His accomplishments also helped pioneer what has become a formidable economic force: the Indian technology industry. Just why did Bill George decide to write one of his first business school cases about Mr. Murthy? Because the Harvard professor says he's astounded at just how many large corporations lack the kind of senior executives that Mr. Murthy had when he was building Infosys. That is to say, Mr. Murthy recognized the importance of making sure his corporate leaders were innovators at heart. Why, asked Prof. George, do so many large companies, with all their resources and access to talent, fail to innovate? And why aren't their top people natural innovators?

It turns out his two questions are inexorably linked. Bill George said that an innovative company begins with a CEO who is deeply committed to creating a culture of innovation "right from the top." We all know about executives like Mr. Murthy and the late Steve Jobs at Apple. But there are other sterling role models who possess their same level of passion for innovating, he said. Take the medical doctor Dan Vasella, who was CEO at Novartis for 14 years. "Here's someone who was down in the labs all the time where his pharmaceutical counterparts were in their offices reviewing their numbers," said Prof. George.

One day Dr. Vasella was reviewing some clinical data sent to him because he asked to see everything that came out of the company's labs - no matter how small the study. One seemingly minor study caught his eye. He walked down the hallway to meet the team responsible for the research. It turned out that they were on their way to developing a drug that could potentially treat and cure a rare and potent form of leukemia. Only 28,000 people in the world are known to have this form of the disease. Until that point, people diagnosed with it had a mortality rate of 80 percent. And the Novartis team he was speaking to seemed to have a cure on their hands. Dr. Vasella asked the researchers when the drug was going to market. Their answer startled him. According to Prof. George, they told their CEO that they weren't going to market with the drug because they didn't have money in their budget for clinical trials. Apparently the drug was being killed because people in the company's marketing department simply didn't see how a drug that treated such a rare disease could command a large and lucrative market. If, for example, the entire market topped out at $250 million and Novartis secured 100 percent of that market, in the end it was a $250 million prize. Instead, the prudent business strategy was to go ahead with so-called "me too" drugs that could command $500 billion in sales and up. Remember, Prof. George said that innovation begins at the top. That's why he enjoyed telling the rest of the Novartis story. Dr. Vasella made an executive decision that only an innovative CEO could make: He told the team that he would make sure they had all the money they needed to take the drug to clinical trials. Plus, he told them that they should do all they could to get FDA approval in two years. (It was looking as though it would take four years.) To help things out, Dr. Vasella personally visited the FDA and spoke about the drug's potential to help an ailing portion of the population. Ten years after the company introduced the drug to the market, it has sales of $4 billion and is approaching $5 billion. That's because Dr. Vasella and his team discovered other afflictions that can be treated by what is now a mega-drug, according to Prof. George.

Another innovation-led CEO is Howard Schultz of Starbucks. He enjoys putting on a sweatshirt and baseball cap and blending into the Saturday morning gaggle of coffee customers in whatever Starbucks he happens to be visiting. Schultz chats with the customers and sometimes just sits back and observes a morning routine. Doing so, says Prof. George, inspires Schultz to think up ideas that he wouldn't be able to hatch in a boardroom. Such as the company's relatively new "blonde" roast blends, which came about when Schultz realized many customers wanted a lighter roast of coffee more similar to what they could buy in grocery stores. Starbucks has also moved into selling music that's promoted within their stores, making the chain an arbiter of what's cool - beyond just the realm of breakfast drinks. And, of course, Schultz is just cool with it all.

December 17, 2012

Taming Big Data

Posted by Vishnu Bhat (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:52 AM


I am fascinated by what an education policy expert said about the wonders of the Information Age - Students have greater and faster access to the world's repository of knowledge than at any point in history. Yet both standardized test scores and graduation rates continue to decline in America. His observation encapsulates much of what the corporate world struggles with in the shadow of Big Data. There's more information at their disposal than ever before. But unless they know how to decipher and curate these seemingly endless streams of information, what good does any of it do anyway? Like a student who fails a test despite having the great libraries of the world at his fingertips, Big Data isn't worth much if an enterprise doesn't know how to harness its power.

I've been fortunate to speak with some innovative entrepreneurs who have utilized Big Data to their advantage - and have some rather inspiring stories to tell.  For example, at the Infosys Executive Leadership Summit last month, I was part of the Big Data panel and absolutely enjoyed the chat about how effective enterprises can best tap into the promise of Big Data.

Most people are astounded when I mention that a typical company uses just about 20 percent of its available data. We call this structured data because it's what organizations use to make decisions and plan strategy. Some 80 percent of a company's data is unstructured, meaning it simply never gets truly leveraged for operations . So it essentially floats off into ether. In addition,  a great deal of unstructured data sits outside the company, mostly in cyberspace, and can often exist in social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Savvy is a retail clothing company, for instance, that seeks to tap into that unstructured social media data to get wind of breaking consumer fashion trends and rapidly evolving purchasing patterns.

Here's another factoid that really surprises several business leaders: Of the 80 percent of a company's unstructured data, a whopping 40 percent can actually be acted upon. In the past, the stumbling block was the cost of reaching and processing all that data. Another consideration was time and place. By the time an enterprise processed the data and acted on it, which could have been weeks or even months, the sensitivity of that data had diminished. That's why organizations see a clear imperative to get the right technology to process data ... and the getting, as they say, is good.

Today, with the Cloud, we are faced with near-limitless computing and processing power. In some ways, Big Data, which has been unwieldy and intimidating for many companies for years, has found an answer on the Cloud. It has also met its partner in the exciting evolution that's taking place within many companies. My job allows me to travel the world and observe many different enterprises, big and small. And what I see is this evolving new organizational culture that is more introspective than ever before.

Make no mistake about it: Success can come from knowing not only how to change your organization, but from the initial acknowledgement that change must be initiated in the first place. How many times in the past year has your company looked into the mirror and critically assessed its decision-making processes? What is your organization's propensity to take slices of data and act on it?

Big Data is causing a huge program change in the smartest companies, I know. Like the student and the library, there's a new type of test coming along. And if an enterprise isn't studying for this new breed of exam, it's going to be stuck with a failing grade. No matter how impressive the library.

December 14, 2012

Technology takes a Cause

Posted by Srikantan Moorthy (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:21 AM

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Over 100 software developers converged on the Pune campus of Infosys for Sanitation Hackathon 2012

A corporation's  social responsibility is no longer a point of contention. Now, more organizations are going beyond talking about it or donating to worthy social causes. Some organizations are taking greater ownership and are creating a visible impact by tackling some of the larger issues plaguing their societies.

A recent example is the Sanitation Hackathon, a collaborative effort from the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and Infosys, aimed at raising health standards among the populations of the developing world. Earlier this December, several teams of technology professionals participating in the Indian leg of this event worked with sanitation experts to find answers to what is one of the country's biggest problems - sanitation, which is so lacking that it causes over 768,000 deaths each year.

Another "obvious" cause that technology companies can take up is that of technical education. Countries in the developed world are struggling to shore up their technical human capital in the face of dwindling enrollment in related courses. Ironically, even India, where a college degree in science or engineering is highly prized, is facing a similar shortage. That's because only a small percentage of the over half a million engineers who graduate each year are readily employable. Since the problem is about industry relevance, many companies, including Infosys, have come up with some interesting ways to solve it. 

Collaboration with academic institutions and apprenticeship programs are two popular approaches.  In working with academic institutions, the company facilitates the creation and deployment of industry-relevant curricula. Apprenticeship programs, while by no means novel, are also proving useful for connecting the technology industry with its future workforce.

The next-generation workforce and society are not the only beneficiaries of such measures; the sponsor companies and the larger industry also gain from an improved talent pool.  In a way, the technology industry is only setting in motion a chain of events that will pay it forward, because it's well known that for the millennial generation, which is the beneficiary of such initiatives, doing meaningful work which makes a difference to society is as important a career objective as any other.

December 12, 2012

Unleashing Disruptive IT-led Services Innovation

Posted by Dr. Srinivas Padmanabhuni (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:28 AM

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Service Research and Innovation Institute (SRII) India - International Conference on Services in Emerging Markets (ICSEM) 2012 Conference 

Yes, you read that right. I am talking about disruption powered by IT in the services sector. Common perception associates innovation with products. The classic example is Thomas Edison's bulb, emblematic of innovation itself today. Then, there are the Apple products - owned, coveted, admired, even criticized, but hard to ignore. But, ever thought about the services behind these products? The services that got electricity to your home to light that bulb? The iTunes service which, as we all know, revolutionized the digital music industry?

Now, getting a step ahead of the obvious examples of services innovation, consider these:

• Adding speech-recognition capabilities to everyday life; for example, "smart" homes designed to recognize voice commands
• Vending train tickets via mobile apps
• Smart farming - With sensors at the ground level sending instantaneous data about humidity, temperature, sunlight and soil characteristics such
   as pH, moisture content and fertilizer content to ascertain that ideal growth conditions are established
• Leveraging Cloud and collaboration technologies for bottom-of-the-pyramid education

You get the idea? It's not difficult to see why there's a need for a concerted approach to nurture innovations in the services sector. Service Research and Innovation Institute (SRII) is a global think tank that aims to do exactly that, by leveraging Information Technology. Among its several initiatives is an annual conference that is organized to understand and address the special characteristics of services innovation in emerging markets. 
This year, the conference is hosted at Infosys, Mysore, India from December 12th to 15th. 

The conference will address the need and scope of services innovation specifically in the context of areas most relevant to emerging markets - such as governance, healthcare, agriculture and education. The role of IT in these domains will be discussed at length through panel discussions and tutorials delivered by world-class academicians, government representatives, industry representatives and think tanks. Trends in social computing, mobile computing, analytics and Cloud (SMAC) will also be laid bare. In addition, the conference will discuss the 'process' dimensions of innovation including service design thinking, best-practice innovation processes and such others. Though focused on the emerging economies, the symposium leverages its strong global innovation networks. 

A true and unfailing source of innovation for any economy is its startup ecosystem and its student community. SRII has gone that extra mile to engage with startups, and has invited them to showcase their ware. Likewise, some time ago, the SRII organizers launched a nationwide innovation challenge for students, calling for disruptive services innovation ideas. More than 10 startups and over 40 students' teams responded enthusiastically.

Thrilled as I am at the prospect of being amidst all this action, I promise to return with exciting updates, following the event.

December 10, 2012

What else?

Posted by Anand Prasad Arkalgud (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:24 AM

Enterprises  go about their business - hurdling challenges, harnessing opportunities - as a matter of business-as-usual. And, every once a while, leaders stop to ask "what else?" How can we take that big leap? What's that big idea...that big pursuit...that'll make that big difference. And, it's easy to fall into a trap here; and begin to think that this "what else" or innovation is something to be tracked outside of business-as-usual. In fact, this big new idea can simply be that which makes the very same business-as-usual faster, easier or better  by rewriting the formula that the business leverages to get its work done every day.

But the minute one spells "innovation" there are two pat responses - the i-pad or 'flying cars' kind of innovation where the exact promises this holds for business is somewhat unclear. The other is that innovation entails R&D and is therefore expensive. We don't always remember, there's also a fast-follower option....learning  quickly from others ...sometimes others from other industries.

Today, technology has come a long way from merely supporting business competitiveness to becoming a catalyst of change.There is a growing acceptance of its influence over business direction and its potential to seed business models of the future. I believe that the time has come for technology, and IT in particular, to play a more proactive role in shaping business; to be an equal participant in generating ideas for "what else" business can or needs to be. Tabling four clear charters - business unit/function needs, strategic intent of the enterprise, the technology premise of the enterprise,extrapolations from examples of innovation from other industries that can be put to use in one's own context - can help enterprises arrive at a  meaningful answer to that elusive "what else".

December 6, 2012

The CIO Mandate: Innovate

Posted by Chandra Shekar Kakal (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:30 AM

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There isn't a CIO who'd argue the point when I say it's no longer enough to ensure or even increase operating efficiency. We must all reinvent our businesses to keep pace with the hyper-evolution around us. Consumer consumption patterns are changing. Formidable new competitors are springing from almost nowhere. And technology, of course, goes obsolete even before one has it fully figured. It's no surprise, then, that CIOs - like all business leaders - are called upon to think fast...about how to dull the brunt of rapid change that can otherwise render their enterprise impotent. And as catalysts for change, they enable practically everything from new products and new revenue streams to new market exploration and new business model creation.

And no surprise there, because CIOs are in a distinctive position within the organization. They produce and hence have access to a goldmine of sorts. They are closest to data. Data that indicates customer preference, supply chain patterns, products that work, products that don't, usage patterns and all that information that other leaders could kill to have. Combining this input with analytics and market information is a natural...almost inevitable...first step towards product innovations, process changes and business transformation. 

So, what does the CIO, with innovation on his mind, really seek? For starters, he wants IT that's smarter and business relevant. Be it any part of the so-called commoditized IT value chain - with application support and maintenance, infrastructure operations, and such like - his search for ways and means to future-proof IT for the business is relentless. 

He is also taking a hard look between the crevices that divide IT services to see if he can find a way to unearth additional value there. 

I'd say, one other thing he'd appreciate, as ideas flash, is agility in execution.  Agile development - speedy build and enhancement of application - as a methodology is not something CIOs are unfamiliar with. This has, over the years, translated into faster time-to-market, smoother process reengineering, prototyping on demand and frequent releases of new features and business models to business from IT. It has really helped IT get closer to business. But, here's the catch; agile development, typically, is a non-distributed environment process. And this means passing up the benefits of outsourcing from low-cost locations. Service partners who offer the 'Global Agile' advantage - agile development, but with a window for 40%-70% offshoring - promise CIOs the best of both worlds.

Further,  with the growing ubiquity of smart phones and iPADs, everyone demands great user experience and just good old GUI simply won't do.  Enhancing  the user experience for existing applications or even newly built ones is another challenge for the CIO. While he can make sense of all things tech, the technology organization rarely has access to in-house talent from product design and architecture schools. So, it has ceased to surprise me, when clients pop in a question asking if we nurture a User Experience Center of Excellence. 

Of course, I see clear relief when I nod my affirmative.

December 5, 2012

Embracing what must Pervade your Business. And Society.

Posted by Mohit Joshi (View Profile | View All Posts) at 3:41 AM

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What never gets old are photographs of some the earliest computers first leveraged by banks. Some of the first models were so big....they occupied entire rooms! Of course, the size of those machines belied their computational power. The time it took that behemoth to process a handful of simple computations is longer than the millions of complex computations churned out by today's small and elegantly styled machines. But compare the evolution of computers with how banks have walked the evolution path themselves. The comparison can often be startling: Whereas financial institutions have armed themselves with computer and technological capabilities that were unimaginable just a few years ago, sometimes, some of them are structured so that their complexities remain an uneasy and awkward appendage to the organizations. Of course, pervasive computing aims to change all that. By embedding sensors and controllers into everyday devices used in the workplace, financial institutions can create seamless interactions between their employees, clients, partners, and the technology that powers it all. The notion here is that when the enterprise embraces pervasive computing, it can turn anything into an integral part of its technology-led business strategy.  Tech gurus might call this "becoming one with the computer." It's how we interact with the increasingly hardwired (or wireless, for that matter) world around us.

But, is that all? Couldn't this thinking extend to include more than just myopic technology-led business strategy? And to pervade all that's important to us as a people. Yet, driven viably by the enterprise. Because today, we're in the midst of the most exciting era ever. Corporations made up of thousands of smart, energetic people have replaced research institutes and governments as the centers of innovation and human progress. Businesses are blazing new trails with their research and innovation. And the fruits of their work are purchased and consumed by millions of people around the world. The trick, however, lies in identifying what's relevant. And recognizing when it's time to shift gears and blaze a new trail. Unlike previous decades, when channels of communication were one-sided, the explosion of social networks means that human lots more stakeholders and influencers. The most successful companies, today, are the ones that understand this and leverage these new channels to bring their users - the people out there - to participate in fine-tuning products. Think financial inclusion and banking the unbanked. Think micro-transactions. Think mobile money. 
 
But, with greater success, of course, comes greater responsibility. A society in the throes of such a revolution must grapple with its attendant challenges as well. This mandates that the actions of financial institutions - in fact all corporations - and their employees help hurdle some of these - like making technology affordable to all; across classes and geo-borders, finding technology-led solutions to global wealth inequities and preserving the environment. Successful corporations will be those that can treat this quest not just as corporate social responsibility but as their business mainstay...as a genuine opportunity for growth and radical progress.

December 3, 2012

A Fairytale on the Cloud

Posted by Vishnu Bhat (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:02 AM


Most technology success stories come with a "tiger by the tail" moral. So there's Internet and violation of privacy; online banking and risk of fraud; social networking and loss of control... Now, what could it be for the Cloud?

I'm inclined to believe that as an increasing number of organizations go hybrid between private, public and on-premise  they will face big challenges from the resulting multivendor environment. Should they work with the best vendor of each application, or pare down the supplier list to a manageable number? How can they issue and enforce homogenous performance standards among vendors of vastly different services? And above all, how can they get disparate Clouds to integrate and get that elusive 'enterprise-one-view'? Really, enterprises don't need such distractions. What they need is to be free to run and innovate on their core business full time. And, they're hoping that the Cloud can make this happen.

And it can. A Cloud-based marketing platform can put the CMO in control of the organization's digital media campaign; another type can enable a bank serve remote locations with a digital wallet; a third platform can bring 100% of service procurement spends under management. And don't even get me started on its potential to streamline complex trade distribution channels, standardize common business processes, or enhance an organization's talent management abilities.  But, here it is again, the tiger and its tail. Because each time enterprises tap into another Cloud application, they invite the same problems of the hybrid Cloud environment - too many providers, a snarl of applications, services that don't talk to each other. In short, a CIO's management nightmare.

So, is this how the hybrid Cloud story is destined to end? Of course, not! An experienced partner can bring invaluable focus and direction to an organization's Cloud strategy. They can help find the right vendor for each service.  Define performance metrics and SLAs. Enable secure private, hybrid and service provider Clouds. "Broker" different Cloud options. Migrate services on to the Cloud. Even divest the organization of tedious business processes by serving them on a platform.  Most importantly, the right Cloud partner can build, manage and govern a unified hybrid cloud ecosystem under a hub to give the organization complete visibility - and the CIO complete control - over the enterprise's entire Cloud assets. Armed with this 'one-view', the CIO can support innovation initiatives with the best Cloud-based course of action. The hub's brokerage feature ensures the CIO can run workloads in a best-fit construct from a cost and efficiency perspective. This hub, when augmented with a self-service catalog, featuring a menu of service vendors from multiple environments, enables both IT and business users to pick and choose from Cloud applications, services, or processes at will. A transformation that allows seamless value creation across the IT provider and IT consumer divide within the enterprise. A perfect solution, I'd say, to the challenge of exercising 'control with flexibility' in a hybrid Cloud environment.

If there ever was one, then this is it - the fairytale ending every CIO longs for.

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