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January 30, 2013

Sharing the Innovation Spirit with AstraZeneca

Posted by Suryaprakash K. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:55 AM

Sam Covell, Head of IS Procurement, AstraZeneca

Being a global service provider with a domain appreciation, we service clients across continents and verticals. We are accustomed to working with enterprises from across verticals that subscribe to various ideologies. Every once in a while we come across a company that sees the world in much the same way that we do. And the ideologies, that our two organizations share, make working together uniquely fruitful. One such company is the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca - where synergies are established along the 3Cs - Courage, Collaboration and Creativity - driving the value system on which execution was founded.  In a manner of speaking, we're both in the innovation business.

It wasn't that long ago that we began skill supplementation to support AstraZeneca's internal Information Systems. But as the IT landscape got vaster and more complex, both efficiency and effectiveness came under the scanner.  The Information Systems organization had to be reinvented to create and deliver end-customer delight.  We sensed the opportunity to move our outsourcing model to one founded on outcome-based services backed by flawless service and continual innovation. Today, the partnership has matured to a state where we are co-creating platforms for critical business functions that will help AstraZeneca in their increasing collaboration with partners from academia, other bio-technology firms, CRO firms and even other pharma companies.

I believe, this is indeed a telling example of optimizing efficiencies, technology-led business transformation, and injected innovation.  

In fact, Our Building Tomorrow's Enterprise framework provides insight on how enterprises can do this, as part of a structured plan, to thrive in this changing world and stay ahead of the course. As a strategic partner, we aim to enable these leaps and bounds that will make this possible for them. And we evolve our offerings to help our clients proactively give their customers exactly what they want. 

That's why, for instance, we've taken careful note of how the business value of outsourcing has been radically re-engineered over the past few years. What started out as a traditional model of cost and convenience has transformed into a strategic tool to drive business imperatives like innovation and growth. Technologies like the Cloud have converged the hitherto distinct practices of IT infrastructure management and application development into a potent singularity. Our offerings, in this arena, have also evolved to deliver smarter IT operations, smarter applications and smarter infrastructure that guarantee greater measurable business results. From just enabling businesses, these are geared to help the technology organization recast itself as a true partner to business. By taking a stake in business through accountability; by opening up to new partnerships; and above all, by believing that this is the role that must be played - shifting from outsourcing to outcome sourcing. 

In my view, this working side-by-side as equal contributors...this sharing of the larger business vision, and this commitment to deliver not just services and projects but results that can be measured on realization...all of this is a part of being real partners in innovation.

January 25, 2013

Finding Heroes

Posted by Jackie Korhonen (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:45 PM


World Economic Forum 2013: Impressions  [Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldeconomicforum]

Sometimes when you travel, you hear news from home you might have missed in your everyday life. This week I read an interesting article about my local library in Manly, a suburb Sydney, that made me think about leadership.

It made me think about how we choose our heroes. A recent  ranking of the most admired Australian women was topped by two Olympians and a number of celebrities. Of course, it is natural to admire the discipline, focus and resilience that drives many great athletes.

Like many young people, Australian children are twice as likely as their Asian peers to have career aspirations of becoming an athlete, singer or actor - and half as likely to dream of becoming an engineer, teacher, doctor or scientist.

As a mother and a citizen who worries about the world's economic future, I find this a worrying statistic.  We desperately need technology, education and science to drive innovation.

Davos is a great place to find other sources of inspiration for our kids and ourselves.  There are world leaders, social entrepreneurs and young innovators here, this week, focused on finding answers to the challenges of poverty, inequality and desperation.  I have, this week, been particularly inspired by technologists like Bill Gates who have started a second career in global philanthropy.  And there are plenty of quiet achievers doing good work.

Perhaps you might want to take a minute to think about who inspired you this week and what you learnt from them?

When Innovation takes on a Mission

Posted by Subu Goparaju (View Profile | View All Posts) at 3:51 PM

Sometimes, an idea, simple though it may be, can single-handedly change the way the world works. It can empower economies to put payment systems into the hands of the unbanked millions. Enable global corporations to reduce energy footprints. Or even positively impact basic human development fundamentals like healthcare, sanitation and education. Sometimes, one doesn't even, at first, notice the positive evolution set off by these powerful innovations. And yet they change the world. One conversation. One insight. One inspiration at a time.

That is what we want to achieve as part of the Sankalp initiative, formed in support of the United Nations Secretary-General's Every Woman Every Child Movement. Sankalp, formed last year has 50 members belonging to government, private sector and the social sector from India. My team and I feel privileged to be part of it. All of us partners have committed to work together to prevent 200,000 child diarrheal deaths in India by 2015.
Technology plays a significant role in an initiative like this - from enhancing accessibility to the program to scaling it, building greater efficiency and amplifying its benefits globally. Most importantly, it brings together the like-minded like never before. My team has worked closely with the Health Unbound team in United Nations Foundation and MDG Health Alliance and has built an innovation co-creation engine to bring all partners together. More than 50 stakeholders from governments, non-government organizations, academic and research institutions, corporations and communities of faith are committed to the Sankalp initiative, and they will use this platform to share videos of best practices, to test new ideas, to challenge existing ideas and to co-design solutions. And more importantly form new connections.
I am at Davos and will be unveiling this platform with the UN teams. I will share more details soon. Let the Sankalp, which in Sanskrit means "take a pledge", be fulfilled.

January 23, 2013

Strategy for Gender Equality: Educate our Sons

Posted by Jackie Korhonen (View Profile | View All Posts) at 1:01 PM

Global figures like Kofi Anan and Shashi Tharoor tell us that, perhaps, the single most powerful tool for improving the world is educating women and girls. Summing up a large body of evidence ranging from health outcomes to economic productivity, Tharoor concludes, "If you educate a boy, you educate a person; but if you educate a girl, you educate a family and benefit an entire community."

Like many female executives, I'm often asked how to increase women's participation and advancement in business.  Increasingly I am convinced the answer is, educate boys.

The Lucky Country?
We Australians like to refer to ours as "the lucky country," and when it comes to opportunities for women, we are more fortunate than many.

We have a female Prime Minister. A recent global survey found Australian women are the most economically empowered in the world, topping 128 countries for dimensions like women's access to education, equal pay, childcare and anti-discrimination policies.

But let's scratch the surface a bit.

Despite higher educational attainment, Australian women don't receive higher pay in a single industry. We rank 44th in female economic participation and 66th in wage equality according to World Economic Forum data. In fact, the gap between men and women's pay has increased in recent years in Australia; we're going in the wrong direction.

So how do we shift back into the right direction towards gender equity, and create some more of our own luck?

Personal Experience
My own experience as a woman in business has been mostly positive. Yes, I have had to make small sacrifices - relying on the support of my family, especially my mother and husband to step up and be there doing some of those traditional "mum" activities for my son when I can't be there. I have accepted the opportunities that have come my way. These have required me to travel, live overseas and push beyond my comfort zone. To make this work, some years ago, my husband made a decision that he would be the one to step back from his successful technology career, to do the lunches and pickups and parenting that our son needs.

Our family feels fortunate to have the economic and social wherewithal to make these choices;  in my experience, many women leaders owe their success in part to this kind of support and sacrifice.  But how many men - in Australia or most other countries - would find it socially, economically and professionally acceptable to put their partner's career ahead of their own, even for a few years? In my view, it won't happen en masse in my generation, but we are raising our son to see female equality to be a logical and natural imperative. What does it mean to be a man in an era where women are economically equal?

Until more of our sons and grandsons are educated to understand what it means to be a good man with women who have equal economic power and status, we won't see improvement in outcomes for our daughters.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, I'll be attending sessions on Decoding the Gender Divide and Women in Economic Decision Making, where world leaders will address some of the important issues.

Because, Contact is No Longer Centered

Posted by Gopal Devanahalli (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:41 AM

It's interesting how stories of contact center excellence are still few and far between. And that only makes me wonder what it'll take to "customerize" these centers, and raise their standard of service and experience. And even more importantly, why this must even be prioritized. This one's simple - A great line-up of contact centers significantly improves customer satisfaction, and derivatively, those of right-selling. But, of course, it's important to determine that opportune moment to right sell - because no one ever managed to sell more to a dissatisfied customer seeking assistance. So, what does it take to build your "customerized" centers?  I'd say, get started with seamlessly integrating these with the other customer service channels. Then enhance this ecosystem with self-service features to improve customer service experience.

The first, because today's customers are channel-mobile. When they're expected to repeat a problem to a contact center agent that they've already detailed, perhaps on Facebook or a mail, it understandably annoys them. Indeed, research indicates that this is their biggest source of contact center frustration. The way around that is to deploy a customer service solution, which can capture and integrate customer interactions on every channel, and present it to the contact center agent in a single window.

Survey also indicates that customers are willing to use a self-service service channel, provided it works. And that's the catch. A little probing reveals that less than half of those customers find current self-service options accurate and comprehensive. I believe, that issue can be readily resolved with a customer service solution that sits atop a central knowledge base, updated in real-time with new service scenarios. The solution's self-service capability can be upped to the next level by augmenting it with social capability.

Yet, very often I hear businesses rant about how hard it is to justify the long payback period on their contact center investments. But, if you can significantly improve customer satisfaction rates, think and act like these centers are revenue generators of the business, wouldn't that change the paradigm significantly?

January 21, 2013

The Top 10 Mobility Trends for 2013

Posted by Anup Uppadhayay (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:32 AM

mobility trends infographic 

It's safe to say we at Infosys know a thing or two about the benefits of being mobile. I think about some of the enormous projects we've completed over the years in which some of our closest and most trusted co-workers were thousands of miles away. Their actual location on planet Earth didn't matter; what mattered was how everyone could collaborate, strategize, and innovate as a seamless team because (in part) of their mobility.

Well, mobility takes center stage in 2013. For a long time the also-ran of the corporate arena, smart organizations are making mobility their No. 1 priority this year. We have identified our top 10 mobility trends and I've added some of my own commentary to the mix. Whether you're new to mobile trends or have - like many of us at Infosys - adopted them into the daily life of your business a number of years ago, make sure you stay on top of these trends in 2013.

Dedicated budgeting and planning. True, 2012 was the year mobility entered the mainstream for most enterprises. But 2013 will be the year of widespread consolidation. Companies are setting aside exclusive funds and strategizing mobility initiatives. Better yet, these firms are prioritizing and fast-tracking mobile programs for rapid implementation.

App, app and away. The more tablets that people across your enterprise have, the more they'll need the appropriate applications. It could be something as sweeping as being able to access enterprise software on tablets. Or maybe it's designing a new tablet app that simplifies processes for different functional groups. Large job or small, there will be a mobile app for it in 2013.

iPad, therefore I am. Good news for the so-called "B.Y.O.D." crowd: With Apple iOS winning over IT administrator skeptics on the security front, expect more companies to allow iOS devices in one form or another. This is a great development for those of us who make little distinction between work computers and personal computers. It's often more efficient to jump on a mobile device to complete a work task even if you've clocked out for the evening.

Make room for Windows 8.  Agreed, the eighth version of the popular Windows franchise doesn't have the mass appeal of Android or iOS. But Microsoft Windows 8 devices promise smoother enterprise IT integration and application management. And that's something every corporate IT colleague likes to hear.

Mobility for all.  First there's the banking industry, which will look to mobility for the next big thing in payments. Then there's the manufacturing realm, which will see the value of using mobility to retool its core business processes. And don't forget retailers. They'll use augmented reality to extend their physical stores to the virtual realm. Yes, it's getting even easier to buy whatever you need - or don't need - from your favorite stores.

The cashless economy arrives. Look for companies to invest in mobility solutions to address heightened consumer demand for non-traditional payment methods like mobile wallets, near-field communication payments, and alternative currencies. If stores are making it easier for us to shop, financial services firms might as well make it just as simple to pay up.

New rules of engagement.  Organizations will use mobile tools to create immersive and differentiated experiences through augmented reality shopping, micro-personalization of products and services, visual search, and multi-channel engagement.

Machine-to-machine connections.  Less than a decade ago, it was noteworthy if a new car - and a fairly luxurious one at that - had a single, dedicated mobile feature. In 2013, expect not only connected cars of all stripes to boast mobile features, but home automation and smart medical devices as well. There's a wide-ranging universe of products that are embracing mobility as a must-have component.

Friendlier enterprise applications.  The coming year will see an increase in context-based applications for business functions, mobile-based training for talent, and greater social functionalities. The good news is that these apps are economical; they deliver high quality content but are easy on the wallet.

On-the-second insight for an on-the-go decision.  Company information will be cast in the '2P, 2C' form; that is, a pervasive, personalized, customized, and context-aware presentation. Expect the mobile device to become the delivery medium for focused insights from Big Data, location-based services, and real-time business analytics.

January 18, 2013

Does your Company have a bias against Innovation?

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:21 AM

A longtime client recently sent me an academic paper he'd just read that - much to my pleasure - singled out Infosys as a model of innovation. I share this story because receiving laurels from academics isn't always easy. They're a tough, discerning bunch.

I think the reason our company was mentioned in the paper says a little bit about the state of innovation among major organizations. The research, titled "Is Your Business Biased Against Innovation?," is the work of Rita McGrath, associate professor of management at Columbia Business School. In a nutshell, her 2011 essay says that it's a challenge for large, established corporations to remain as nimble and innovative as they were when they were first founded.

Two years on, the thinking presented in her article is more relevant than ever. The reorganization of the Western world's large banks is one example. The rates they charge to borrow money continue to hover at rock-bottom lows. And activity on much of their once-lucrative proprietary trading desks has all but dried up. Despite the fact that these are very large financial services firms, some of them are nevertheless thinking outside the box and reassessing their expertise in the search for new lines of business.

That said, newer and smaller firms don't necessarily have an advantage when it comes to innovation, either. A new company's advantage, McGrath writes, is that it doesn't have to fight against the old adage: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But the flip side, according to McGrath, is that if the company tries something and it blows up, it's dead. "Established companies have the opportunity to do more experimentation if they commit to consciously embracing new models, because they have more resources to buffer themselves in the advent of adversity," she says.

That's why she mentions Infosys. Our company, she says, has a systematic way of estimating how long a particular advantage is going to last, not to mention "systems that nurture innovation and processes that make sure the right people are at work on the business." These organizational features are terribly important in what has become a very competitive global economy. Established companies that will eventually be outclassed by competitors are operating on autopilot. "[These] companies exist to exploit existing businesses, not to create new ones," writes McGrath.

Just as a myopic view can get a business in hot water, so can traditional metrics. McGrath criticizes - quite rightly, I think - problems with the pressures involved making quarterly targets when you're in a publicly traded company. "You pay dearly for missing quarterly targets and don't get dinged at all for failing to invest in the future," she says.

She uses the theoretical example of an executive whose job it was to run the Walkman business at Sony back when that device sold like hotcakes. The executive in charge of Walkman had one thing to worry about, according to McGrath: the Walkman franchise going forward. "The numbers that mattered had to do with the performance of that business, not with Sony as a whole. So when the first little inklings appeared that there may be a shift from battery cassette players to solid state rechargeable digital music archives like the iPod, your incentive was not to embrace that reality but to eke out another quarter or two doing what you were already doing," she writes.

I dare say we've all been in situations like that in our respective organizations. We wish we could embrace the big picture but instead we have to concentrate on short-term gains. It's not the best way to foster innovation. But sometimes it's the bitter reality of moving an organization forward.

That said, we don't necessarily have to allow these realities to define our strategies and our businesses. That brings me to another tidbit that the professor of management mentions in her academic paper. It bears consideration as we enter a new year filled with possibilities for our organizations. And it's another reflection about what can often be counter-intuitive in today's organization.

Businesses, according to McGrath, need to frame priorities around customer outcomes, because if they instead frame them around their products, they'll be making a potentially erroneous assumption: that what customers are buying is in your product. "Most of your customers don't care," she says. "Products and services are merely vehicles to provide customers with a way to get the jobs that they want to get done, done."

So in 2013, take these lessons to heart. It's not the easiest thing to move out of your organizational comfort zone, but doing so can have its rewards. "It's really striking how quickly and frequently people change their business models today," says McGrath. "It's much more common than it used to be. Be prepared. Just because your model hasn't changed much yet doesn't mean that it won't."

January 16, 2013

Positioning your Enterprise for the Big Data Revolution

Posted by Vishnu Bhat (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:07 AM

big data trends infographic

One of the great marketers of all time - Alfred Sloan, the management expert who built General Motors during the early 20th century, structured his stratagem so that consumers felt they were always aspiring up to the next brand from General Motors. At automobile shows, for instance, there was always a tantalizing show of technologies and features on next year's models so that consumers had a hunch that if they didn't rush into showrooms, they'd be missing out on something big. Now, there's a flip side to that feeling, however. It's a sense of not knowing what seems important to know when you think that you might be missing out on a certain sort of advancement. And, I suspect, when it comes to big data and our own organization's adoption of it...especially for some of us who are charged with staying ahead of the big data curve, that feeling can be quite an ache at times!

That's why, I like referring to adopting a big data strategy as a journey. And I like to say to my colleagues that we should be making sure that every company's journey is as smooth as possible.

Recently, at a CXO Summit, I asked the crowd where they are on their big data adoption continuum. About two-thirds responded that they already are working on it or have their mind around it. That's a good start. There's information gathering, plan development, strategy, pilots, plans deployment, articulating business benefits, implementing enterprise program, and, at the very end of it all, you have an enterprise program. Just three years ago, a company could have been shooting in the dark and hoping that its adoption of a big data program was the right one. It was much like that feeling when you know that there's a new technology and you might be missing out on it. But unlike an automobile showroom,you couldn't rush in and drive the new car off the lot. The good news for big data is that the past three years have moved incredibly fast.

There are professionals who can help you get started. According to a CXO, who has charted a rather successful big data strategy for his enterprise. "We made quite a few mistakes, things like getting the data architecture wrong, not coming out with true enterprise data architecture and not understanding what that really meant," he said. "So we unwound things a couple of times and you can now get help in those areas - and it is well worth the investment to get that help, because it will save you months, maybe longer." "It's not about having a perfect architecture before we start; it's more of an incremental process." he clarified.  Like this business leader, many experts don't subscribe to the Big Bang theory when it comes to adopting big data.

I think organizations can go into big data adoption incrementally, but with the knowledge of what the end game looks like. If you don't have a vision of the end, maybe not perfect, but a good vision of what the end game is, you can meander down the road.  And you can definitely save some pain and significant time by getting advice up front. The key here is that nimble organizations are able to make fairly inexpensive mistakes and make them fast, so that they can put those mistakes behind them, learn from them, and move on. One of the advantages of this brave new world is that there's relatively no structure to what journey you choose to take. Nor is there any concept of "schemers" anymore.  Another thing this CXO said that struck me was how the term big data is thrown around a lot. He calls it a vapor word. "A lot of the vendors are talking about big data and saying it's important and get on board and blah, blah, blah," he said. "But I'm a fairly practical person, and I get to run IT operations for a Fortune 500 company and have all the headaches of being [on top of things] 24-7, 365 days a year."

As an end note, what I'd say is that there's value in focusing on what kind of data benefits your organization. And then assemble the right team and come up with an idea of where you want to be a year from now in terms of garnering that data and making sense of it. The journey might not always be without incident, but you'll be sure to avoid the hype and start to get the results you want.

January 14, 2013

Gauging the Digital Journeys of Consumers

Posted by Puneet Gupta (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:59 AM

Enterprises and their consumers exist in a sort of symbiotic relationship. And this arrangement is particularly relevant for digital consumers. 

They wait for products to come to market with the utmost anticipation, camping outside stores the night before the debut of a new digital product not unlike teenagers trying to score tickets to the concert of their favorite band. Digital consumers are opinionated, too. They devour such products and services and have no qualms about telling the manufacturers whether or not they've met their expectations. It's for that same reason that enterprises benefit from this unique relationship. Digital consumers are enthusiastic about their products and an important aspect of the corporate research & development agenda is predicated on the journeys of those consumers.

That's why we're fascinated by a recent study published by two Columbia University professors. One of them, Garrett van Ryzin, is a business school professor; the other, Klaus Lackner, teaches at the university's School of Engineering and Applied Science. Their project began when they were considering a question often posed by investors to engineers: Does it scale up? That is to say, there is a long-held assumption that industrial production and operations benefit when enterprises move to increasingly larger scales.

But is this always the case? Is bigger always better when it comes to gaining efficiencies within organizations? In a recently published summary of the two professors' work, the logic is as follows:  One hundred 10-ton dump trucks would require a lot more drivers than a fleet of 10 hundred-ton dump trucks. By scaling up, the capital cost per unit goes down, as do operational and labor costs.

But the professors discovered that the opposite can be true when it comes to the digital world. Remember the era of the supercomputer, when science and industry were focused on creating larger and faster machines? "By the mid-1990s," says Professor van Ryzin in a recent interview with a campus publication, "it had become cheaper to network the capacity of [central processing units] and memory from large numbers of personal computers and computer workstations rather than relying on a single microprocessor."

A similar scaling down in size is behind the genesis of Hadoop. In fact, it parallels the supercomputer example. After the era of high performance supercomputing, companies were mapping data across thousands of servers. There was a lot of work involved in taking all of the results and mapping it so that you could see everything and just how you got there. Hadoop was the result of an open source project where computer scientists created a whole ecosystem around sets of relatively small servers and enabled them to do a tremendous amount of data collection and processing. The end game was that it saved a lot of money by scaling down. And in some ways was a blow to the era of the supercomputer as well.

Corporate teams are always investigating whether automation technology has evolved substantially enough so that it can be cost effective to operate smaller units rather than larger ones. In some ways, what this seismic shift in thinking has done is to create more of an analysis of scope than scale. Think about it: Organizations were accustomed to building one huge database to track consumer preferences. The clip-and-save supermarket coupon was less about passing on savings to a housewife than it was about a food retailer determining what kind of advertisements struck a chord, and with whom.

In that same spirit, nearly every person you see on the street is carrying a mobile telephone that becomes a scaled down (but very potent) device that feeds those same retailers small nuggets of information about consumer preferences. Today it's not so much the scale that matters but the scope of the data. With online activity gauged to send out millions of consumer insights a minute, the scaled-down device nevertheless is as far-reaching in scope as it's ever been.

There's no denying that the digital consumer has had a hand in encouraging this seismic shift from large to small. By now we've all heard (ad infinitum) about the influence that digital consumers have had on social media and the online world. But their recent journeys appear to be having profound effects on how companies organize themselves and discover efficiencies. 

So the next time you hear someone mention "economies of scale," just ask him what kind of scale - large or small -  he's talking about.

January 11, 2013

Manufacturing Trends you cannot afford to miss in 2013

Posted by Sanjay Jalona (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:48 AM


Just this morning I found myself whistling the tune of a wonderful old ballad. The song was "Just In Time" - the same one Sinatra made so popular decades ago. In any case, I realized I couldn't have whistled a more appropriate song after I stumbled across Infosys list of the five hottest manufacturing trends for 2013.

Just-in-time is a term used by operations management gurus to describe the revolution that took place in the manufacturing world over the past three decades. In a bygone era, you ordered parts and components from your Tier 2 suppliers based on what you think you would sell in the coming quarter. You fired up the assembly lines and hoped you'd move inventory out the door as quickly as you put it all together. The beauty of just-in-time manufacturing is that it took the guesswork out of the inventory ordering process. Your company didn't have valuable components sitting around. True, just-in-time manufacturing has been around for decades now, but the technologies that help manufacturers eke out even more efficiencies from this manufacturing process are better than ever. 

These trends, which I am summarizing again are the ones making just-in-time well - more just-in-time. 

Supply chain risk management: Reactive to proactive. ?Technology is getting more intelligent. The coming year will see a preponderance of new tools that will empower manufacturers to react faster to disruptive events. They'll be able to monitor risks, identify alternate suppliers, and help collaborate with partners to plan mitigation strategies.

Plug-and-play manufacturing plants.One of the challenges that Western conglomerates face when attempting to tap into the vast manufacturing talent pools in emerging economies is the amount of time it takes to get a new plant up and running. Just imagine connecting your new plant to corporate headquarters in a matter of a few weeks instead of the possibility of a yearlong slog of an on-premises ERP implementation. Manufacturers are looking to the Cloud to make that quick turnover happen. And their regional plants in emerging market countries will thank them for it. 

The promise of mobility to create a real-time enterprise. In much the same way that just-in-time manufacturing revolutionized the industry, so too will mobility in 2013. It's delivering digitized workflows and real-time operational visibility to operations management. Mobility means manufacturing intelligence in 2013. From design to production to sales, mobility is placing assembly line transparency and intelligence into the hands of each employee.

More bang for the social buck. The more a company knows about trends in the marketplace and customer behavior, the more efficient its manufacturing processes will be. That's why social media is a vital trend to watch in 2013. Manufacturers will capitalize on their social media investments by using it as a collaborative tool. They'll make sure the right experts solve the appropriate problems, they'll gather more business intelligence, and they'll connect their enterprise to end-users for a whole new set of ideas.

Using Big Data to mine petabytes for new meaning. There's no reason to discard data anymore simply because you don't have the capacity to store or process it. You do. Big Data is the key to collecting information on manufacturing processes down to the last detail and translating it into assembly line action. Finding the needle in the haystack has never been easier. 

What a transformation! Customers telling manufacturers about their preferences. Manufacturing plants up and running in weeks instead of months. And every employee being his or her own assembly line foreman. 

There's going to be so much transparency and valuable information at our fingertips in 2013. I believe, this is the year when all those trends we've been hearing about, for many years now, will become a reality.

January 9, 2013

What's Hot. What's Not. For Banking in 2013

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:59 AM

Smart financial services institutions are looking closely at how to optimize what they do and how to provide stellar customer service. I can also see that in the following year, commercial banks will be thinking more about how to burnish their product lines. It's going to be an interesting 365 days ahead.

I do my banking with two regional banks. One bank gives away pocket calendars. The other gives away ballpoint pens. I, of course, see the sentiment behind both these customer-friendly gestures. And yet, I can also see that in the following year, commercial banks will be thinking less about stationery giveaways and more about how to burnish their product lines. That's because, while some banks are squeezed for revenues, all of them are facing another year in a slumping global economy.

Smart financial services institutions are looking closely at how to optimize what they do and how to provide stellar customer service. In fact, Infosys recently published a list of 13 banking trends to look out for during the coming year. The list is worth a closer look, especially for those of you who work in the field and are thinking about how to make your organization more efficient than ever before. Here's a quick view:

Real-time analytics. Banks will look at what branch you're at (or at home on your computer) and will combine information like the nature of your transaction to provide you with real-time, location-based services. 

Transaction equals intelligence. The history of your transactions tells a bank what kinds of services and products you're most likely going to want down the line. These "contextual offering" will continue to be hot in 2013. 

A place at the blackjack table. Banks are tapping into the virtual gaming world. Online gambling has been around for 15 years, but financial services institutions are only now finding ways to charge fees for facilitating end-to-end payments of virtual currencies. It's a huge chunk of the online world - why not be a service provider to it?

Social media's next step. We're all aware of the importance of social media for any organization. But banks are recognizing that peer-to-peer recommendations aren't just for restaurants and doctors. Tapping into their discussions is also a great way to develop new products. 
The new gang of four. Banks will be collaborating with retailers, telecoms, and technology companies to come up with new services. The best part of this "co-creation" is that these organizations can bundle them with other offerings and go directly to the customer with a suite of products.

Tellers tell us a thing or two. The teller is a bank's primary connection to its customers. They already know what our likes and dislikes are. So why shouldn't banks treat tellers like the trusted salespersons they've become? This shift - engaging customers with faces they already know - will put banks at a tremendous advantage when it comes to selling new products.

65 is the new 30.  Banks have spent a lot of time attempting to attract so-called Generation Y customers. But they're realizing that their best customers have always been there: Elderly people with considerable savings, brand loyalty, and a penchant for simple products. 

Life stage or lifestyle? Don't trust those demographic studies that claim to target a customer by his level of education or marital status. A sample group might not share the same needs even if, say, everyone in it all have college degrees. Geography, culture and interests also define their banking solutions.  And the technology now exists to parse those segments into actionable marketing.

Baby steps are better than the Big Bang. Smart banks are phasing in new technological offering on an incremental basis in order to avoid disruption. 

Real estate ... on the cloud.  If you're a CIO who hasn't gotten his bank onto the Cloud, then 2013 is the year to do so. Try one of the big three - infrastructure, platform, and software-as-a-service - to test things like end-user computing, payroll processing, and procurement on the Cloud. My hunch is that you'll be glad you did.

IT the problem becomes IT the solution. Not to sound too much like a psychologist, but if you're grappling with legacy systems, then you need creative thinking as to how to build new self-healing IT layers. Build these new layers with simplification of processes and increase of automation in mind.

And the right outsourcing model is...Outsourcing doesn't have to be an either-or proposition. In 2013, banks will be outsourcing the right processes to the right IT partners. Doing so will save everyone time and money.

Mobility as troubleshooting device. Your customers live and breathe by their mobile devices. Over the coming year, smart banks will realize that they can address IT issues by tapping into the mobile mindset.
It's going to be an interesting 365 days ahead.

January 7, 2013

Treating Employees Like Customers

Posted by Nandini S. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:15 AM


A friend of mine is the chief operating officer of a prominent real estate organization. She often tells me how extensively the business had changed over the past three decades.

For her, one of the most noteworthy transformations is how her company views their employees. When she started at the company, people who interviewed for both middle management and leadership positions could generally be characterized as able to see themselves at the firm the rest of their careers. They would work their way up through the ranks, learn from the best colleagues, and retire with the knowledge that they and the company had grown together. It was a symbiotic relationship. The company thrived because of the hard work and innovation of its employees. They, in turn, succeeded because the organization provided them with the ideal framework from which to create better products, make new discoveries, or, in the case of a non-science sector, like real estate, forge more efficient and lasting relationships with clients.

That world - the one my friend became part of as a young woman some 30 years ago - is long gone. Prospective hires come to her during interviews with lists of demands. They're very polite about asking about things, so maybe 'demand' isn't the best term. These prospects think they're making requests. But make no mistake about it: My friend the COO interprets these to be demands when she remembers the way corporations hired employees a generations ago. A lot of these organizations are bigger than ever. So why are employees not as interested in forging a long-term relationship with particular companies? I think a significant reason is, although many of these organizations have spent a lot of time improving the ways they interact with customers, what they haven't done is to think about how the workforce has transformed as well. If companies were as responsive to their employees as they were to their client base, they'd find that many of the structures within their organization to address employee concerns are vestiges of another age. 

Think about the retailing revolution that's taken place within the last 15 years. Take bookselling as a perfect example. For hundreds of years, a merchant stocked a huge inventory and waited for people to come browse the shelves. Today, the bookselling giants can order a book from the publisher after a customer orders it online. And they can track exactly what their customer base prefers at any moment. Can you imagine if companies around the world took a cue from these bookselling success stories and treated their employee-engagement channels with the same kind of innovation? 

Organizations are unknowingly creating situations where employees are jumping from job to job in order to burnish their resumes with the hopes of finally landing at a place where they can innovate and thrive. The cost of this employee churn to the organization is significant to the bottom line. It translates into longer product development cycles - not to mention the cost of getting more new employees situated (i.e., processing their paperwork and training them). Wouldn't it be great if enterprises were constantly pushing the envelope when it came to their employees? If they treated employees like customers, they could not only retain talent; they could expand and multiply that talent. 

But, like customers, employees cannot all be slotted into one homogenous bunch. Alongside that young achiever who crowd-sources solutions on his hand-held, is also the senior leader who prefers a huddle with his managers in his corner office. And, of course there's a whole spectrum in between. Perhaps, then organizations must approach the challenge with the intent to segment and customize -  also taking cognizance of geo and cultural nuances - to build up a long-lasting culture where employees are always considering how to perform better because they know that by doing so, the company that cares for them will perform better too. It's that whole symbiotic relationship thing.

Think about it this way. If your best clients are thinking about moving on, your company is in trouble. It's no different when it comes to your employees.

January 2, 2013

Just how Sustainable is your culture of Innovation?

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:27 AM


Passion. It's a word we throw around quite frequently in the business world. I often hear friends say they are passionate about their job or about their career. 
But, I think, we often confuse passion with ambition. Think about the people you've come across over the course of your life who were solely focused on getting that next promotion. According to Bill George, a professor at Harvard Business School, that kind of attitude displays ambition but not necessarily passion. Prof. George, who teaches leadership at Harvard and had a distinguished career leading Medtronic, recently spoke to the Infosys Executive Leadership Summit. "If your passion is to get a promotion, you'll never innovate," he said to the crowd. "If your passion is to get a promotion, you'll probably make a lot of money, but you are not likely be the innovator. If you innovate you deserve to make a lot of money and you will, but if you start out with the goal of getting promoted, you will not be the innovator."
Prof. George should know. He's written countless case studies for Harvard Business School about how the best companies use innovation to become industry leaders. And how, by their very culture of innovation, they branch out and create new industries. Don't try acquiring your way to innovation, advises Prof. George. Indeed, some of the biggest companies attempt to buy start-ups in the hope that they can add their cutting-edge inventions to their current stable of products. But without a culture of what he calls sustainable innovation within a company, no amount of acquisitions can transform it.

One way to protect and sustain that culture of innovation is to put a human face on it, said Prof. George. Even the toughest of directors and shareholders are likely to back your culture of innovation if you show them how it has helped not only the company but actual people as well. When he was CEO of Medtronic, he relentlessly shadowed researchers and observed doctors performing surgery in order to see how his company's products could help people. Such behavior might seem extraordinary for a CEO. But Prof. George said that by being in the field he was able to develop a passion for what the company and its employees did every day. And he sought to pass that passion on to the entire organization. One day he watched someone die on an operating room table. "Sometimes one person, one patient, one customer, can change the whole game," he said. Ask anyone currently employed at Medtronic what the best day of the year is, and he'll most likely say it's when the company brings in four or five people who have amazing stories to tell about how innovations have helped them. Prof. George said it's not uncommon for some 4,000 employees to crowd into the atrium auditorium, stairwells, and hallways at company headquarters just to catch a glimpse of the speakers. 
His favorite story involved the young man who talked about a spinal cord problem that required painful surgery every year of his life. By the time he was 16, he said he simply couldn't go through with one more surgery. "His body got very stiff and rigid and he took an hour to get out of bed, his mother had to dress him - embarrassing for a teenage kid - and he had to go to a special needs school," said Prof. George. "He had no life, no hope." But then the young man received a special Medtronic drug pump. He pulled back his coat for everyone in the company auditorium to see. The pump allowed drugs to go directly into his spinal cord, which took away 90 percent of the symptoms he had faced since birth. He was able to do the things he'd never dreamed of doing: going to a mainstream school, then on to college, and even getting out of his wheelchair and walking.   "It was that day I really got what the company was all about," Prof. George said.   
The kicker here is that the company was ready to kill that particular drug pump. Medtronic had never made any money on it. But after that young man's story, the entire company became passionate about taking another look at it. Medtronic eventually had a multi-hundred million-dollar business on its hands. Prof. George challenged the audience to think about what products or ideas their own companies might have that could make a positive difference. 

As leaders, start thinking about your people and their innovations with passion, he said, because it all starts with that. 

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