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April 30, 2013

Autonomics - Automation with Intelligence

Posted by Chandra Shekar Kakal (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:20 AM

I have always been intrigued by the possibility of 'doing more with less'. More output with less input, conservation of effort and energy, increasing productivity - it's all so fascinating especially when managed intelligently without compromising on ethics and ecological balance. The same applies to IT services. If less human effort can be consumed to resolve routine issues, talent can focus on higher-value activities and higher order purpose. This means automation - the execution of activities without human intervention based on pre-determined business rules. This does require someone to initiate a tool or write scripts to automate a process. But, what if automation itself can be automated? There comes the concept of autonomics.

Autonomics is all about building expert systems that are self-learning and self-healing. Can we build software 'robots' to take over the task of writing scripts or initiating an automation? Can repetitive, predictable tasks be executed by a 'virtual engineer' who learns in much the same way as a human engineer does? Thereby, can we free-up talent to work on more complex tasks that require visualization, imagination, team work and collective wisdom?

Technology has become both complex and pervasive. More than 60% of an enterprise's IT spending goes towards supporting, maintaining and enhancing systems that are already built and operational. The time has come to manage such complex technology. That is where autonomics - self-configuring, self-healing, self-optimizing and self-protecting systems - come to play.

One may argue that autonomics or expert systems can take away the jobs of human engineers and thereby create new social issues. In response, I'd say any technology helping us do 'more with less' is good for engineers, organizations, nations, the society and the world at large. Productivity improvement doesn't take away jobs, but helps produce more with less input or effort and thereby helps us produce more and create more jobs.

That's why, we must embrace autonomics rather than dismiss it. It is the next wave of productivity enhancement bringing with it consistency, quality, speed and scalability too.

April 29, 2013

Scouting Out the Next Batch of Infoscions

Posted by Sanjay Dalwani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:16 AM


The Infosys Foundation recently had the pleasure of recognizing two Google Fellows for their accomplishments, much of which laid the groundwork for what we know today as cloud computing. Our company and its charitable foundation are always looking to foster education and innovation wherever it might be.

So it was with great interest, the other day, that I read about an event in America: the annual White House Science Fair. President Obama got to see some of his country's top science projects from children around the United States. One such innovation was a stationary bicycle that's hooked up to a filter that removes deadly pathogens from water. Someone riding the bike can use it during an emergency - when, presumably, electricity is unavailable - to produce clean water. Peddling hard enough, as the president did, allows you to filter clean water for up to 30 people during a 15-hour period. The students told the president that they got the idea when they watched earthquake victims on the news. One of the things that such victims lacked during major emergencies is clean, potable water, they said.

Another invention was a new kind of algae that the student told the president she had developed in her bedroom. Obama's response: "You have very supportive parents."

The White House Science Fair is just one of several events around the globe that showcases the collective, innovative power of the world's young population. It is this same rationale that drives Infosys to continue to be committed to helping communities and schools identify bright students and to equip them with tools that can bring their ideas to life.

I don't know if our founder, Mr. Murthy, will read this post, but if he does, I suspect he'll think - from amongst those bright kids - he could scout for some of the next-generation potential Infoscions.

April 26, 2013

Rise of the Digital Consumer

Posted by Sandeep Dadlani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:35 AM

Review of The Masters App for iOs  [Source: My Swing Solution http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCM2u99sggE]

I overheard two blokes, on the elevator, discussing golf last week. "Have you seen the app for The Masters? It's incredible - the best app ever." one of them said. I thought to myself: An app for a golf tournament now leads the technology universe?

Soon enough, I read an article in the New York Times that touted the very same app. The reporter said that the customized Masters app drew him in to the point that he'd stopped watching the tournament on television. Yet the network that paid to broadcast the Masters and the sponsors who bought rights to advertise during the TV coverage must be a little less enthusiastic about this great new app. All that bundling of TV airtime and broadcast advertising - and even shots provided by the Goodyear blimp - takes the sort of effort that requires a captive audience to make it all profitable. The issue is that the captivity just isn't happening anymore.

Why? Because we consumers are getting what we want ... the way we want it. In the 1970s there was an ad for Burger King that touted the same sentiment: "Have it your way." The idea was that you didn't have to accept an assembly-line hamburger with ketchup, pickles, and lettuce if, say, you only wanted mustard on the bun. It's taken a while, but the same phenomenon is occurring in the world of infotainment.

Consider the rise in popularity of web sites like Hulu. You watch what you want when you want it - without commercial interruptions. One side story to this changing viewer model was an expensively produced police drama that one of the networks decided to pass on after half a season. In the old days, that would have been the death knell for that particular show. But the producers shopped the show around to cable channels with the knowledge (or some might call it an amazing amount of confidence) that because their show was a quality production, it would find a following via cable and Hulu. And it did. Suddenly network executives, once the gatekeepers of everything on television, ceded a bit of their power to the end user.

The consumer is finally getting to choose what she wants to watch or read or buy. Think of the possibilities. Not too long ago, an aspiring novelist would have to shop his manuscript around to dozens of publishing houses. Nowadays a good writer might have a chance to bypass a publishing house and serialize his material straight onto an e-book or his own Web site. Then, supposing he gains a fan base, he could begin charging for ad space on his Web site from corporate sponsors who want to reach the highbrow, affluent readership that enjoys his books. Whereas it used to be solely the realm of a publisher to decide what books to print and market, now the user (the reader) can decide who will write the next bestseller.

Today, business models will continue to evolve. And one thing is certain: These disruptions have dislocated entire industries while empowering a new generation of consumers. Indeed, "having it your way" is having a direct effect on what's known as the middleman. The book publisher. The television network. The newspaper employing hundreds of reporters in dozens of bureaus around the world. All of these enterprises depend on the ability to control what gets to the end user. Now that the guy sitting in his favorite armchair can scan for a customized menu of news and entertainment, it leaves those organizations with fewer prospects to charge a premium for what they produce.

That's the disruptive power of innovation.

April 24, 2013

Driving Innovation

Posted by Rohit Kedia (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:06 AM

Source: MotorNews: Connected Cars  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFPZacjQR64

Take a stroll around an auto show the next time one's in your city. What you'll find is that some of the most powerful personal computers now come with leather bucket seats. I'm talking about car connectivity. It's the idea that the automobile is yet another way to connect to the world around us via the Internet. Where our lives - digitally, at least - play out on various platforms. Make no mistake: Car telephones have been around for decades. Satellite navigational systems are nothing new. But automotive internet connectivity is entering a new, exciting phase.

Consumers are driving that shift in the automotive industry. They expect context, continuity and consistency across the digital world regardless of when and where they consume content. On your laptop, your smart phone or in your car, everything must look and feel the same, and your gadgets must know where you left off and where to pick up from again as you seamlessly shift from one device to another. This is often taken for granted even. Significant advancements in connectivity, cloud technology and software convergence have made unified digital consumption possible.  It's no surprise then that cars are now connected to the Internet, and drivers want to consume content the same way they do with their other devices, in their 'connected cars'. However this is easier said than done.

Enabling the 'connected car' requires disparate industries such as high-tech, telecommunications and automotive to come together to provide innovative consumer-centric solutions. In addition it also needs a telematics ecosystem integrator to bring together multi-disciplinary technical expertise in Cloud, Engineering and Mobility. Infosys has extensive experience in bringing together exactly these competencies along with cross industry experience to deliver new and innovative capabilities to its clients. Our solution enables digital convergence in vehicles, creating delightful experiences for drivers while also addressing safety concerns. The key benefits of the solution are immersive user experience - from registration to provisioning to how user preferences are factored; Dynamic human-machine interface integrated with controls such as voice recognition and steering-wheel controls to minimize driver distraction; And an integrated in-vehicle Cloud-based platform that recognizes the user and pushes preferred settings onto the vehicle.

We are also working with leading end to end solution providers, in the automotive sector, to develop compelling products in the usage-based insurance space. Low cost, easy to use, and having high underwriting value these will  usher in innovation into the market. These solutions will measure driving behavior, create mechanisms for transmitting this data to cloud based platforms via smart phones, and provide a complete picture of driving habits for insurance companies to assess and manage premium. 

In a bygone era, consumers flocked to auto shows to see cool engines and drivetrains. They were awed by how each new model could get them to places more quickly, safely, and comfortably. Consumers still go to auto shows of course. But they're also getting to see how advances in the field of car connectivity are taking drivers anywhere they wish to be - in the blink of an eye.

April 22, 2013

Sidestepping Pitfalls in the Search for Technology Innovation

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 1:49 PM


A very successful private equity investor once shared with delegates of a packed conference that he spends more time on the road than he does in his office. The reason, he said, is that he wants to see firsthand the types of companies in which his firm is considering investing. Not only that, but he would go to exotic lands during theworst times (weather-wise) of the year. Monsoons would hit the coasts, earthquakes would shake cities, and snowstorms would cripple roads and airports. It wasn't a fun task, he said, but it allowed him to see how the land's commercial enterprises faced challenging situations. Being a private equity investor is about identifying growth where others can't. The globetrotting on the part of this particular financier was just one of his tactics to identify which foreign companies had systems and processes in place to deal with unexpected events.

Those of us in the technology world are no different. We're always trying to sidestep pitfalls as part of the process of identifying opportunities to innovate.

In fact, we all can experience bumps in the road on our respective innovation journeys. Take, for instance, the consultant in the pharmaceutical space who is working with a large corporate client. They have partnered to streamline a certain research and development process and then an unexpected regulation comes into effect. That regulation can stop the entire R&D process dead in its tracks. Maybe that team had a hunch that the regulatory environment would be in flux. So they staged trials in numerous countries so that by spreading the work out they wouldn't let one set of rules hamper what was a long and important project.

Sometimes pitfalls occur because the technology is such that only certain types of innovators can see the bigger picture. The late Steve Jobs was known for recognizing a trend or a device that he knew would hit it big someday. Sometimes the problem was that the device was too ahead of its time. Think of the Newton. It wasn't a big seller when it debuted some two decades ago, but today, everyone relies on smart tablets and telephones.

Then there's the management pitfall. Some of the best technology companies got their starts by people who were barely out of their teens. Guys like Hewlett and Packard and Gates tinkered with computers in their parents' garages. Now it's one thing to build an innovative device; it's quite another to know how to manufacture, distribute, market, and sell it. And set up a corporation with the proper structure to handle the finances involved in all of these operations. That's why certain young techies look to older, seasoned Wall Street types to take their companies to the next level.

Another technology pitfall is what I like to call the one-hit wonder. How many times has an inventor come out with a piece of software or hardware that wows the industry, only to fade back into obscurity? Knowing who is capable of a repeat performance when it comes to innovation is vital to any investor or consumer. At Infosys we like to remind our partners that it's difficult to get onto the Fortune 500 list. But it's even more difficult to remain there year after year. Sustaining a culture of innovation takes hard work and talent.

Finally, there's a pitfall that can be especially tough on innovators when they know in their gut that they have what it takes to change the world. And that pitfall is the environment. No, I'm not talking about Mother Nature. I'm talking about the interpersonal environment of an innovator. Does she have the right people around her who enjoy brainstorming sessions? Can they view a particular industry or sector in a way that she can - or can't? Are outdated, process-oriented colleagues holding her back? Maybe she needs to break out and form a new team. That new environment might be free of pitfalls on her innovation journey.

In the quest to innovate, you're always going to hit roadblocks. Pitfalls are everywhere. But we can learn to identify and avoid them. Or maybe even face them head on and learn from them. Whichever the case, nobody said an innovator's job was going to be easy.

April 19, 2013

A Cue That Business Leaders Can Take from a Winning Coach

Posted by Sandeep Dadlani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:17 AM


Sports analogies in the business world are admittedly somewhat overdone. But I do want to share something I witnessed recently when I watched one of the world's greatest basketball coaches comment on his secrets for success.
The coach is an American named Rick Pitino, who recently led the University of Louisville to his country's national collegiate championship. One of the sportscasters pulled aside Pitino for an interview before the final championship game. He told the coach that he'd been watching the team throughout the month-long basketball tournament and one thing became clear: That the team tended to play its best game when it was losing. Coach Pitino paused for a moment and thought about the sportscaster's peculiar comments. Then he explained why he thought his team raised the level of its game every time it looked as though they didn't have a chance of winning.

The first reason, he said, is adaptability. The coach said that he isn't timid about switching players in and out of positions if they're not performing up to his standards, especially if that means they're having difficulty keeping up with players on the opposing team. Quickly assessing which player might do a better job in a certain position, he mixes things up, both to throw off the other team and to capitalize on skills that some of his players possess.
As managers, sometimes, are we reluctant to pull someone out of a project and replace him with someone with a different skill set if it's going to help the client? With teams of colleagues who are entrenched in certain roles and positions, switching them out to perform other tasks isn't always the most popular choice.
The next part of the formula is focus, according to the coach. Often times a team can get knocked out of its comfort zone if it messes up a few important plays. Coach Pitino spoke of the importance of using a period of difficulty and hardship to focus on what needs to be done to overcome those problems. In other words, instead of dwelling on past mistakes, players should think ahead about what they can do to improve strategy and teamwork. I've found that it can be easy to get mired in second-guessing strategies that might not have worked during the course of a project. It's always better to have an attitude that takes you and your team "back to the drawing board" in order to forge ahead.
Finally, Coach Pitino spoke of the third element of this team's come-from-behind success: determination. There is nothing more sobering than after months of training, practice, and hard work to have an opponent run circles around you. It's only when a worthy opponent tests your skills that you tend to develop an extra amount of fortitude to get the job done.
I've been involved in projects when suddenly a deadline is moved up or the resources or budget we thought we had don't all come through. I've also seen how what's lacking around can be made up by calling on our collective inner gumption to give a project a jump-start. We often have a lot of talent and capacity for innovation deep within us that can only be revealed when we're forced to utilize those resources.
Surely, there's a lesson there - watching a team that has the ability to bring out its best when everything seems to be going against it. It's the stuff that makes more effective organizations too.

April 18, 2013

Changing Banking Methods to Stay the Same

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:33 AM

Airtel executives discuss how 'airtel money', powered by Infosys WalletEdge, pushes the limits of financial inclusion in India

The artist Willem de Kooning, a master of Abstract Expressionism, once said that he had to change in order to stay the same. He was speaking about his art, but I suppose a technology innovator could be in that same frame of mind when thinking about his inventions.
Technological innovations - the really good ones, at least - help us to live our lives to the fullest but without really noticing the technological interference. Consider for a moment the convergence of personal computers and mobile telephones. To the business world and to society in general, this development was profound. People could conduct business wherever they were because of the computational power of the communications devices in their hands. Yet as people and as businesses they were essentially the same. They communicated and computed for decades before convergence. They simply were able to do so in different ways and with little notice to the major technological changes that underscored it all.

Another area of the globe is changing in order to remain the same. It's a part of the world - the emerging markets - that relies heavily on mobile phones for every aspect of life and business. Yet people in the emerging and frontier economies never experienced the two decades or so of digital convergence that the West did. So they're far more comfortable using their cellular telephones as compact, mobile computers.
Placed in the hands of hundreds of millions of people in the emerging economies, this development is even more profound than convergence was for the West. Think about it: Highly efficient, all-in-one devices ... virtually overnight. Whereas I might wait to get in front of my laptop to conduct online banking, younger people across South Asia and Latin America have known practically nothing but using their handhelds to make money transfers.
However, what might not seem obvious for many people is: Why do I need a bank to help me pay bills? What's most important for the majority of the world community is their mobile operator, not the local bank. That handheld device is their connection to the rest of the world. It's their economic lifeline. Many people in the emerging markets might never own a personal computer or have an Internet connection throughout the course of their lives. But the connections they possess on those cell phones can be just as potent.  A wonderful tale of disruptive innovation is playing out as we speak. Am I saying that telecoms are the next wave of fiercely competitive financial services providers? You bet. It's all about making a connection between mobility and the market for cashless payments. If your mobile telephone is your wallet, then your telecom can be your bank.
We're helping mobile operators build and fine-tune an ecosystem that encompasses millions of customers and thousands of merchants to accept mobile payments. Not to mention enabling a telecom to wield a transaction platform that's just as sophisticated as a commercial bank. Add to that another incomparable Infosys skill set: Our ability to deliver strategic advice as to how to enter an entirely new industry - as well as how to conquer the big, established players within it.
Let's look at the situation another way: big telecoms, global banks, and the need to communicate and move money around. All of these entities and concepts have existed for at least a century. What we're doing, however, is changing the way they relate to each other so that the world essentially remains the same.

April 15, 2013

Turning a Business Model On Its Head

Posted by Ravi Kumar S. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:08 PM

Edward Rybicki, Process Integration Officer, Volkswagen Group of America, on Infosys' long-term approach to IT. 

Remember when the Saturn brand took the car world by storm 20 years ago? They shook up the industry by offering no-hassle pricing, friendly sales associates, and plastic, dent-resistant panels that could hold up to the meanest, run-away shopping cart in a parking lot. But the brand's initial appeal wore off after a while. For starters, the company failed to anticipate that loyal Saturn owners would be looking to upgrade to a larger, fancier model. They didn't have such a model ready for showrooms until five or so years after the brand's launch.

General Motors, of course, didn't have the power of social media at its disposal 20 years ago. Yet even without a virtually connected community, old-fashioned word of mouth spread to the extent that Saturn was considered to be a bit different than the average car. Saturn's still around today, but I'd say the brand has lost some of its original luster. I never hear from friends that they're excited about owning one in the same way they did two decades ago. It takes a lot of work to maintain an innovative brand and its products. 

That's why I'm closely watching another car brand. The Tesla is a high-end sports car that's been getting rave reviews during the past few years, mostly because it's powered exclusively by electricity. Just as Saturn boasted bright, airy dealerships with no-hassle salesmen who didn't work on commission, Tesla has its own twist on the traditional car sales model. It has stores in shopping malls, for instance. And its no-commission salesmen help you design the car yourself and order it directly from their plant. So no car lots with unsold inventory just sitting around.

Now here's the rub: If this sounds too good to be true, it might very well be. Some 15 years ago, General Motors produced the EV-1, a futuristic looking electric-powered coupe. It spent something in the range of $150 million on the project and sold 150 of them, which translates into a cost of $1 million a car for the company. It's a project most GM executives would like to forget.

So why is Tesla any different? For starters, its founder Elon Musk isn't what's known in the auto industry as a car guy - and by writing that, I mean it as a compliment. He created PayPal and wasn't encumbered by century-old "rules" and conventions as to how a car company should exist or how the actual model should be built. (Watch the movie Tucker: The Man and his Dreams for another great story about an innovative industrialist who threw out the rulebook when it came to creating a car company.)

Second, Tesla's battery is more advanced than what any company could make 15 years ago. Still, its friendly, no-hassle sales proposition has been tried before and there aren't showrooms in each and every mall in the country. So its distribution network is extremely limited.

Yet Tesla sales is picking up steam. It's a niche product that's not for everyone, and they've positioned it as such. So the fact that it's sold some 6,000 models last year is definitely a sign of an innovative car sales model that competitors might someday be imitating. 

I suspect the success of the Tesla brand comes in part because of the fact that its executives haven't defined their business model as a car sales model. The experience of buying a Tesla is not unlike what I went through during my last visit to an Apple store. There aren't many Apple stores - only in upscale shopping malls - and you generally work with a sales associate to configure your device to your specifications and needs. It's also not unlike how I shop on Amazon.com for books and music. That company uses its technology to anticipate how many products (things like books and compact discs) it's going to need so that inventory is just-in-time.

So it is with Tesla. The consumer can personalize his car to fit his lifestyle and needs. He plugs it into a dock in his garage instead of relying on a gas station. What's most fascinating is that Musk thought about the fact that every car loses half of its value the minute its owner drives it off the dealer lot for the first time. So in the spirit of co-creation, Musk guarantees the value of the Tesla based on a formula he developed with Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank.

I also wouldn't be surprised if Telsa learned a thing or two from seeing what happened to Saturn 20 years ago. Tesla is already offering more than one model for loyal customers who want to trade up when they want to move on from their first model. It's also keeping its technology on the cutting edge, meaning batteries get smaller, lighter, and more powerful. So car cabins get roomier and new models go a lot farther on one charge.

Indeed, just as e-retailers shook the bricks-and-mortar establishment to the core with re-thinking how people shop and how to get them what they want, so, too, is this innovative car company that resembles anything but a traditional automaker.

April 12, 2013

Using the Sum of the Parts to Power Innovation

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:46 AM

(Top) Jeffrey Dean, Sanjay Ghemawat(bottom) - The recipients of the 2012 ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in the Computing Sciences

Google had a challenge. Granted, it's one most companies would like to have: So many people were using its search engine that Google was trying to keep up with the skyrocketing demand. When they found they couldn't deploy machines fast enough to handle the unprecedented amounts of data driven by their popular service, Google pursued software solutions to what initially appeared to be hardware problems.   

Enter Jeffrey Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat. These Google developers recently won the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in the Computing Sciences for designing a significant part of Google's revolutionary software infrastructure. The work of these two Google Fellows resulted in the foundations of Google's Web search and indexing platforms as well as numerous Google applications. Indeed, their accomplishments have helped unleash the potential of both big data and Cloud computing. 

In fact, Google's predicament was the catalyst that put Dean and Ghemawat on the road to receiving the recent Infosys accolade. Faced with the enormous popularity of Google's search engine, and the potential strain it could put on the company's system, Dean and Ghemawat began thinking about the issue in terms of scalability. 

Just as an assembly line divides the enormous, complicated task of putting together a large piece of machinery into hundreds of smaller tasks, Dean and Ghemawat split the work of a huge computer into small pieces and spread them across thousands of machines. Doing so allowed them to scale numerous computers. Better still was the fact that they could hide from programmers the complexities of managing enormous clusters of computers. 

Big Data used to be, well, way too big. Just as it took workers in the days before the cotton gin many hours to separate seeds from cotton and seamstresses just as long to spin the cotton into thread, so, too, was Big Data an expensive and fairly elusive proposition for most corporations. Not many small-to mid-sized firms could afford to go out and buy a computer system that had the power to capture and process the raw data they desired to perform, say, market research.

Cloud computing is similar to this concept of de-centralization. But is also turns other concepts on their heads. Because computing power is provided as a utility to consumers free of hardware and implementation details, they can access enormous amounts of power that they wouldn't have been able to afford even a few years ago. So programmers with rudimentary experience can set up systems like the big boys. 

Infosys clearly recognized the genius of these two developers when we decided to award them with their most recent Foundation prize. Today, the Google File System is a highly scalable system allowing huge files to be distributed efficiently across thousands of servers. Dean and Ghemawat also developed a programming tool called MapReduce, enabling developers to process large amounts of data sets with machines working in tandem. Infoscions might recognize MapReduce's open source implementation as Hadoop, which we've embraced as a company. MapReduce is easily programmed and takes advantage of cheap server power. 

MapReduce is driving new Cloud-based solutions. So the next time you're wondering why you can access a world of data from your tiny laptop, thank these winners of the Infosys Foundation's most recent award. They tamed Big Data by making it practical, inexpensive, and scalable.

April 10, 2013

Gamification Figures Big in Banking

Posted by Jasmeet Singh (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:46 AM

J singh.jpeg

Banks have been struggling to heighten their levels of engagement with modern consumers. The Internet certainly has helped do so. It has strengthened the role of the consumer in all facets of commerce.

Nowhere has the voice of the individual become more potent than in banking. The good news is that a new trend will help banks tap into the minds of their consumer base: Gamification.

Gamification targets an audience and helps an organization understand vital relationships better. Like co-creation, it's yet another means to grasp the social context of your consumers. What's also similar to co-creation is that the trend is still emerging and there's a lot we are yet to discover about its advantages and how it's changing the ways in which we do business. 

Gamification's endless possibilities for streamlining your business are not unlike a Lego set in the hands of my kids.  My older son may set aside the actual building bricks to play with the figurines instead. But his brother, on the other hand, might take out the instruction manual and put together the building to the exact specifications of the Lego set. In the end, both kids have had enriching and fun experiences with their Legos. But their experiences were markedly different. Who's to say which experience was optimal?  I imagine they both were. Along those lines, I'm currently witnessing various financial services firms that apply gamification to their marketing efforts. 

Each program is different, yet they're all satisfied with the results they deliver. One large bank has fashioned a "virtual wallet" that allows users to move funds in and out of buckets within the institution. Another has more of a teaching game that demonstrates the various ways in which a person can save and invest money with that bank.

Global organizations are waking up to the possibilities inherent in the effective use of gamification. Indeed, banks and software companies alike are thinking like video game designers do: First, get people to play the game, and second (and perhaps more important), keep them playing. When an organization presents tasks as riddles or game-like challenges everyone is motivated to be on the winning team. 

Gamification opens a world of possibilities for innovative banks. It can be a powerful means to move from transactions to engagement. This is particularly more relevant as customers increasingly move to digital channels. You don't have to have a very large sum of money to have complex financial needs; every one of us makes complex financial decisions on a daily basis. There is a need and place for improving financial education, investment options, leveraging historical data, deciding whether to lease or buy, retirement planning, saving for college, and buying insurance. These are activities that require time to make a viable choice. You could get your help from advisors of course but for folks in the retail banking segment gamification is another option. 

Imagine using light-hearted, fun techniques to lead consumers through various scenarios and judge where next to engage with them. Better still is the fact that the next step will be significant to the consumer. You've gotten to know his preferences and you won't be perceived as wasting anyone's time when asking for preliminary information. Thanks to gamification techniques, you'll already know it. For those banks that get this right, there is  a better understanding of the needs of their customers.

That's why gamification can be so powerful. There are plenty of ways to make this trend work - much like a newly unpacked set of Legos.

April 8, 2013

A Lesson from Bollywood for Outsourcing

Posted by Suman Sasmal (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:46 AM

In an industry filled with testosterone-laden wannabes and nubile starlets, one of Bollywood's leading lights has had nearly half a decade in the business. A superstar who needs no introduction. How does he do it? Genius? Beyond doubt. A great work ethic? Absolutely. But above all it's because he has reinvented himself to stay relevant over the years. And repeatedly raised the game. While no one gets a prize for guessing who I am talking about, the septuagenarian superstar is Amitabh Bachchan. 

Is there a lesson here that one of India's greatest exports can give to another?

In a recent survey, a vast majority of 400 enterprises said that their outsourcing initiatives had delivered to expectations on cost reduction, globalization and process standardization parameters. 

Well, no surprises there. IT outsourcing has matured, even as the competition has become stiffer. All of these point to rapid commoditization of the business, as well, where one vendor is believed to be the same as another. And yet, the business scenario is changing rapidly. There are several forces at play -  economic, social and technological.  Their impact has been far reaching. And the motivation for outsourcing is no longer cost and efficiency alone. Outsourcing is  being reinvented from its core once again, like the way it did 30 years ago with the GDM (Global Delivery Model). The big buyers of outsourcing are looking for alignment with business goals, such as agility, outcome, analytical insight and innovation capability.  And business has a big say in where to outsource and towards what end. 

The industry is slowly but surely reinventing itself to go from being an efficient supplier of services to a strategic partner enabling business outcomes. And this time, it is moving beyond fancy presentations and a few tweaks around the periphery. It's serious work that's driving fundamental changes in the outsourcing paradigm and triggering a re-design of the core offerings. The writing is on the wall is unmistakable - the future will belong to those who can quickly redefine the game and change the model once again. The roads are many and wide open - intellectual property, thought leadership, innovation, analytical insight and cutting edge technologies, to name a few. And they all lead to outsourcing superstardom.

April 5, 2013

The Journey to Technology Intensity: From Seeking IT Investment to Inspiring It

Posted by Anand Prasad Arkalgud (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:02 AM

Seeking-IT-Investment-to-Inspiring-It2 (2).jpg

I got into a friendly debate recently with a friend about the level of IT investment necessary for competiveness.  My friend's organization was spending upwards of 3% of revenue on IT.  To put this into context, the benchmark for IT spending as a percentage of revenue for their peers in the industry is in the region of 1.8% to 2.3%. So, does that mean that a company, which spends 3% has got it all wrong?

I am fortunate to meet with global corporations across industries in my current role, and this gives me the opportunity to compare notes on how companies perceive technology and what they believe is their justifiable IT spend. We started by comparing the role of technology in different industries and found that the centrality of technology in different industries varies by a wide margin (a known fact).  However, as we started developing a more nuanced version of how to assess centrality, we realized that there is a difference even amongst industry peers that cannot always be explained away by cost productivity and efficiencies alone. This is when we started calling this "technology intensity" - to describe how dependent each corporation or its individual businesses are on technology. 

It turns out that technology is not just a tool to sustain competitiveness, but a lever used to unlock differentiation or enable growth for a business. But the way a company decides to exploit technology in unlocking value is less a factor of its own industry than its desired trajectory and reliance on technology. Some of these trajectories come from extending core businesses, but more companies are charting new trajectories by exploiting adjacencies and combining their existing capabilities with today's technology to re-define their business boundaries.

In today's environment, where technology is has become a lever for growth, I believe we need to approach IT spend in two parts; the part for which we seek investment from the organization, and the part for which we inspire investment by the business.  

But let's face it. What we're asking for is a huge shift in the mindset of many companies, where IT has always had to justify its budgets and business is often disillusioned by the value delivered by IT. Getting IT to assume - and business to accept - its role as a leader won't be easy.  To make this happen, IT needs to develop a point of view that tracks business trends that are influenced by technology and engage the business regularly to provide insights that shape how business thinks about exploiting IT.

Companies that do this well have developed capabilities to track and review cross-industry trends, the role of technology, and its impact on shaping consumer expectations. Most of these companies have institutionalized mechanisms to engage stakeholders across the organization and contextualize this information to their business.  Companies may use forums that allow them to revisit and question the technology premise of the business leading to ecosystem partnerships to co-create new opportunities that unlock value.

It seems to me a better way would be to track two metrics in evaluating the performance of IT: 1) how efficient we are in seeking technology investments to stay on the current business trajectory; and 2) how effective we are in inspiring technology investments by the business to place the company on a new, higher trajectory focused on outsized revenue, profitability, scale or maybe customer service.  Transitioning to these metrics will elevate IT's role as a business enabler and help organizations realize the true potential of technology to drive differentiation and growth.

April 3, 2013

Targeting the Right App - the Secret to Success

Posted by Gopal Devanahalli (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:41 AM

There are two types of people in this world: The no-frills type and the bells & whistles type. I've always said that we'd like for our friends and colleagues to think we're no-frills at heart. But let's be realistic: Deep down, most of us are in the bells & whistles camp. We're people who want our new car to be equipped with satellite navigation and a keyless entry system. We scour stores to find the coolest gadgets and the fanciest equipment for our homes. And yes, we consume amazing apps that dazzle the senses, including those that allow us to experience TV shows, movies, music, sports and lifestyle videos from top magazines such as Conde' Nast Traveler, on our tablets, PCs, X-box and televisions at the same time. In fact, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the business of writing and selling applications for PCs alone is on its way to becoming a $25 billion a year industry. That's a lot of bells & whistles!

This thriving market naturally lures innovative companies to put out many new apps that can monetize their digital assets. How does a consumer discover and experience all this great material? Two common methods have been - Google Play or the Apple App Store. Now there's something more innovative.

Infosys engineers have created the Flypp "Digital Experience Platform". Easy-to-use multi-screen interface on tablets, smartphones, PC and TV, great graphics, workflows to onboard digital services and first-rate software powering it....really it has got it all. And Flypp also rethinks the digital ecosystem and the role of apps to enable an entire value-chain for enterprises across industries. Imagine a retailer creating a suite of apps for customers providing an omni-channel experience across the retail store, mobile, online, social and TV! In fact, an ecosystem of apps focused on creating specialized digital services for employees, clients, and partners is now possible.  

The success of Flypp also calls attention to the growing importance of the "bring your own device" philosophy. In the near future, we're less likely going to segment our lives by our work computer during the day, laptop during the evening, and smart phone during the commute between home and office. There will be one device that we'll use for any and every aspect of our daily pursuits. That's why it's more important to have a platform that segments app offerings by user rather than by device.

A recent report about the benefits of drilling down into how an organization monetizes apps mentions a cable operator in Europe leveraging Flypp to launch OTT (Over the Top) video apps on TV and companion devices like tablets, in partnership with top content providers. That enables a whole new video-centric experience around lifestyles while driving a new wave of monetization via integrated brand advertising and commerce. Then, what about the critics who say that for every killer app - whether it's the ubiquitious Angry Birds or a convenient check deposit tool - there are hundreds of thousands of useless trinkets floating around cyberspace and taking precious memory from our terminals? To them I say: This is another reason we should be rethinking the app ecosystem to play a pivotal role in value chain enablement and digital asset monetization for the enterprise. 

So the next time you discover an app so good that you're convinced your life will never be the same, think about the possibility that there are thousands more waiting to be downloaded. That's why an organization should be thinking not only about their apps in the context of an online store, but also about an app-driven approach to an ecosystem in which the enterprise, its value chain partners and consumers congregate.

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