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June 30, 2014

Repurposing Technology Takes Bold Innovation

Posted by Ashish Goel (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:50 AM

Xbox Kinect offers a new way to help children with autism [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9EvAVLND2o]

Commercial banks, it seems, are learning how to engage digital customers by making otherwise mundane things - such as applying for a mortgage - into challenging and even fun events. For instance, they would transform an application into an online quiz that not only makes the process fun. The format provides the bank with extra insights as to who wants that loan.

So I was particularly struck by a recent report that discussed how innovative firms in other industries are thinking about the benefits of playing games. One place you wouldn't expect there to be too many lighthearted moments is the hospital. Many stroke victims who end up in a hospital eventually learn from their doctors that although they've survived, they have a long and arduous road ahead of them. Rehabilitation is long, complicated, and expensive. There is new hope for stroke patients and it comes from the same technology that powers the popular Xbox video game system from Microsoft. By holding a wireless device in their hand, they can now play an opponent in a friendly game of tennis, for example. The key lies with the motion-sensor camera that makes games on Xbox so popular. In fact, a Montreal company has designed a set of exercises that stroke victims can use on an actual Xbox to help with their recoveries. Physical therapists can program a set of activities and exercises that are tailored for each patient. In fact, doctors and physical therapists have said that they see faster results with patients who use the home gaming system.

Doctors everywhere are stretched thin and the cost of quality healthcare is skyrocketing. So a game console in a patient's living room is, I think, a promising part of this exciting trend. What the motion sensor does is confirms for the doctor that the patient is actually following through with the exercise regimen.

Like gamification in the financial services sector, consumers (in this case, patients) are more engaged and find the programs more fun. Nobody ever said applying for a mortgage or working on an intensive program of physical therapy is fun. But if game-like elements can be added to the process through digital means, all the more power to the enterprise in charge of the process.

There's no doubt that technological innovation is revolutionizing some staid and conservative industries. The most effective tools involve ways to keep customers engaged by using devices and gadgets they might already have at their disposal. I think a symbol of the new, digital age that's upon us could be this: a living room in which an 85-year-old who is recovering from a stroke vies for use of the Xbox console with his teenage grandson, who wants to use the system for video games.

June 27, 2014

The Way Ahead: Simplify Clinical Trials

Posted by Manish Tandon (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:28 AM

The pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) process has many complex layers. Most of these layers go beyond the drug development process itself. We are talking about logistics, the compliance process, and the distribution network. Caught up in this maze, pharmaceutical companies often end up focusing on these processes, instead of the job at hand: developing effective drugs to make people healthy.

From my conversations with industry insiders, I've come to realize that the immediate cause for concern is really - managing the clinical trials process. Clinical trials is the part of the drug development process that has, in recent years, been outsourced to a batch of enterprises (Clinical Research Organizations) that specialize in dealing with the complexities. There are so many facets of the trial that keeping the cost of the processes down to make the drug commercially viable has become a huge challenge.

It is evident that a clinical trial supply management (CTSM) solution, which streamlines the supply chain, is clearly the way forward. Our research points us towards the following attributes - essential for developing a successful CTSM solution:

  • Scalability: Big pharmaceutical companies will continue to develop blockbuster drugs and market them to a worldwide audience, while smaller biotech firms are researching and developing drugs that tackle less common ailments. Big companies might require hundreds of test runs, while smaller biotech companies need a handful of trials. Therefore, it is important to develop a solution that can scale up or down, according to the requirement
  • 'Join the dots': The CTSM solution needs to connect the various stakeholders involved in the clinical trials process
  • Stock accountability: One of the most important aspects of the multi-level clinical supply chain is taking account of unused or expired drugs. An enterprise must make sure that it gets the optimal amount of drugs to market so that it doesn't encounter the possibility of having a significant portion of the stock go rancid
  • Cloud-based: While the right CTSM solution can reduce inventory overages by a significant percentage, enterprises often fear that the total cost of ownership (TCO) will offset any inventory savings the solution might provide. The answer is a cloud-based solution, which takes care of everything from product development, packaging, and distribution to dispensing, inventory, return and destruction

A CTSM solution must 'turbo-charge' the process from end to end. Being turbo-charged doesn't simply mean having enough power to go faster; it means giving power to the right places along the supply chain in order to draw out and amplify efficiencies. Then and only then does the process become faster. A cloud-based CTSM solution can do just that. It can keep all aspects of the pharmaceutical industry nimble and ready to develop tomorrow's life-saving drugs.

June 25, 2014

Number of Banking Apps Has Low Correlation to Satisfaction

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:22 AM

The Best in Personal Banking Apps [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJDf4L29u6I]

I think I might need an advanced degree in computer engineering to use a few of the apps that my bank has provided me. There are so many apps to begin with. Not all of them are easily accessible nor is it always apparent as to how to go about launching them. I thought online banking was rooted in convenience. Indeed, maybe there's the rub: the distinction between online banking and banking apps.

The influential tech consultancy Gartner Group has even gone on record warning banks that the sheer number of apps offerings could eventually hurt customer satisfaction in a major way. The analysts at Gartner cite two issues in particular. The first is that there are so many apps that banks make available to customers that they've essentially inundated the space. With so many available to one customer, each one gets less and less promotional airtime and therefore less use. If that weren't bad enough, it's a chore for a customer to find the app that she needs. One of the reasons for this confusion is that banks release apps often listed by line of business.

If you're a high-level banking insider, then listing things by line of business is just what you need. But if you're a customer in a clothing store and wanting to withdraw money to make a quick purchase, who needs the hassle of trying to decipher which banking app is appropriate for which transaction - never mind, that many times you can find that list in the first place! Given that apps are tech-intensive, and not exactly a thing of the banker's domain, perhaps their technology partners must accept some part of the blame.

Now I know what you're probably thinking: Why not create an app store that gives customers a menu of apps from which to choose? Well, I remember fondly the days when I could plug my iPod into my laptop in order to play some songs on the computer's speakers. It was a simply and straightforward affair. At no point did the apps store automatically open - as it does now. Just because I'm playing music doesn't mean I'm in the mood to shop for apps. Using that same reasoning, why should a customer who wants to transfer cash from one account to another have to face a wall of menu items that present more choices than is needed? The organization should be attempting to whittle down the offerings in order to ease the process of finding the right one, not ramping up those offerings. In fact, Gartner recommends taking a cue from the online advertising world. There's nothing wrong with a banner that reads "click here for your XYZ app." Remember: As a bank, you should be in the practice of facilitating all aspects of the user experience, not making it downright intimidating.

So, go on and let your bank's apps be available on public stores right alongside the apps of other industries and sectors. Why? Because, like it or not, those stores are where the customers are. There are a million apps each on Apple app store and Google Play. And despite my annoyance of having to open up the apps store each time I play music on iTunes, it's a simple fact of life that apps stores automatically open when you perform certain tasks. So on a mobile device that runs iOS, you're going to have to have iTunes running to download the right banking app.

In the long run, banks should be focusing on making their apps music to the ears of customers instead of a jumble of confusing options. These apps must be contextually relevant, they must be simple to discover and simple to use. And of course, these apps must address a customer's need and not just be the next "cool tech thing". It's all about creating a positive digital experience.

June 23, 2014

Getting Ready For The New Workforce

Posted by Kumar Paramasivam (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:45 AM

Business Insider Interview on Workplace Flexibility [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KCXJ3BpBf4]

I recently came across a fascinating movie from the late 1950s that deals with some of the same issues the corporate world is struggling with today. It turns out that very little has changed in the last half-century when it comes to how enterprises cope with an ever-evolving workforce.

The movie is called Desk Set. It stars Spencer Tracy as an efficiency expert who is hired by a large media company to find ways to streamline operations and save money. He stumbles upon the reference department headed by Katherine Hepburn; her headstrong character futilely resists the installation of a computer that Tracy claims would do the work of six librarians. The computer, which takes up an entire room, is fed punch cards. It performs extremely well until it accidentally prints out dismissal notices on pink slips to everyone in the company, including the CEO!

Humorous elements aside, it's stunning how closely connected are a 1950s organization and the global enterprises of today. I still see enterprises that have the urge to implement or retain one-size-fits-all employment processes and expect all their employees to fall into place. The misguided idea is that they will settle in for careers that last two or three decades and then retire with a small office party and a gold wristwatch.

Well, guess what? These organizations are going to be left behind if they think they can win the war for top-notch talent with such outdated processes. These companies might as well be building computers with punch cards! Today's professional services firms are in a market that is all about cutthroat competition and tight profit margins. Talent is key to winning lucrative contracts, building brand recognition, driving innovation and remaining relevant as an enterprise. It's about accessing the appropriate talent for the right job, at the right time and place.

Adding to the challenges is the fact that millennials are making up the majority of the workforce with each passing year. They're the ones who dominate social media, are digitally savvy, and are constantly looking for their next big career challenge. They see the world through the lens of flexibility. Instead of buying a car, they'll hire one for a weekend (ZipCar) or for their next 10-minute jaunt (Uber). Instead of buying an album, they'll troll music apps like Spotify or i-tunes that let them listen to one song at a time. Instead of cable they watch Netflix, Hulu and the likes. This generation is all about how best to use a product and service ... until better products and services come along.

Why shouldn't they think about their careers as anything different? Millenials are looking for employment opportunities that offer them flexibility, opportunity to work on cutting-edge solutions, ability to continuously learn in different spheres and at the same time seek and provide feedback. Companies that don't respond to these expectations and aspirations will miss out on an entire generation of talent that will walk out the door. Doing so is risky for services firms that rely heavily on their workforce for delivering on client commitments. In the United States alone, companies are staring down a shortage of certified public accountants, computer programmers, health professionals, and engineers. In this scenario, enterprises should recognize these shifting trends and must have the right processes and systems in place to attract and retain their human capital. Leading enterprises are evaluating their processes and systems that support recruitment, onboarding, coaching, learning, development and performance measurement and are making changes to suit the current trends. These enterprises recognize that the best and brightest talent have the urge to move around under the assumption that it' best for their careers and will be picky about what company they join and stay back at. It's your job to show them that your enterprise is a place where they can grow their talents - all while growing your company as well.

June 20, 2014

The Secret Is In The Computing Platform

Posted by Suryaprakash K. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:43 AM

Amazon CEO Bezos Introduces Smartphone [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lz5WnBpf8XU]

This week, as another tech giant (Amazon) unveiled their own smartphone, I recall something Steve Ballmer used to tell his Microsoft colleagues about this hyper-competitive sector. Jump on the back of the big bear and don't let go, he'd say. He was referencing IBM as the big enterprise that Microsoft would jump on the back of in the 1980s. Getting on the back of a tech giant and not letting go is pretty interesting advice, I'd say. It's just as pertinent today even though many of the players have changed. And with the unveiling of an Amazon smartphone, that business advice from the 1980s is essentially turned on its head.

Amazon, you see, is already a big bear and wanting to get bigger. By launching its own mobile device, Amazon is essentially shaking off any enterprises that have been riding on its back. Amazon, with its own platform, has a clear and direct route to its consumers and will be further along in its strategy to sell everything to everyone. Consider that Microsoft, which has long been the dominant desktop platform, and Nokia, once the world's most popular mobile phone, together are but bit players in the current smartphone market. In some ways, I think that because the current market doesn't really care about legacy, Amazon might be all the more successful launching its own mobile platform.

Of course, people still enjoy shopping on larger screens (desktops and laptops), but if a smartphone outweighs size with a dazzling array of convenient features and apps, digital consumers will follow.

ComScore, a financial Web consultancy, recently released its first-quarter sales projections for desktop Internet commerce. Spending rose 12 percent year-over-year to $56.1 billion. That makes it the 18th consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth and the 14th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth. Here's where it gets even more interesting: Mobile commerce spending over smartphones and tablets accounted for another $7.3 billion in the first quarter. That's a 23 percent rise year over year. So if you combine traditional desktop spending with the red-hot growth of mobiles, you're looking at a total of $63.4 billion in just the first quarter of 2014 alone.

It's not that desktop e-commerce isn't going to continue to be extremely important to every enterprise in the retail space. It's that the mobile platform is growing all the more robustly. And because players like Microsoft that rule the desktop platform aren't necessarily as prominent in the smartphone space, it suggests that the mobile arena is wide open for smart entrants.

It's also an arena in which first movers might very well have a tremendous advantage. Think about the impending IPO of Alibaba and the splash it could make in the North American market. A lot of its strategy is based on transforming e-commerce to an online-to-offline model. Doing so, I think, will necessitate a smart and significant mobile presence itself. I suppose Amazon is trying to stay ahead of the race by establishing its own mobile platform.

So just how many devices over several platforms can a digital consumer realistically use? The simple fact is that as the slices of the pie increase, everybody's slice gets a little smaller. That's why I think digital companies would do well to constantly endeavor to stay at the top of their game.

June 19, 2014

Making Innovations Personal

Posted by Puneet Gupta (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:17 AM

CES 2014: Drones Take Flight in Las Vegas [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6W_wvY3mq8]

It had to happen. Seeing as we live in a world in which billions of inhabitants are obsessed with taking "selfies" on their mobile telephones, eventually we'd be seeing the "dronie" come along as well.

Credit the easily accessible technology that makes taking a "dronie" (a digital photograph of oneself taken from an unmanned aerial drone) a reality. Drones were once the sole purview of defense ministries, weather agencies, and large corporations. But now there are a number of companies that manufacture aerial drones that are simple for anyone to use in conjunction with a smart phone.

Before you start making a hand motion that resembles someone swatting away an annoying insect, I think we should consider the merits of personal drones going mainstream. They aren't as annoying as they initially might seem. After all, it was less than four decades ago that most everyone agreed that computers were big, ungainly boxes that took up a lot of space and that nobody would ever want to use in their homes. Think of how the perception of the personal computer has changed in that time.

Although drones still have public relations issues to overcome (many are still used by militaries in the field), digital consumers are beginning to realize their commercial applications. For example, I read a story about a real estate agent in North America who uses a personal drone to take photos of properties that he has for sale. He says the tool helps sell houses as much as putting a plate of cookies in the foyer. Customers are coming to expect a bird's eye view of a house to see what's going on with neighbors. It's not too much to ask before making what is usually the biggest investment (a house) a person will ever make.

In fact, a consultancy estimates that the market for personal drones will grow by 20 percent a year. Besides real estate agents, farmers can monitor acres and acres of crops from the relative comfort of their homes. And Amazon.com has announced that they're exploring the use of drones to deliver packages to the doorsteps of customers as a way to make their order fulfillment process even faster. As with any new technology, the market hasn't quite discovered all the possible uses yet. It was the same argument when personal computers hit the scene in the 1980s.

There is something quite profound about a technology's evolution to becoming very personal. When large enterprises or governments utilize something, there aren't as many concerns as when that same technology goes mainstream. The two major concerns I hear about these days concerning personal drones are safety and privacy. Sure, nobody wants a drone flying into the airspace of a commercial airplane. But remember how leaving a smart phone on during landing or takeoff was supposed to somehow jeopardize the accuracy of an airplane's flight controls? I think the concerns around personal drones flying 50 feet overhead are probably as unjustified.

We also hear about privacy. Personal computers were supposed to mark the end of any private realm that digital consumers could possess. But what we've seen is quite the opposite in the past couple years: Those consumers tend to offer up information about themselves and their shopping habits only if they perceive that the organization in question is giving them a special deal in return. A major search engine like Google has already mapped most of the earth's surface with its own technology. It might serve as a check on that ability for any entrepreneur with a personal drone to map her own community in order to help her business succeed.

One of the manufacturers of personal drones had it right when he said that any new technology always causes public concerns. We can rest assured that there will be vigorous debates as to the safety and privacy or anyone being able to control a drone overhead. Then again, it was the public's embrace of computers that made the technology what it is today.

If companies are going to want to utilize devices such as drones to get us merchandise delivered to our doors, their customers are going to have to embrace such technology as well. And the best way is for them to see the merits of that technology are in a personal framework.

June 16, 2014

What Do Customers Want?

Posted by Sanjay Nambiar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:35 AM

Consumers have intense, short term relationships with brands. The challenge today is to change these to long-term, sustainable ones. But, technology-savvy consumers are changing the rules of commerce and shifting the balance of power in their favour when it comes to the relationships they have with brands. Three factors contribute to this:

  • Convenience of search: The cost and inconvenience of searching for something has dramatically reduced. It is extremely easy for consumers to compare the features and prices of products and services, which is rapidly commoditizing many industries and forcing companies to discount heavily to maintain market share.
  • 'Virtual conversations': 'Virtual conversations', in social media, are letting consumers share experiences--positive and negative--online. Organizations are under tremendous pressure to engage with 'always on' customers. Last year, one of Nutella's loyal customers organized World Nutella Day. At first, the company that owns the brand didn't like that the customer rally originated among Nutella's worldwide fan base and not at the corporate headquarters. So, it sent a cease-and-desist order to the fan who organized the online World Nutella Day. According to reports, doing so angered some fans and the company faced the risk of an online revolt. So the company rescinded its letter to the fan, accepted the reality of its customers' collective influence, and worked with them.
  • Customer service, anywhere: New service delivery models, such as more extensive managed services and cloud-based offerings, present better opportunities for customer service. But outside of cost optimization, it's not clear whether they truly help the enterprise transform the overall customer experience.

Today, digital customers are quick to voice their opinions and voice their complaints. It's more important than ever to ensure that enterprises have an effective and nimble customer care solution that cover the entire end-to-end service lifecycle rather than a reactive point engagement at the time of the transaction.

Consider Apple. Known for its innovative and sophisticated products, most of its consumers don't read the operating manuals and instead attempt to use the products by virtue of its user-friendly interface. So when problems do occur with an Apple product, the company's customers expect a response that is just as user-friendly as the interface. Hence the Genius Bar in Apple stores that offers (mostly) free troubleshooting and advice. The complaint resolution policy fits the company's culture.

What works for Apple, may not work for other enterprises. In my view, enterprises that want to deliver an integrated customer service experience must act on three priorities:

  • Provide 'smart' assistance: Enable customers to engage with you from any device, and through any channel, to address queries at hand. The focus is on making the customer's life easier and keeping them contextually more informed while trimming down customer service operational costs.
  • Empower contact center agents: Contact center agents should be able to accept contextual information, then rapidly tap into vast contextual knowledge repositories, to solve problems quickly and efficiently.
  • Focus on customer engagement and service optimization: Equip customer service teams with the information, knowledge, and data they need at the right time in the resolution process in order to increase first closure rates for incidents while keeping handle times down and satisfaction high.

The logic that connects customer experience to bottom-line results is simple. If people love doing business with you, they buy more products and services over time. They sing your praises to friends, colleagues and complete strangers over social networks, in online reviews, through blogs and in every conceivable channel. They cost less to serve, and they provide constructive feedback. All of these behaviours have direct, quantifiable economic benefits. You can determine how much that is worth to you in incremental sales and profits, and you can use that analysis to determine where and how much to invest in improving the customer experience.

June 12, 2014

Morphing at Light Speed - Engage Your Consumers Better

Posted by Suryaprakash K. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:26 AM

An Interview With Mary Meeker 121 [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_GUDhXVdB4]

Every year, several of us eagerly wait for the release of Mary Meeker's report. We use it to reconfirm some of our beliefs and validate the trends we observe. I recently watched, with much interest, the 2014 Internet Trends presentation. And there it was - a note about how companies (Western or otherwise) must open themselves up to just how significantly international consumers are connecting to their organizations as well as to each other. Right now, billions of mobile users across Asia, Africa, and South America are fundamentally changing the way the Internet works and how the world does business. Mobile devices and platforms are integral to how most of the world connects with each other, orders goods and services, and consumes news and information.

The proliferation of mobile device is forcing the outsourcing of end-user computing devices back to the end-user, with or without the enterprise approving of it. Consumers and employees are increasingly consuming enterprise apps on their mobile platforms, and seamlessly combining enterprise apps with hundreds of collaboration apps and thousands of utility apps. Sales teams are using their enterprise CRM systems, and at the same time, sharing contacts and collaborating via WhasApp, for instance. Users of WhatsApp send 50 billion messages each day. The Japan-based messaging app Line handles 10 billion messages a day. While Facebook is still very relevant as a mass broadcast model, WhatsApp and Snapchat offer people a means to maintain close and frequent contacts with smaller groups. The power of these platforms is immense. The knowledge these platforms accumulate about on the new hyper-connected consumers is a big asset. No wonder Facebook paid $19 Billion to acquire WhatsApp. More than the $17 Bn that GE is bidding for Alstom!

The ubiquitous mobile platform is itself a creative disruptive. Consider this - In 2005, the mobile world was dominated by three operating systems: Linux, Nokia Symbian, and Blackberry OS. Between the three of them, they accounted for some 90 percent of the operating systems of the world's smart phones. Today, just eight years later, those three operating systems power less than three percent of the world's smart phones. Some 97 percent of the devices run either Android, iOS, or Windows Phone, three systems that were barely known in 2005.

The columnist Matthew Panzarino recently wrote that we're entering an age of apps as service layers. "These are apps you have on your phone but only open when you know they explicitly have something to say to you. They aren't for 'idle browsing,' they're purpose-built & informed by contextual signals like hardware sensors, location, history of use & predictive computation." It's truly the unbundling of the Internet - thanks to mobility. Just five years ago mobile carriers were focused on advertising as a revenue stream to supplement their subscription fees. Today, their revenues from mobile apps are around $26 billion compared to about $12 billion from ads. Mobile apps are becoming the conduit for global commerce and communication.

Mobile platforms are also made for video and image sharing. As they replace desktops as the global platform of choice, consumers will utilize the types of social media that allow them to facilitate what's known as the "visual web." How many businesses are on top of this trend? I ask because digital consumers can spread opinions about products, services, and brands very quickly. And this is only slated to increase.

As mobile platforms begin to multiply and evolve with intensity, another problem (and a potentially lucrative solution) that has arisen involves security. A "vulnerable" system - a system without a robust set of security measures - that is placed on the Internet is compromised in less than 15 minutes. In fact, according to that Internet presentation, more than 95 percent of networks will be compromised in some way. And direct cyber attacks will inevitably rise as mobile platforms increase in popularity.

Let's face it: Mobility is difficult to wrap your head around if you're comfortable in a world of desktops and laptops. And it's also intimidating if you don't know how to anticipate the new kinds of security threats that come with mobility's rise. It's changing global commerce, and the access model to a hyper-connected consumer so quickly that it pays to put out the right solutions for your business. Businesses need to mobilize themselves to fully embrace the hyper-connected always-on consumers; entertain mobile consumers with "to person, in context, at spot, on time" information, product and service from easy-to-use mobile apps; empower them with mobile social communities through the ubiquitous mobile messaging ecosystem; and most critically, ensure they have absolute confidence that they will enjoy the best of mobile computing. By doing so, businesses can stay on top of the shift and positively impact both revenues and costs.

June 11, 2014

Why We Won the Alsbridge Innovation Award?

Posted by Sanjeev Arya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:23 AM

Ian Chatfield, Customer Experience Director, Openreach Service talks about this engagement

"Think fast." That's what you would say to your team if you are the head coach trying to win a tight game. In a different context, that is what an executive wants her colleagues to do when dealing with customers - especially the unhappy ones.

Customer service and engagement is probably the most important and yet the most overlooked aspect of a company's operations. It is a good example of why innovation must begin at an organization's lowermost level (with customer service agents) in order to have the most lasting effects on a company. Not everything, you see, in an organization can trickle down. Innovation must also travel up the chain.

We're proud to have received the Alsbridge Innovation Award for the Openreach Customer Service Seamless Desktop Program. Alsbridge is a consultancy in Great Britain that helps clients with outsourcing, off-shoring, and shared services. Alsbridge recognized Infosys for two client engagements, with Openreach and with Procter & Gamble. For now let me say a little bit more about the award for Openreach.

British Telecom (BT) uses Openreach to make connections to tens of millions of its customers across the country. On any given day, Openreach has 33,000 employees on the field installing and maintaining the company's vast infrastructure of data, broadband, television, and voice services. The contact center agents of Openreach, who are the knowledge backbone of the field agents, deal with over 40 different systems, all of which must be synchronized to provide the right information at all times. With such high levels of complexity, sometimes things can go wrong. BT wanted a customer service call center system that could manage the complexity of its offerings and speed up response times to customers. That's when Seamless Desktop was born.

The company worked with Infosys to develop a program, with AssistEdge at its core, to unify the information that customer service agents access in a typical trouble-shooting interaction. In this way, AssistEdge transformed each call into a targeted, efficient interface with the customer. The customer service agents now spend a lot less time clicking between systems because they had everything on one dashboard. .

Fragmentation costs money. And time. By investing with Infosys, Openreach now saves both - allowing its staff to focus on more value-added activities. This result in staff with higher morale, open to innovating with every task they complete.

We all know how Artificial Intelligence is a field of research yielding significant results. I think that a product like AssistEdge within a corporate call center is somewhat like a prototype to such possibility. It takes several pieces of disparate information and blends them together in such a way that during every customer interaction the customer receives quick response and the organization learns from each interface.

Think fast, indeed. We're innovating from the ground up and improving a client's operations with each and every interaction. And this is another reason why Infosys is proud to have won its latest Alsbridge Innovation Award.

With inputs from and engagement excellence with the client by Shobhit Bhatt (Senior Manager, BT Account Team) and Prantik Dasgupta (Product Manager, AssistEdge)

June 9, 2014

The Insurance Industry and Innovation

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

Words like innovative and nimble aren't what immediately come to mind when describing the insurance industry. Perhaps, that's because the business of insurance runs on a very basic premise: An army of actuaries utilize algorithms to determine rates for policyholders. If something such as a natural disaster occurs and the companies must pay out on some policies, those companies simply adjust the rates they charge to everyone else. So insurers typically take very highly risk-measured decisions.

In a business as predictable as this one, you wouldn't imagine that bold, imaginative thinking could ever be a part of the corporate fabric. Yet a group from had an extremely enlightening series of meetings with insurance company executives lately. We spoke of how they can use digital tools that ultimately will aid their customers and enrich their bottom lines. Not surprisingly, they listened to what we had to say.

For one, insurers are faced with wafer-thin operating margins despite all the work their actuaries do to re-adjust rates. That's where technology comes into the picture and gives companies advantages that they never knew existed. Not only can insurers use technological solutions to understand risks better; they can price products more competitively in an effort to connect with customers. Add to this situation the advent of Big Data in the insurance sector and these staid companies are making more impactful decisions than ever before.

For centuries the insurance world has been dominated by agencies. But an alternate, low-touch digital channel is evolving and so is the ability of insurers to create an optimal sales mix. Sometimes that mix calls for a balance between the traditional agencies and contemporary digital channels. The digital agenda is so important for certain insurance companies that you now see it as a line item in most annual reports.

Of course, these developments benefit consumers, many of whom are in emerging markets and are not yet policyholders. The emerging markets are an exciting opportunity for Western insurance companies. Extending their reach globally means they must leverage mobile devices and scale existing legacy systems and processes to cope with the scale and volumes of the emerging markets. There's another consideration: Emerging markets are susceptible to high risk and there is naturally going to be an extensive focus on fraud management and analytics. So compliance in a highly regulated Insurance market will continue to have its usual budget allocations.

Nobody ever said expansion beyond North America and Western Europe would be easy, however. The muted investment returns and high penetration levels in those two Western markets are forcing insurers to look beyond them into the emerging Asian-Pacific markets. That kind of expansion will lead insurers to spend heavily on CRM systems because the focus shifts to acquiring customers in under-penetrated markets.

After we met with those insurance company executives, I came away impressed with their clarity of thought and the focus around transforming their corporations. Not only do they understand global issues. They all share a sense of humility and penchant for hard work. These are the kind of qualities that businesses - no matter how old and predictable - exhibit when they begin an exciting innovation journey.

June 4, 2014

Tackling Poverty With Banking

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:09 AM

Revolutionary mobile payment M-Pesa turns seven years old [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EN_IN2eMmDU]

Maps of the world displaying political boundaries or topographical details - mountain ranges, deserts, and vast rainforests are commonplace. But look at a map based on a proportion of the world's population, and, you'll know why companies are thinking of ways of tapping into the Asian and African marketplaces. Up until the 20th century, these two continents did not control a remarkable amount of the world's wealth. But as their populations grow and enter the middle class, they are where any smart company wants to be in the 21st century. On a proportionate-population map, Asia and Africa would be even more enormous than they are on a political map. Most of the people on this planet - about 8 out of every ten - lives in either of those two places. Add economic power to a vast population and you can see why global enterprises are looking eastward for expansion.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently published a table that looks at the world in a way that's not unlike those proportionate-population maps. The table envisions the world as 100 people, a very basic and clear way of delineating who is who and who has what. For example, out of the world's 100 people, 48 of them live on less than $2 a day. And 13 of them do not have access to clean, potable water. And what about English, the so-called language of the Internet? Only 5 of them are native English speakers!

But there are other aspects of the Gates table that show some remarkable examples of global growth and development in the digital age. For instance, 30 of the 100 people have access to the Internet. That's a pretty amazing number. So is the fact that 75 people out of 100 have cellular telephones. And 83 out of 100 of the world's people are able to read and write.

What "The World as 100 People" shows is that despite the many challenges of the developing world, the many people who live in those areas are undoubtedly meeting those challenges and in many cases surpassing them. Just last week an influential Internet analyst gave a fascinating presentation that shows how mobile computing platforms are far and away outpacing the desktops and laptops so common in the West. Armed with mobile telephones and a relatively high degree of literacy, people in the emerging markets are laying the foundation to become the economic powerhouses of the next generation.

The key ingredient in this success story, of course, involves financial services. The act of opening up a checking account at a local bank branch by depositing cash is foreign to much of the world's population. As well it should be: Writing paper checks to pay for goods and services is an antiquated method of commerce that is finally being phased out in Europe (but unfortunately still hangs on in North America). The emerging markets do not have these legacy burdens when it comes to banking. They will be able to utilize their mobile telephones to make deposits, transfer funds, and build local businesses.

The world's banks are recognizing this phenomenon. Some Western banks are moving slowly compared with, say, Grameen Bank. That's the bank led by Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, a financial services visionary who understands how to get the right kind of funding into remote and rural communities. Mr. Yunus understands that in order for banks to serve emerging markets, they must have the right tools and software that meet the needs of the local populations. Processing paper checks, for example, is not something a bank branch in rural Africa is going to want to accomplish as part of its set of software solutions.

Consider the success story of m-PESA, a joint venture between two of the largest mobile network operators in Tanzania and Kenya--Vodacom and Safaricom. 82% of mobile phone customers in the region, which is around 14.9 million people, use m-PESA for mobile payments. The average transaction volume for six months is around 314 billion Kenyan Shilling (3.15BUSD). The numbers are incredible, especially when compared to the traditional banking business in the region, where the average transaction volume for six months totals to 57 billion Kenyan Shilling (614 MUSD). While there are 43 physical banks and 1100 branches that provide limited employment, m-PESA has created 32000 jobs and m-PESA agents, of course, are indirect beneficiaries of the ecosystem.

Financial services are also integral to the growth of retailing in the emerging markets. The West is dominated by massive retail chain stores that provide outlets for equally large consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. For those CPGs to reach the billions of consumers in the emerging markets, they must work within an entirely different system. Forget about huge warehouses and start thinking about how to stock the shelves of mom-n-pop stores from village to village. Those storeowners need banks that know how they do business. The top financial services firms of tomorrow are already facilitating payments with suppliers such as the CPGs in the remotest areas of the emerging markets.

When you look at the planet through the lens of 100 people, you quickly realize how enterprises will help tackle poverty by introducing the right financial services solutions. My prediction is that we will stop hearing the term "underbanked" within the next generation because of these positive developments.

June 2, 2014

How the Glass Could Revolutionize the Business of Insurance

Posted by Ravi Kumar S. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:19 AM

A quick look into the world of Google Glass [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xR3ZW-AdM4]

There's a wonderful saying that some attribute to Shakespeare himself: "The eyes are the window to the soul."

Funny how today's technology can turn this quote on its head: "Digital" eyes are becoming the window to real-time events that anyone, anywhere can observe - so long as they have an Internet connection, of course. Of the many exciting digital eyes (that is, wearable computing platforms) that involve eyeglasses, none is receiving more attention than Google Glass. One of the many industries that the Glass stands to revolutionize is the insurance business.

If there's one thing that most people would agree about the insurance sector, it's that it's extremely conservative and wary of change, especially when the change in question involves technology. So the fact that insurance executives are looking to Google Glass as a way to reduce costs, boost productivity, and improve mobility is promising indeed.

Look at the auto insurance realm alone, wearables have many potential uses. On the consumer end, the Glass can capture the details of a fender-bender immediately after it happens. Plus, consumers can use the Glass to exchange insurance information - something that's still usually done with a pad and pencil! Because the Glass can record what happens moments after the accident, the digital record means that fewer human investigations into the incident are needed. Verification happens minutes after impact, so to speak.

A wearable also give the insurance company higher quality information. Just think how better integration could result in more information being available across devices. An accelerometer, for example, can display what the speed of the car was as well as its general direction. This sort of claim submission would become an extremely smooth experience for a customer in distress.

If insurance executives accept these innovations, their consumers will no doubt be impressed by their willingness to improve their services. This will also help differentiate them in a traditional industry.

There are even more possibilities in the longer term. These involve actually altering the behavior and lifestyle of policyholders. Think back to when smoking cigarettes was not seen as anything bad. (Even doctors professed to which cigarette brands they liked to smoke.) But now most people agree that smoking is harmful to health. Along the same lines, a wearable platform would help society form a consensus about speed limits on highways and safety techniques behind the wheel. That would make it easier for insurance companies to offer incentives for safe driving records and actually cut down on road fatalities.

Of course, there still are legitimate hurdles to overcome. One, ironically, is how safe a driver can be if he has a pair of wearables on his head while driving. Ah, the irony! Yet another hurdle involves data privacy and security. Of all the different platforms, none has garnered more criticism as to the potential loss of privacy than the wearable. After all, the eyes are a window to the soul...

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