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January 28, 2016

A Data-driven Perspective from Davos

Posted by Sandeep Dadlani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:48 AM

A delegate browses the research report, Amplifying Human Potential
A delegate browses the research report, Amplifying Human Potential: Education and Skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, launched by Infosys at WEF 2016.

Every year, a few thousand professionals gather in the snowy mountains of Davos, Switzerland, to try to make the world a better place. They attend seminars, speak at forums and network among themselves to gain a better understanding of trends and innovations in the race to identify the next blockbusters. Old friends meet again, networks are expanded and new friendships are forged. Often, these connections go on to have some kind of meaningful impact in the year ahead.

This year at the World Economic Forum's Annual meeting in Davos, I had the great honor of participating in a panel that discussed the value of data in business decisions. The panel was led by Aimia, a Canadian data-driven marketing and loyalty analytics company, and included participants from Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, universities, banks such as HSBC, the Harvard Business Review, as well as a few physicians.

The panel was called Leadership in the Data Era: How Innovative Leaders Balance Data Versus Intuition to Drive Effective Decisions, and it was held in one of the satellite hotels WEF uses in Davos.

Collecting data and every bit of it, without a doubt, has become an obsession for many companies in the past few years. What is it all for? To make better decisions ─ the professionals say. But what happened to the days when management and other decisions were taken by listening to one's gut feelings - intuition - rather than relying solely on cold hard numbers? Today's senior managers tend to describe their decision-making style as "data-driven". But the relationship between analysis and intuition is complex and even data jockeys rely on intuition and gut judgment for some decisions. One interesting insight emerged from the healthcare industry. Doctors always have a gut feeling about what ails the patient, yet they rely on some research, some reports, and data to validate or invalidate the gut feeling. Doctors, however, have to form early hypothesis based on their gut instincts and then research the hypothesis. Another perspective to this is that our gut feelings are shaped by our real experiences, to some extent.

A good amount of discussion dwelt upon the quality of data. For example, last November in the ATP World Tour Finals, London, where Infosys provided near real-time analytics, we found new correlations between the ball-spin that certain players were getting with their win-rates. This discovery can be attributed to the richness of data and insights available. The panel discussion also centered on how design thinking was a unique method to arrive at the right question to ask, or the right problem to solve. Overall, it was an exhilarating discussion.

The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting brings together leaders from around the world to talk about the hard stuff, the tough stuff. Inspired and energized, we left Davos to capitalize on our newly won knowledge and to put into practice what we learned.

January 26, 2016

What's Your Problem?

Posted by Sanjay Purohit (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:13 AM

Service offering on Design Thinking and design-led initiatives [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZBRZXcaNp4]

Even as the power of technology has risen exponentially over the years, its transformational impact - in terms of its contribution to solving the biggest problems of our times - has plateaued. Take transportation, which has been at a virtual standstill for more than a generation; in fact, in some cases, travel times have even increased. It's the same story with biotechnology, which, despite incredible advances in gene sequencing, has still not managed to find a permanent cure even for malaria. Part of the problem is practical, one of resources; it's often 'safer' to fund companies solving known problems with incremental solutions, as opposed to tackling the transformational.

But the bigger issue is one of mindset. Technology firms are so caught up in solving the known problems, in execution, and have become so good at it, that they've come to believe that it is perhaps all they need to do. Unfortunately, this is turning us into more and more able doers, who unquestioningly take instructions and follow through. That's denting our ability to be able problem solvers in the truest sense.

With the right approach, and dedicated application, we can turn this around very quickly. Last year, we at Infosys unveiled a new strategy for ourselves and our clients, which recommends renewing existing systems and processes to make them more efficient, while also embracing the creation of new systems, new constructs, undocumented next practices, and therefore creating new value. Finding or reframing the problem and then innovating from that point on is a central element in both. While enterprises must apply fresh solutions to known but reframed problems with the goal of achieving renewal, so far as unknown problems go, businesses first need to discover and articulate these, and then bring in unprecedented solutions. Next-generation technologies will play an enormous role in bringing these solutions to life. The scope of unraveling and resolving new problems is undoubtedly immense and its potential value left to the imagination. Let alone a complex issue like a cure for cancer or AIDS, who can even put a number to what the resolution of the demonization of sugar is worth to confectionery and soft drink companies? It's these types of questions that we who wield technology should be thinking about.

And Design Thinking is what we are relying on to help us do that at Infosys. Design Thinking advocates that the true purpose of enterprises is to find and frame the biggest problems plaguing customers, then imagine the most creative and desirable solution to these, before attempting to realize the idea in practical terms - in an iterative, experimental fashion. It is this approach to problem spotting and fixing that we have rigorously practiced to build our creative confidence, so the solutions we imagine for our clients are as audacious as they are appropriate.

Today, Infosys is the market leader for Design Thinking services execution. But, for us the journey has only just begun. I find myself excited and hopeful thinking of how we might go onwards to help zero in on the problems worth solving, uncover great innovations yet to be discovered, build these in ways unexplored that will help us all improve - as individuals and as a people, and work to move us all forward.

Frankly, I can't think of a better reason to get up and about each day.

January 21, 2016

Looking At The World From Davos, Virtually

Posted by Rajesh K. Murthy (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:12 PM

Looking At The World From Davos, Virtually
The Infosys 'Earth 360 Experience' project at Davos

It's in places like Davos, tucked into a valley in the Swiss Alps, where one is confronted with the stark reality of climate change. Davos is 150 kilometers southeast of Zurich, and to get here we travelled through picturesque valleys, past pristine snow-capped mountains, along crystal clear mountain rivers. But the temperature is rising, and Switzerland's glaciers are melting.

Last November, delegations from almost 200 countries met in Paris to negotiate a global document on the reduction of actions that lead to climate change. 150 global leaders met in the same place at the same time because this is one of the most important issues of our time, inspiring the thousands of delegates to act and come to an agreement. The Paris Agreement, presented after two weeks of negotiations is a consensus of the parties, and will become legally binding if ratified by at least 55 countries that represent at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions.

CEOs from 78 companies with operations in more than 150 countries - including Dr. Vishal Sikka - signed an open letter to the world leaders who participated in the Paris climate conference, expressing their solidarity to work with the international community to help deliver practical climate solutions.

But implementing change will likely be harder than just signing a document.

Here at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, just a month after the Paris Agreement, the spirit of environmental urgency and global collaboration felt very real. As part of our presence in Davos, Infosys has partnered with the Robotics team at Carnegie Mellon University to create an immersive experience featuring real satellite images of the world and three explorable use cases around climate change - fires at night, deforestation and urbanization. The 'Earth 360 Experience' project showcases Infosys' virtual reality and augmented reality concept-building capabilities, as well as the ability to create experiences that feature and can handle extremely high data loads.

I love coming to Davos, and representing one of the most innovative companies in the world and a leader on this issue. I am proud to tell my discussion partners that we have always been at the forefront of environmental conservation, that we embarked on our green journey nine years ago and that we have a very strong sustainability proposition. Infosys has committed to becoming carbon neutral across all our emissions by 2018.

January 19, 2016

Aye, The A.I. Revolution Is Here

Posted by Sanjay Nambiar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:00 AM

Humanoid AI Robots & Cyborg Technology [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eh2yFqvzMfA]

When something becomes part of daily parlance of the general population, you know that it has arrived. For the moment, the phrase is Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). Per se, robotics and A.I. have been around for a long time. Today, they are becoming more advanced and that's why they are occupying prime news spots. In one of our first posts of the New Year, we take a look at four industries that are being transformed by A.I. and A.I.-enabled technologies.

RETAIL: As A.I. becomes increasingly smarter, the prolonged holiday shopping season is going to become more profitable for retailers who utilize its capability to help them make quick decisions and changes to how they cater to their digital consumer base. In the world's largest retail market, North America, extraordinarily hot weather across much of the continent accomplished two unexpected phenomena this year: 1.) customers failed to buy cold-weather clothing in expected numbers and 2.) the blast of warm air encouraged more customers to turn off their computers, go outside, and shop in stores instead of online. Those retailers that have not kept up with the latest A.I. systems were caught off guard this season - highlighting why A.I. has become more important than ever.

Apart from streamlining supply chain and merchandising processes during the period when millions of customers need to buy, return, or exchange items, A.I. can also utilize this information to determine what worked and what needs tweaking. No longer do retail executives have to go on gut instincts on what will sell in the coming year. Based on what has sold, what hasn't, as well as social media chatter over what could be hot new products.

In 2016, we are going to see more of companies like Stitch Fix that uses a sophisticated algorithm and (pre-filled) data to generate a recommended product-list for customers. And with the rise of virtual assistants, watch out for apps like Mezi that uses A.I. and machine learning to help consumers do a number of things - including shop. In a recent coup, Mezi experts helped a client buy a blazer from the coveted Balmain's H&M collection that was sold out within minutes!

BANKING: Every day, millions of consumers use credit and debit cards. Last year, Javelin Strategy & Research report found that 12.7 million people were victims of identity fraud in the United States alone. In 2016, A.I. will become vital to ensuring that their transactions remain incident-free. CustomerXPS a startup has built a software product based on A.I and psychology. Before the online transaction is completed, it helps banks detect and avert fraud and takes necessary action to prevent any damage. Moreover, data theft (credit card information or identity theft) from back offices and contact centers is a growing threat. Leveraging device level user activity, intelligence companies are finally beginning to provide fraud alerts with evidence to prevent operational data theft. Fraud impacts are measured in incidents/day with significant cost exposure as a result (cost exposure of not detecting fraud amounts to US$ 20k per incident/day apart from liability costs). In the bank's back-end, A.I. is now being used to take 35-year-old technologies such as the ATM and radically transform it into Intelligent Transaction Machines (ITMs). An A.I.-enabled system that monitors usage patterns can preempt breakdowns and outages to assure 100 percent up-time and availability. Moreover, A.I.'s spot-on ability to predict and offer products and services can also build customer confidence and loyalty to banks. And have you heard of robotic wealth advisors? Enterprises like FutureAdvisor requests users to list his/her risk appetite and existing investment portfolio, and robotic advisors essentially take care of the rest by using proprietary algorithms, guiding him/her to suggested investment vehicles. In April 2015, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ introduced a customer service humanoid robot at its flagship Tokyo outlet. Nao (as the robot has been named) works at the reception area and speaks Japanese, English and Chinese. We'll see more of these in 2016.

HEALTHCARE: Let me present you with a scenario in 2020. John wakes up in the morning and does not feel right. He immediately taps on his smartphone/smartwatch and sets up an appointment with a doctor via his virtual medical assistant. The assistance asks him a few questions and requests him to put on a vest that is connected to an A.I.-enabled medical network to assess his vital signs for a few hours. Soon, the A.I. technology makes a diagnosis and sends it to the doctor. At the time of appointment, a doctor shows up virtually on his smartphone, asks a few incremental questions, and suggests medication. The e-prescription reaches him and the computer systems of the nearest pharmacy store instantly for pick-up.

This is the promise of A.I. in the next few years. A.I. technologies are able to capture the patient's vital stats, look up and link the condition to his medical history, capture symptoms on voice, make an initial diagnosis - and share all this information with a human specialist. Intervention at the patient's convenience with precision, irrespective of the location, is the future of healthcare.

INSURANCE: Even the traditionally more conservative insurance industry is embracing A.I. When claims processing gets the A.I. touch, fraudsters will have nowhere to hide. A.I.-based solutions have the capacity to use intelligent automation, pattern-spotting, and self-learning capabilities to help recognize potential fraudulent claims. A.I. can potentially help to create an omnichannel experience for all stakeholders involved in the claims process, right from the contact center staff to the claims agent. On the sales end, there are innovative companies like Conversica that specialize in developing A.I. software to help companies discover qualified sales opportunities. In terms of pricing and underwriting, profitable underwriting as well as intelligent pricing of insurance products is one of the key components in achieving competitive differentiation. There are a variety of initiatives combining relevant data with pricing and optimization engines. There is also a significant potential for A.I. solutions in areas like compliance, managing cost structures, and improving process efficiencies in the field. Today, the sales force comprising of insurance agents is aging - with about 25% of the workforce in the insurance industry to retire by 2018, according to a study by McKinsey. Given that insurance organizations will have to cater (or are already) to millennials, who prefer to shop for insurance online, A.I. will play a vital role in customer acquisition and retention in the next few years.

Machine-learning algorithms that continually learn from detail-oriented processes and methodologies are becoming smarter than ever before. Whether it's in retail, healthcare, insurance, or financial services industries, the machine-learning algorithms at the heart of A.I. are taking the guesswork out of even the most complex activities because of this technology's ability to predict and anticipate the unknown. Helping enterprises become prepared for a variety of outcomes significantly improves their resiliency and profitability. Many global corporations, therefore, are beginning to see A.I. for what it truly is: the most potent tool they have leveraged in generations and one that can make them more profitable than ever.

January 14, 2016

'Zero'ing In On The Formula To Success

Posted by Gopikrishnan Konnanath (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:24 AM

Organizational innovation: Between structure and white space [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fv2bhTd07I]

This week, our leaders across the world gathered in our Bangalore campus to reflect on the last three months, and chart the way forward for the toughest quarter ahead. When we were not talking numbers (we just announced our third quarter results after all!), one thing was evident - we are doing something fundamentally right. The highlight being the Zero Distance movement within the company, which was implemented six months ago.

Over the last few quarters, we have been working very hard to bring innovation to every project and, in the process, harness a culture of innovation among our 180,000+ strong employee base. It hasn't been easy. But, we are finally beginning to see the rewards. Today, 90% of our delivery organization can proudly say that they have done something innovative in an existing project, beyond the scope of work. And when 90% of our delivery organization vouches for this, we are talking about approximately 8,000 projects. I couldn't be more proud of the incredible effort and enthusiasm of Infoscions behind this high-impact movement.

We started this initiative single-minded on creating a better future for our clients. Our five-point Zero Distance framework is helping us renew existing landscapes to extract operational excellence and greater value as we work towards new ways of growing. Come to think of it, the tenets of our Zero-Distance approach is quite simple, more about a heightened sense of awareness about any project - look and learn, do better and also do more in every project, articulate the business benefits clearly for our clients, and share that knowledge widely. This has helped us in reversing the decision flow culture with marquee clients - from a time where ideas used to be generated and approved by business, and delivered by us; with Zero Distance the ideas are generated by us, approved by business and delivered by us.

Here's an example. Twelve months ago, we partnered with TNT for a complex delivery project. As we went about our day job, we identified numerous opportunities to deliver additional value to the company. For example, the non-invasive automation created for monitoring the mainframe-based messaging app now enables quicker detection and automated resolution of incidents, giving higher business stability - we're renewing. Moreover, there are a number of additional developments in progress based around creating an 'interactive visibility dashboard', which will provide the business with greater insight to enable them to drive further service improvements and operational efficiencies.

I'll illustrate another instance of Zero Distance at work. Our client, who is a large managed Wi-Fi internet service provider, wanted to help its customers gain a better insight into user browsing patterns, measure footprint inside their retail stores through predictive analytics with their Wi-Fi infrastructure. The Infosys team used various OpenSource technologies to develop a lightweight, scalable and secure analytics solution architecture that fits the bill. The team not only helped the client in delivering the program but also provided insights on proposing an effective implementation plan to enable early time-to-market, attract new customer and renew existing customers. The result was tremendous. Our client renewed its contract with two customers and onboarded a new one, too.

That's making a real difference, isn't it? That's at the heart of the Zero Distance movement. But for any successful movement to sustain - we always have to ask ourselves - "What's next"? We're thinking about the future too. The next phase of this movement will be about three important things:

  • Enhancing and enabling collaboration to amplify value
  • Capturing business value delivered to the client and monetized value for Infosys
  • Capturing value created in the form of client acknowledgement for every project with the Zero Distance idea

We're excited about the future. We have miles to go before we think of sleep!

January 11, 2016

Infosys Recognized As Corporate Citizen Of The Year

Posted by Sudha Murty (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:25 AM

Infosys - Corporate Citizen of the year [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRBz1tBRqkI]

Over the years, I have participated in multiple Economic Times awards events in various capacities. We received the Company of the Year award for the first time in 1998, which was special for both Infosys and Economic Times who had only just introduced the awards that year. Later, I accompanied my husband when he was the recipient of awards including one for Lifetime Achievement and another when he was recognized as the Businessperson of the Year.

In 2002, I received Infosys Foundation's first Corporate Citizen of the Year Award. Stepping on the stage to receive it for the second time this year was a touching moment - it brought back memories of the early years of Infosys and Infosys Foundation. They were the years that inspired me to work at the grassroots and visit the poverty-stricken and crisis-riddled areas of the country. With each passing year, my hair got a little greyer and I learnt just that much more about the diverse people of our land and the need for vast improvement in all our states. I understood that creating real change can take decades and not just years, but we trudged on... along with the Infosys team and the volunteers.

This time, receiving the award one more time, as I looked around at the crowd surrounding me, I could sense the change in the air. The reverse immigration in India, the stronger urge of our younger generation to follow their dreams in their country of birth, the employees who now consciously take time out of their schedule to help a stranger or an organization, and the government's recognition of the need for a much bigger social impact gives me hope.

The change has begun.

January 6, 2016

Happy New Year, Indeed!

Posted by Krishnamurthy Shankar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:25 AM

Last year was a good one for Infosys. We clocked a smart increase in revenues over the previous financial year. We brought a number of new companies - Panaya, Skava, Kallidus, to name a few - into the Infosys family. We also featured prominently in most major analyst ratings.  Now, 2016 has begun on a great note with Infosys being ranked second in BusinessWorld's list of 'Most Respected Companies', close on the heels of Google India. While these accolades undoubtedly make us proud and motivate us to higher heights, they are not the object of conscious pursuit at Infosys. For even amidst these achievements, our focus remains on getting a bit better, on going that extra mile, on bringing that next idea that can make a real difference to life. For us, the status quo is always under question; we're always in the hunt for the next big problem to solve for our clients. This is the essence of the Zero Distance philosophy that drives us - to get closer and closer to clients' needs and expectations till there is no separation between what they need (and sometimes it may not consciously be what they want...or what their brief to us comprises) and what they get.
In 2015, when we articulated our belief in Zero Distance, we also put forth a simple innovation framework to turn that vision into reality. We Infoscions have internalized this framework - look and learn, do better and also do more in every project, articulate the business benefits clearly for our clients, and share that knowledge widely - to such an extent that today we can proudly say that we are a company that innovates from the grassroots up. In the past six months, 85 percent of our specialized workforce has come up with at least one innovative idea. At last count (and that more than a couple of months ago) we had generated well over 5,000 ideas and innovations by applying the Zero Distance principle and associated innovation framework. These initiatives have undoubtedly contributed significantly to all the recognition that has come our way. 
So as we head into another year, let us keep our creative spirit and momentum going, focusing single-mindedly on our core purpose. While honors and applauses are welcome, this journey of finding and fixing the problems that stand in the way of all we and our clients can be - is our sweetest reward.

The Drone Buzz

Posted by Girish Pai (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:09 AM

Amazon Prime Air To Provide Drone Delivery | Tech Bet | CNBC [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2kHa9Z5mKY]

Investors know what most of the world (including Amazon's legions of loyal customers) do not: That the stock of the Seattle-based company trades at an almost incredible price-to-earnings ratio (it has one of the highest p/e ratios of all companies trading on the U.S. exchanges). This means that investors are placing an amazing amount of confidence in Amazon's potential to become profitable. They have put a premium on the company's innovative track record and have a collective hunch that its big technology bets will someday pay off big.

But financiers will be the first to tell you that past accomplishments are by no means any guarantee of a company's future successes. For the second year in a row, Amazon aired advertisements (in the form of an Amazon Prime video) touting the web retailer's plans to deliver goods by unmanned drone aircrafts. This year the ads were even more polished and they featured one of the presenters from the hit British TV show Top Gear.

The publicity around Amazon's drone delivery got me thinking about the essentials of an omnichannel strategy. For an omnichannel strategy to succeed, the service must be convenient. What could be more convenient than a drone dropping off an item at your doorstep within hours of you purchasing it online? But then there's the second criteria, which is in this case a bit stickier: The strategy must turn a profit. Amazon drones have not yet taken to the air in force. Nor have they in any way shown that they can improve Amazon's bottom line. I'm beginning to wonder whether the promotions around drones are slightly premature, as there are no firm dates for a rollout yet. I know what you're going to tell me. Goodwill (in this case, the positive attention that Amazon's innovations receive in the press) is a part of the company's balance sheet and therefore accounts for something.

Certainly it does. But, let me tell you the story of a tech innovation in the 20th century. About 50 years ago, the American president, John F. Kennedy, got wind of the fact that a British-French aerospace consortium was building a supersonic airplane called Concorde. President Kennedy asked his advisors if the United States should build their own version. The answer he received was a resounding no. The Concorde would ooze prestige and upper-class notoriety, not to mention the technological bragging rights of operating a passenger jet that could cruise at Mach 2. The only problem, said Kennedy's advisors, was that the project would never make a penny. It would bleed money for the sake of the vanity of that particular aerospace consortium.

There's another part of the Concorde story that Amazon would do well to learn. Well into the development of the aircraft, it was discovered that the sonic boom created by Concorde's speed would create havoc on the ground below. So the plane would be relegated to routes over the ocean. The skies over economic powerhouses like India, the United States, and China, are already crowded. Amazon has yet to provide a clear answer as to how it will gain the regulatory approvals to run a fleet of aerial delivery drones across already-busy skies. Plus, who's to say that companies like FedEx and UPS, who have lobbying clout among national lawmakers, are going to roll over and play dead so that a web retailer can fulfill its aerial delivery ambitions?

Aerial drones are already proving to be valuable pieces of operations, depending on the industry. For instance, General Electric is investigating ways it can market bespoke drones to the utilities industry. Just think how efficiently a utility company could check on thousands of miles of energy infrastructure. Taisei, a huge Japanese construction firm, is using unmanned drones to efficiently check on the progress of its many building projects. Then there are farmers who can use drones to check on acres of crops in just a small portion of the time it takes them now.

No doubt, drones will become an important part of the future. Until they become practically feasible, convenient solution mechanisms are key. Amazon has already been doing this very successfully in India where deliveries in small towns are carried out by couriers on bicycles, and customers can also opt for cash on delivery. Simple solutions that are tailored to local markets and increase adoption and market share are equally important.

I'm all for the success of Amazon's drone delivery aspirations. I think there's immense potential in this venture and I laud the company's ingenuity. Yet, I think that the company could do well to chalk out a strategy and take heed of the possible pitfalls. A brilliant marketing campaign for drones deserves a success story with staying power, doesn't it?

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