Enterprises are increasingly operating in a dynamically changing and fluid environment. They are constantly changing gears just to keep pace. CXOs are constantly looking for ways to overcome or create disruptions in a world becoming increasingly complex. Infosys Consulting Blog gathers a community of subject matter experts who are driving pragmatic conversations around that which is changing and that which needs to be rethought, redefined and redesigned for enterprises to achieve market-leading performance roadmaps.

October 10, 2016

Dreamforce 2016: When Einstein came calling!

Dreamforce 2016 is over and as the dust settles down, it is time for a retrospective. The event was as usual held at San Francisco with an in person participation of over 170,000 and innumerable sessions and key note speeches. There was a lot in terms of education and entertainment. Here is my attempt to summarize what I saw over the four days of this fantastic event!


The topics that caught my attention:

• Einstein, Einstein and more Einstein

This appears to be the big message that was pushing this year as Artificial Intelligence (AI) was all over the place, whether in the keynotes or sessions. Einstein is AI and is a part of the Salesforce platform architecture. As a foundational element, it powers all the cloud offerings and apps that are built on the same. In a three step process, it 'captures' data, 'learns' or processes the data and then offers predictive analytics capability by making suggestions and even automating some tasks. One cool example presented was that of an email being created automatically by the app and offered to the user to review and send!

• Salesforce Lightning Design System (SLDS) 

This was the first session I attended on October 4th. I went in expecting to gain some insights on the Salesforce Classic vs. Lightning topic but this turned out to be a new design system for user interface of apps. The SLDS is a platform agnostic CSS framework and user interface (UI) library to help clients create apps with UI that has the look and feel that is consistent with standard Salesforce user experience as UI developers only need to change values in "Tokens" instead of hard coding information.

• Salesforce DX 

I came across this in the Partner Keynote. This is an open and standard developer experience that includes capabilities like a new type of Salesforce environment called Scratch Orgs for testing and Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE). It is intended to allow developers to use the options that work best for them and thereby enhance their experience while they develop apps on the Salesforce platform. 

• Commerce Cloud

Earlier this year Salesforce acquired Demandware (cloud leader in the multi-billion dollar digital commerce market). Salesforce Commerce Cloud is its new name and is the newest cloud in the Salesforce product suite.

A few others that I would like to mention:

• Quip - the cloud-based word processing app

• Updated Salesforce1 mobile app

• Salesforce CPQ (configure, price, quote)

On the lighter or the "non-business" side of the event:

• As always, Marc Benioff's keynote speech was the big highlight of the event. Last year, Parker Harris, Co-Founder of Salesforce, turned up dressed as "Lightning Man" - this year we were treated to a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" like experience when a cartoon Albert Einstein popped up on the screen next to Marc Benioff and Parker Harris.

• Musician of the music group Black Eyed Peas was a guest in the Marc Benioff keynote. We were treated to new music video that is raising money for education and featured stars like Justin Timberlake and Usher.

Overall, this was the year of Einstein at Dreamforce. Obviously the aforementioned topics are just the tip of an iceberg in terms of the information that was disseminated there. I would like to hear from you about the topics and themes that caught your attention and your opinion about the event itself.

September 30, 2016

Dreamforce 2016: There's a lot to Tweet about!

It's time once again for Salesforce's annual spectacular event Dreamforce with this year's event scheduled to start at SFO from Tuesday, Oct 4th. Salesforce has been in the news lately though not due to Dreamforce. The news is about Salesforce being one of the potential suitors for Twitter if that company is up for sale. With Disney and Google as probable competitors of Salesforce in this race, it makes for interesting news indeed. As a practicing consultant, I'd be interested to learn what the use cases would be for Salesforce to incorporate Twitter into their products and offerings, as Salesforce products already have good collaborative capability out of the box.


Coming back to the topic of Dreamforce, we need to get prepared for the deluge of information from Salesforce that will be available throughout the course of the event. Here are some areas that I would to like gather information on so that I can help my clients make better decisions about Salesforce products (whether they are existing users or are thinking about trying Salesforce products):


1.       Salesforce Lightning vs. Salesforce Classic:

Lightning is different user experience with a new user interface (UI) that moves away from the previous version, Salesforce Classic, which was characterized by tabs at the top the UI. As I mentioned in my blog post on Lightning in July (URL:, from an implementation perspective there are some limitations that call for a careful assessment of which option is more suitable for the unique needs of my clients. I'd like to see what changes are on the horizon for Lightning and how that can shape future decisions on this topic.


2.       Einstein for Artificial Intelligence (AI):

Salesforce recently announced the availability of Salesforce Einstein - meant to help enterprises to deliver customer experiences based on predictive analysis i.e. AI for CRM. This appears to involve all the major cloud offerings of Salesforce (Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, etc.) and I am eager to see the demos during Dreamforce to understand where this is with respect to practical implementation in my client's projects i.e. the likely use cases for immediate application of this offering.


3.       Wave Analytics:

This has been around since 2014. However, I've seen more interest amongst my clients in recent times than before, which is not surprising as Wave Analytics itself has been gaining traction slowly. Salesforce has been working on areas like making it more declarative (more clicks less coding) and improving the ability to use multiple external data sources. Given the popular and successful capabilities of the Sales Cloud and Service Cloud offerings, a stronger Wave Analytics offering will certainly be good news for Salesforce fans.


Are you planning to participate in Dreamforce too (either in person at SFO or over media channels)? Are there Dreamforce sessions or topics that interest you? I welcome your comments. My next blog post will be immediately after Dreamforce and will be a summary of the event (similar to my last year's post: 

August 25, 2016

The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Sectors: How social can they get?

                        Image result for social media                                    

The sole purpose of the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector is to maintain information privacy and that of  social media is to spread information. These two concepts are poles apart that is; information privacy versus information dissemination. To bring them together to co-exist by finding the right sweet spot is a fantastic idea in itself.

Social media until five years ago was considered a platform where people could merely exchange photographs, videos and messages with family and friends. Today, social media is probably the answer to any query or problem once faces in day to day life. It has grown tremendously over the years and caters to discussion on every topic on the planet from science and technology to food and fashion. Health was probably one of the least discussed topics until 3 years ago however, with the increase in medical problems, need for better access to medical education and facilities and pressure on the pharmaceutical companies to cater to the demand in a timely, regulated manner has indeed made social media an emerging platform of discussion in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector.

Why Social Media?

Social media connectivity is massively growing and with better internet connectivity and widespread use of smart gadgets. Here are some reasons enough to believe that it is indeed meaningful for the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector to invest in social media.

  • 65% Adult internet users engage in social media

  • User growth amongst older adults has almost doubled since 2012

  • Patients are able to connect to the healthcare providers for better drug/disease awareness as well as with other patients via blogs etc where they can share their story which might be beneficial to others.

  • People are using social media to collect information on adverse disease trends, drug effectiveness, understand factors influencing people to buy a particular drug and measure campaign effectiveness via sales trends.

  • People are using social media to create "super focused groups" for diseases like cancer, diabetes, depression etc, for better connectivity with medical care experts for effective treatment that can provide promising results.

It took a long time for the pharmaceutical industry to enter social media mainly because it has been a very regulated sector having access to sensitive personal information. Pharma giants like J&J, GSK, Novartis, Pfizer, Bayer and Merck are increasingly using social media as a platform for recruitment, brand management and marketing, patient communication and identifying adverse trends in the industry.  The pharmaceutical sector has thus responded by showing its widespread presence on social media.

  • In 2015, pharmaceutical companies published 530% more tweets than in 2013.

  • People are continuously turning to social media to seek answers to their problems and since 2013, twitter followers of pharma companies increased by 300%.

Sharing secure and authentic information in compliance with the regulations is definitely a big challenge but with a good legal team onboard and correct understanding of the role of regulatory governance this paradigm shift is definitely a pivotal opportunity for every company to consider.

Here's a pictorial depiction of the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats that Pharmaceutical and Healthcare companies are facing on their emergence in the social media.


How to overcome these Challenges?

Pharmaceutical companies

  1. Must follow social media best practices for effective, authentic and relevant information sharing.

    The first step is to examine and understand the regulatory framework, social media governance and public reaction for every small piece of information available. Publishers must work hand in hand with the legal team to ensure that authentic, relevant information is provided to the public in accordance with rules and regulations. A thorough content analysis is must for any information prior to be published on the social platform.

  2. Must ensure widespread social presence on sites like Linkedin, Facebook, twitter etc.

Widespread presence on social media is very important for better customer engagement. Recently, dengue cases had increased tremendously across the country and my friend was diagnosed with the same. She was treated for it, however; the platelet count seemed to still be fairly low. Everybody was suggesting of having goat's milk and papaya leaf extracts. This is when we got information about their availability on social media. It played a significant role in providing information about papaya leaf extract capsules for patients affected with dengue, the location (chemists/hospitals) where these capsules were available and also the various payment applications these medical stores had for online ordering. Social media not only helped in better accessibility of medical treatment but also reduced the action time under such circumstances.

3. Must update people with the current news, company's progress, drug information etc.

To ensure effective customer engagement, companies must present interesting facts about how their product works, what they are doing to improve accessibility of their products etc.,

4. Must have a portal where the customer can share their feedback, complaints and experiences.

Many pharmaceutical companies are coming up with dedicated portals for critical disorders like Multiple Schlerosis, Cancer, Diabetes etc so that patients and relatives can constantly communicate with healthcare providers and report any adverse drug reactions or complaints.

Pharmaceutical and Healthcare companies are starting to use the rapidly evolving social media for a better business opportunity, brand management, marketing their products and for better customer retention. People today believe in a brand only with adequate access to information and its transparency.  It has almost become mandatory for every company to have a strong internal digital communication forum with established guidelines apart from the legal and regulatory forum to ensure that the right content is being published. They must not delay any further in making the paradigm shift as this would stunt their growth and lose their brand power in the long run.

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July 22, 2016

Are you Agile?

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What does it mean to implement business transformation and enterprise change in an agile environment?

It requires total integration among program, development and enterprise change teams.  It means that enterprise change deliverables will be just-in-time and fit-for-purpose.  It necessitates rapid improvisation in enterprise change approach and tactics.

According to HBR (May 2016), agile innovation methods have increased success rates in software development, improved quality and speed to market and boosted the motivation and productivity of IT teams.  But, does completing implementations faster and using innovative techniques really help people adopt change and improve quality??


The good news:  agile focuses on people interactions and quick wins over methodologies and processes.  So does organizational transformation and enterprise change!

More good news:  agile moves quickly from requirements à testing à deployment, ensuring faster, less costly and more iterative implementation.  This step-by-step process brings the stakeholders along on the adoption journey.  With early wins and pilot implementations, the business can identify approve implementations with each release. 

Even better news:  agile adapts to changing business conditions and allows for flexibility in project planning. 

Together, enterprise change, the business and implementation teams ensure realization of business benefits with less opportunity for a post-implementation 'gotcha' of misaligned expectations

So, how do classically trained practitioners deliver enterprise change in an agile environment?  You still deliver: 

·         change evaluation and definition,

·         change strategy and plan,

·         executing change program

·         measuring benefits and results and, finally,

·         transitioning to business-as-usual. 

How does all this get done in an agile implementation?  Work longer hours?  Add more staff?  Deliver a less thorough effort?

The answers lie in the strengths of agile:  integrating Enterprise change into the IT development and business review cycles.  By getting everyone on the same team and on the same agenda, the agile implementation brings stakeholders along on the implementation journey, thereby increasing adoption and minimizing post-launch disconnects.

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In a practical application, my high-tech client chose Agile methodology for a transition to CRM Dynamics.  The pilot implementation was the first time this client had ever used Agile and was, in reality, a combination of Agile and Waterfall approaches.  Gathering business requirements used agile techniques, but SDLC was used for implementation (sprints) and feedback loops (testing).  Change Management was engaged late in the pilot launch cycle and, as a result, didn't proactively plan nor engage with business or development teams.  The pilot launch was successful, but only through heroic efforts from the business and engineering teams.

For subsequent implementations, the engineering, business and change management teams were proactively engaged.  This enabled iterative cooperation and partnership throughout the development sprints.  The stakeholder business teams were better informed of the development cycle results, understood the transition requirements and were able to proactively prepare for training and user adoption.  This resulted in a smoother launch, better adoption and less expectation disillusionment post-launch.

Agile doesn't mean skimping on Enterprise Change methodology or using a larger team or working an inordinate number of hours.  It does mean, close partnership and collaboration and integration between all stakeholders to ensure everyone understands the objectives, is aligned on expected results and has 'skin in the game' for implementation and success.  This is our wheelhouse, what we do, the strength and strong suit of Enterprise Change.

July 20, 2016

Frontiers of Salesforce - Part 3: Lightning Experience

This is the final blog post in the trilogy on my experiences with some of the newest offerings of the Salesforce product suite.


In this post, I will focus on Lightning Experience. This is a new user experience with a new user interface (UI) that moves away from the previous version, Salesforce Classic, which was characterized by tabs at the top the UI. This capability has been introduced with a lot of fanfare and seems to be the general direction in which is headed with its product suite. Of course, from a developer's point of view, the definition is more complicated and that eventually has an impact on the direction your organization may take with respect to this capability.


In an implementation for a client, we had to address a question - To build on Lightning Experience or Salesforce Classic? My observations from that experience:

·         Once Lightning is enabled for your Org / Instance, as a user you can switch between Classic and Lightning UIs from the drop down under your name at the top right corner of the screen. You will observe that the screen tabs in Classic that are at the top of the screen are displayed on the left corner of the screen in Lightning pretty much as it appears on the Salesforce1 app screen on mobile devices like iPads. When you click on a tab, say Opportunities, the data is displayed as a list (reminded me of an Excel worksheet, which isn't a bad thing given our love for spreadsheets!). And when you click on a record there, the data is displayed with a flow that is distinctly different from prior experiences. Obviously a lot of plusses here.

·         From an implementation point of view, the picture gets a bit complicated. As the Lightning platform is still evolving when compared with the Classic platform that is as stable as it gets, there are considerations that the Technical Architect on your team is likely to present to you that will call for a good deal of planning (like which objects can be built on Classic vs. Lightning, what will be rendered when a user sees the screen in Lightning, which objects are supported or not in Lightning, impact on interfaces and so on).

·         In addition to the technical nuances of this decision, you also need to factor in additional UI designer capability into your development team as we are talking about an experience that is unlike the Salesforce Classic's typical navigational flow.


Eventually we chose to stick with Salesforce Classic to build our solution with the expectation that when the Lightning Experience stabilizes in future, we would revisit the solution to assess a need to move to Lightning completely.  


Is you Org setup for the Lightning Experience? How is your UI experience? I welcome your comments on this thread.


With that, my trilogy on the frontiers of Salesforce comes to an end. Regardless of how my experience was with each of the capabilities, one thing that I am sure of is that it is exciting to be experiencing the cutting edge offerings from as the domain of CRM moves from strength to strength and we evolve from one technology platform to the next better one.

Frontiers of Salesforce - Part 2: SalesforceIQ

This is the next blog post in the trilogy on my experiences with some of the newest offerings of the Salesforce product suite.


In this post, I will focus on SalesforceIQ. This is a product from that enables small and medium businesses (SMB) to interact closely within their teams and with their customers via their email inbox (Gmail / Outlook) as well as an app for laptops and mobile devices. It offers limited capability when compared with the full blown Sales Cloud app and focuses on accounts, contacts, opportunities and reports. With an attractive list price of $25 per user for starter edition, this appeals not only to SMBs but also to large organizations that wish to onboard small teams in business units that are not already on the main Sales Cloud or Orgs that may exist in the company.


I recently had the opportunity to evaluate this product and determine its suitability for the needs of my client. Here are my observations from that experience:

·         Unlike the Developer edition of Salesforce where we can have a trial period as long as we choose, this app is available as a 14 days trial. As our assessment period was over two weeks, we had to use a couple of trial versions to complete our work - not a deal breaker but certainly not as convenient as the Developer edition of Salesforce.

·         While the setup via Gmail was fairly simple, the Outlook based setup was a bit more complicated as it involved the security protocol of the exchange server.

·         Once in, the thing that caught my attention was the way in which the emails that I exchanged with the fictional contacts and team members I created were seamlessly moving between the contact screen in the app as well as my Gmail inbox.

·         Given that this is a relatively simple app, the setup capabilities for the Administrator are limited - I guess the idea is for you move up the value chain to or App Cloud or Sales Cloud if your business has more complex requirements and the business case can justify the increased spend.

·         We had a requirement to enable a parent-child relationship between accounts and tie the same to products. This was achieved albeit with a creative workaround.

·         We had a need to automatically merge account records but that was left on the table as no immediate solution was visible.

·         The reports that we generated were fairly simplistic. It would be interesting to see how this app can perform if complex reporting needs are to be enabled.


On the whole, I feel that this app is a nice way for SMBs to sample Salesforce if they wish to explore of the capabilities of the platform and are apprehensive about the higher price points of the other Salesforce offerings. On the other hand, for my large clients, I would advise them to consider as a starting point as you get access a tremendously larger bucket of capabilities that should justify the additional cost associated.


If you are a user of SalesforceIQ or have some experience with it, I welcome your comments / opinion on its effectiveness vis-à-vis your business metrics and outcomes.


In the final blog in this series, I will discuss my experience with Lightning Experience.

Frontiers of Salesforce - Part 1: Salesforce1 Offline Edit

With the imminent release of the movie Star Trek Beyond, I admire our fascination with the adventures and experiences of exploring frontiers beyond known boundaries whether they may be in outer space or the deep sea. In the same spirit of exploration, as a Salesforce consultant I have recently had the opportunity to explore some of their newest offerings and wish to share with you my observations about the same.


As anybody involved with Salesforce technology knows, they release a constant stream of modules / products that involves catching up on a regular basis regardless of whether you are a practicing consultant or business user or a CIO. I've chosen three such topics for this blog trilogy.


While on the theme of movies, here's my tip of the hat to Netflix.  They have revolutionized TV binge watching by releasing entire seasons of popular series like House of Cards, so I wondered why not try the same for blogs. So, I am releasing all three blogs in this series simultaneously for your reading pleasure - Enjoy!


In this post, I will focus on the first topic, Salesforce1 Offline Edit. With the current version of the Salesforce1 mobile app, you can view and edit data in the app on your iOS or Android device while you are disconnected from any Wi-Fi connection. This is a capability that has been on many a wish list (including some of my clients) and it is finally here in a practically meaningful manner.


As the edit capability is still in Beta mode, I set out to test the waters for one of my clients by logging into the Salesforce1 app on my iPad and here are my observations:

·         If you already have an earlier version of the Salesforce1 app on your device, I suggest you reinstall it - it appears it did not automatically get updated from the App store and so the version on my iPad did not support the latest offline capability - so I had to reinstall to get the latest version.

·         If you are a field sales rep and intend to use the app in offline mode later in the day, I suggest you access the customer and other relevant data on your iPad that day while you are still online and then click on the 'Cache Now' button in the Settings section of the app - this will ensure that the relevant records will be available for you to view and edit when you do go offline later that day

·         If the Salesforce Org / Instance was setup such that little or no Salesforce1 focused configuration was done, then you will essentially be viewing the objects and data that is meant to be displayed out-of-the-box which means some features enabled for your specific business needs may not be active. You need to talk to your Salesforce Administrator about the same.

·         Once you do go offline, view data and make the edits that are permitted in the current version of the app, you will see an indicator on your screen that an update is pending. This is a cool feature as it lets you know that the system has noted your change and will apply the same when you get online again.

·         Thereafter, when you get back online again, the app automatically syncs up and your data is now up to date when viewed from any device.

On the whole, my experience was satisfying and I think this is a step in the right direction. If you are a field sales rep or a Salesforce Admin who has tried this capability, I welcome your thoughts / opinion about the same.


In the next blog in this series, I will discuss my experience with SalesforceIQ.

July 18, 2016

Continuous Learning: Millennials Want It, Organizations Need To Foster It

My friends and I learned the hard way. As baby boomers, we entered the workforce in the '60s, '70s, and '80s with the fresh-faced expectation of 'jobs for life'. Many of us assumed we'd fill out our W-4, buy our first car, get married, raise our kids, and finally retire with the same company's name at the top of our paycheck. My idyll was shattered when my Fortune 10 employer - a company which had never downsized its staff in its 100-year history - launched the first of what became a decade of annual staff reductions. Most of my generation had received the same wake-up call by the end of the millennium.

Fast forward to 2016. The millennials harbor no illusions. Two similar studies on millennials' job outlook, one published in January by Infosys and one released last week by ManpowerGroup, underscore the sharp re-set of their expectations. They want employment security, but know that it's elusive; they've cleverly redefined security in terms of career, not job. They think in terms of serial jobs, job portfolios, gigs. Long-term career growth in one company is the ideal - but they know it is hard to find.

However, in addition to their yearning for security (ManpowerGroup finds that 87% list security as their highest priority), they simultaneously want change. Born of the fast-paced digital world, they crave a steady diet of new experiences. Few, apparently, want to stay in one position for more than a year. These are seemingly contradictory priorities. How and where do they converge, and what are the implications both for individuals and for employers?

Learning is the glue that twines these threads together - the quest for security and the hunger for new experiences. Learnability is the skill of the hour; individuals must be able to acquire new skills and adapt. They need personal agility in shifting from one role to the next. Learnability is the key to career security, giving the individual the ability to ride the crest of successive waves of strategy, technology and product innovation. It also offers a path to new experiences and responsibilities at the desired pace.

The takeaway for individuals is that learning is not optional. Whether this means taking advantage of company training, seeking training on their own time, working with superiors to chart a course across a progression of roles, or job hopping to tick off developmental needs - employees cannot stand still. Most millennials grasp that they need to invest in lifelong growth and development to be secure.

So what's the takeaway for employers? With talent as one of today's biggest differentiators, employers have to provide continual learning - whether in the form of formal training or job experiences. The Infosys study found that millennials recognize that technology skills are only half the story; they view soft skills as equally critical. Employers ignore this at their own risk. In addition to the standard corporate curricula, many businesses are now exploring the use of MOOCs - massive open online courses - to enrich employees' overall learning experiences. Through partnerships with entities such as Coursera, edX, or Udacity, they are offering a rich portfolio of learning experiences that allow employees to explore new interests at their own pace. Gamification is helping employers drive continued learning through challenges and games.

Some new approaches might also be timely. Could partner companies in a value chain create exchange programs that help talented employees tack between companies, offering them broadening opportunities while remaining within a managed talent pool? Employers have long-managed rotational programs within the bounds of their own organization; could that be extended across a value chain or network of partners? This might satisfy millennials' appetite for new experiences without losing them to the larger market.

It's time to think creatively about creating cultures of learning in our organizations. Thirty years ago, companies struggled to get employees to attend training. Today's talent leaders realize that a continual learning proposition is a differentiator that attracts and retains top talent - and helps them win in the marketplace.

Digital's Next Stop - Farming

Just yesterday, within weeks of the start of the North American planting season, Indiana farmer Trent Boyd was installing field tiles. To those unfamiliar with farming, field tiles are a network of black pipes laid about 30 inches below the soil's surface, and, depending on the farmer's preference and the crop, about 40 feet apart. They run laterally until they meet a larger drainage pipe or ditch, similar to a household drain operating on a massive scale. Farmers like to joke that water never, ever runs uphill. The laying of field tiles is an example of the many important tasks a farmer must accomplish before the spring planting; from that point until harvest, the focus turns to coaxing maximum yield from the crops while optimizing the inputs.

Proper drainage and irrigation is one element of farming that can tip the scales between feast and famine. We humans should know - people have been farming for many thousand years. And for the bulk of that period, calculating the right field grade and slope was an intricate and important part of the process. One of the proudest accomplishments for men of the 18th century enlightenment, like George Washington, was to become a land surveyor.

Until about a decade ago, it was not uncommon for farmers to prepare their fields like they did in Washington's day; spending hours per acre using surveying tools and making complex calculations in paper notebooks regarding the layout of the land. Yesterday, Mr. Boyd, a partner at Boyd Grain Farms in southwestern Indiana, hopped into his tractor, and using a digital GPS system that relayed information back to a base station, determined the grade and slope of every square inch of a 40-acre field and simultaneously, laid the field tile. What used to take weeks is now completed in a couple of hours.

Undoubtedly, the digitally powered human revolution sweeping the globe is on full display in the Silicon Valley. But there are other valleys - consisting of millions of acres of farmland - that have been quietly powering the human revolution just as profoundly as anything to come out of the Silicon version. Food is probably the most basic and essential necessity of life on this planet. Yet even today, a significant percentage of the world's population does not have enough food to eat. With the world's population projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, it's no wonder that the technological transformation currently affecting farming can have far more enduring effects than another social media app.

Farmers are using technology to grow more crops using less acreage, water, fertilizer, and fuel than at any time in history. They're empowered by advances in digital surveying systems like the one Mr. Boyd uses, and also by gigantic leaps in how seeds are developed to withstand unexpected changes in the climate. They're designing pest-resistant crops, which means farmers will no longer have to spray chemicals over large swathes of land and hope that the pesticide sticks to the plant and isn't part of the run-off into a local water supply instead.

Beyond Silicon Valley, other technology companies are also changing the world in ways that are just as powerful. Dozens of companies are developing products that improve crop and animal health, boost the nutritional value of farm products, and make farming more productive and efficient. These enterprises are dedicated to taking on global problems worth solving.

I come from a long line of farmers and still help my family manage land in southwest Indiana, some that we've harvested for generations. Although I've spent my career at technologically savvy, digital corporations, I always look forward to each opportunity to return to my family's farm. In fact, the world of high-tech shares characteristics with today's farming: the basic mandates of a modern company include maximizing yield while minimizing waste and inefficiencies, reducing our carbon footprint, and designing and marketing products and services that help improve the human condition. In essence, accomplishing more with fewer resources for more consumers.

Along the way, the organizations I work with as clients of Infosys, want to leverage technology to give their customers or constituents more power and choice, as well as to give their employees more options when it comes to navigating the marketplace. Everything I've just described is equally true for the rapidly digitizing farm of today.

Seed research

My cousin, Mike Kavanaugh, is the Product and Agronomy Manager at a seed corn company called AgriGold Hybrids. With a Master's degree in soil and crop science from Purdue University, his specialty is to push the boundaries of agricultural science - and that means using technology to mitigate risk in the field. To a farmer, risk runs the gamut of things such as pests, disease, climate, crop characteristics, and probably the riskiest of all, time. These are elements of farming over which, until recently, a farmer had little control.

With the advent of bio statistical analysis, however, scientists can establish the characteristics of various strains of seeds in the laboratory, - long before they hit the soil. The result is that agricultural experts like my cousin can choose the finest seeds that eliminate guesswork and save precious time during the growing season. By the time those seeds are planted, farmers have a clear understanding about how they will perform under a wide array of conditions. Moreover, genetic improvements to seeds allow farmers to focus on high-yield crops that have the most nutritional benefits for the end consumer.

Maximizing crop yield

Seed research is only the beginning of how farmers are solving a worldwide problem. There is also a digitally enabled process known as 'variable rate seeding' that uses data such as soil analysis to know not only which types of crops will grow optimally in what part of a farm, but also how many seeds to plant per acre. In the recent past, farmers would have to wait until the harvest season to evaluate which crops grew better in certain sections of the field and institute their planting regimens for the next growing season. Now, time is on the farmer's side. They can use digital sensors and monitors to solve yield limiting mysteries in the field while these are happening. Real-time analytics have saved millions of dollars' worth of crops.

Near exactness with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has improved accuracy of soil sampling. This in turn has enabled variable rate fertilizer applications to optimize the yield environment of specific fields, creating better fertilizer efficiency and timeliness. In 2015, AgriGold research in the US Corn Belt showed over 5 bushels per acre increase compared to field check strips, when digitally changing the population of seed on the go, within a field.

Minimizing resources and waste

The assets and inputs needed to make a farm as efficient as possible are expensive parts of the equation. Whether it's a tractor, bailing turbine, or other mechanized equipment that run on fossil fuels, or varieties of fertilizer that help crops get the most from a growing season, digital farmers are leveraging tools that help them use less and yet reap more. For instance, digital tools have created programs of multi-hybrid seeding where a farmer can plant one or more hybrids or varieties in one geographical area.

The point is that hybrids can thrive in more than one environment; so the farmer can use overly wet areas of the field and, on the other end of the scale, drought-prone areas of the same field to plant a combination of hybrids or varieties of the same crop. The hybrid that can thrive in a water-logged environment would shut down when its seeds got to the drought-prone area. But within feet, if not inches, the other hybrid would pick up and thrive in that area. Not to waste even an acre, the `in-between' areas are where both crops would conceivably thrive. Digital monitors relay data back to the farmer, who then knows when and where to plant seeds more likely to thrive in that soil. In 2015 AgriGold research in western Iowa showed a 7.8 bushel per acre advantage when changing hybrids on the go, while using a 24-rope hybrid planter.

The digital journey that has transformed the farming industry has many benefits. Farmers now have the capability to understand the climate before they even plant a crop. That's the future. My cousin likes to say that the world of digital farming is just now dipping its toe into the water. Of the many benefits and changes that digitization has brought to the practice of farming, arguably, the most significant one is that farming has become a forward-looking industry. Everything about farming used to depend on evaluating last year's crop, weather, and soil to make decisions as to how to prepare for the next growing season. That means that for tens of thousands of years, farmers relied upon past data with little visibility into the future. Now farmers can analyze a weather trend in real time or study the characteristics of a seed and its potential performance long before it is planted.

A verdant, bright future ahead

The possibilities for Planet Earth are tremendous. It starts with grassroots innovation in some of the remotest farms on earth - places that don't yet have access to a computer. But what they do have is ingenuity and innovative thinking. Take the story of Pandharinath More, a resident of Maharashtra, India, who demonstrates that grassroots innovation remains alive and well. Pandharinath is a 66-year-old farmer who anticipates the arrival of the Internet of Things. Every year, he makes the bulk of his income during the precious couple of months between November and January when he cultivates onions. It's the only time of the year this cash crop will grow; so a farmer like him wants to achieve the longest season possible.

The problem Pandharinath faced was how best to plant seedlings at the beginning of each growing season. It's the most labor intensive part of the two-month process. So he got to work creating an onion transplanter. It took him 43 days to invent and build a piece of farm machinery at a whopping total cost of $725. This tractor-drawn implement can simultaneously perform three functions - transplanting onions, applying fertilizer, and making equally spaced irrigation channels. Pandharinath's invention has made being an onion farmer in India a far more lucrative pursuit than it was even a year earlier.

Another inspirational story of agricultural innovation comes from the Hussain brothers in the Darrang district of Assam, India. Mohammed and Mushtaq Hussain are rice farmers who became fed up with frequent power outages that interrupted their water pumps. Rice paddies fail pretty quickly without lots of irrigated water. Sure, you can turn to diesel pumps if the electricity is spotty in your area. But diesel fuel is expensive and a drain on resources. After watching a kite fly high into the sky from a gust of wind, the Hussain's got the idea to assemble a windmill that could power their irrigation pump.

They searched for building materials that were abundant, cheap, and strong. Their prototype was a combination of bamboo, polypropylene, iron rods, and rubber from old tires. The rotation of the windmill cranks the handle up and down, creating a continuous flow of water for their farm. They built their prototype in only four days, and the final product cost less than US$70 - 90 percent less than commercially available models! Better still is that they can dismantle the entire structure in under an hour and carry it to another field or even another farm if needed. This innovative story is well-known in the farming community because of the low-cost, high-value application of technology to improve the human condition.

The investment community has taken notice; venture capitalists are taking a strong interest in the ancient industry of farming. Monsanto made news when it bought weather big data company Climate Corporation in 2013 for US$1 billion, creating a large payout for its investors. Last year, a group known as the Farmers Business Network, received a US$15 million investment round led by Google Ventures. Their goal is for their team of rural data scientists from around the American Midwest to make agricultural data more accessible. The more farmers know about what crops are doing well and under what conditions, the more chances they have to improve yields.

Another venture capitalist firm, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, has funded a group that claims to have aggregated data on the performance of seven million acres of farmland across 17 American states. The database also includes information on more than 500 seed varieties and crops such as alfalfa, corn, wheat, and soybeans. None of this widespread sharing of highly detailed knowledge would be possible without big data and its underlying technologies.

Using real-time and predictive analytics, as well as big data pertaining to crops, seeds, weather, and soil, humans have the opportunity to improve productivity for land all over the world. From Indiana to India, think how much more productive these farmers will become as they become fully connected to the Internet of Things. The endgame is that as the population of the planet continues to increase, agriculture will keep pace, and no one will go hungry. That's a problem not only worth solving, but it's one that's being solved today by farmers around the world who are embracing new technologies that are revolutionizing their industry.

March 16, 2016

The Power of Positivity: Change Management using Principles of Positive Psychology


"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." The saying speaks for itself: find the positive in a tough situation to bring about success.  When looking at people's behaviors, for example, studies have shown that reinforcing good behavior tends to be more effective than punishing the bad. This isn't to say that negative behavior should be overlooked, of course. The principles of positive psychology tell us that focusing on success rather than failure can be a powerful tool to enforce and maintain individual (and ultimately, organizational) change.

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