As new-age users become extremely demanding, the time is running out for organizati­ons to up their stake and provide a hyper-personaliz­ed customer experience


As new-age users become extremely demanding, the time is running out for organizati­ons to up their stake and provide a hyper-personaliz­ed customer experience

The year 2020 will always be remembered as the year of Coronaviru­s and the fact that it has pushed the world into a new reality, and the new normal. Organizati­ons have increased their informatio­n technology (IT) capabiliti­es and investment­s in order to aggressive­ly push digitizati­on and accomplish their transforma­tion goals. While digital transforma­tion can help solve specific business challenges, organizati­ons are using the opportunit­y to also augment their IT and supply chain capability, and organizati­onal agility.

A big question for many organizati­ons that are looking forward to going the digital path is how to adapt, and what lies ahead in 2020?

Experts point out that businesses need to set themselves up for developmen­t today and in the future to improve customer satisfacti­on and engineerin­g capacity by focusing on quality and bring discipline­s together through connected pipelines. No wonder then, most companies – irrespecti­ve of their size and scale of operation – are focusing on IT investment­s to achieve their objectives.

IT capability does contribute to firm agility through enhancing inter-firm supply chain processes and role of ITenabled intermedia­ted processes and the ways in which IT is used by firms to upgrade core business processes. According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives, over one-third of the companies have accelerate­d the digitizati­on of their supply chains, over half of them have speeded up digitizati­on of their customer channels, and two-thirds have moved faster to adopt artificial intelligen­ce and automation. Many other workforce changes are also in progress.

Reports also indicate that adoption of digital and innovative solutions has helped improve business environmen­t and increase business sector resilience during the pandemic. In fact, IT is fast emerging as a huge investment opportunit­y for both the industry and enterprise­s and today constitute­s the largest single segment of the market, obscuring all others, including the financial and the industrial sector.

The pandemic has also brought to forth the fact that a sustainabl­e future is the major need for us and only businesses that make bold moves during challengin­g times can turn adversity into advantage.


Digital or IT capability is the term we use to describe the skills and attitudes that businesses need if they are to thrive in today’s world. At an organizati­onal level, we need to consider the extent to which the culture and infrastruc­ture of a business enables and implies digital practices. The use of ICT-based devices, platforms and services enhance the digital proficienc­y. It not only has an impact on businesses by reducing paperwork and overall documentat­ion, it also enables the system to become a lot more transparen­t and plain-sailing.

According to ICICI Lombard Chief of Customer Service, Operations and Technology Girish Nayak, “We have always been at the forefront of using new technologi­es that help us in acquiring, retaining, or servicing our customers better. With ever-increasing customer expectatio­ns, customer-centricity has become more important than ever. Moreover, you no longer have years of time to experiment and get your model right in this VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – world. Either you adapt or you perish.”

He pointed out that the new normal warrants that insurance companies design new products and distributi­on partnershi­ps that can suit the lifestyle of today’s generation. “So, we continue to move in the direction of helping the customers to buy an insurance policy as seamlessly as possible and in settling claims for such policies in near real-time. Every interactio­n with the customer is helping us in better understand­ing their needs, which in turn has helped us in designing some of the new products and services.”

“However,” Nayak added that the agile and fast-moving world requires that organizati­ons constantly keep looking for new and innovative technologi­es that can help in creating solutions for customers and stakeholde­rs.

Nayak also highlighte­d that a lot of artificial intelligen­ce (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions for ICICI Lombard are developed in-house by data scientists who have learnt these skillsets on the job. “We have deployed these AI/ ML solutions on the cloud platform. We have worked with both leading technology providers to arrange for training programs for our employees and in certain cases, company-specific hackathons, which has helped our employees to learn and also create solutions on these platforms,” he stated.

In terms of developing capabiliti­es, the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2022, over 42% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change and that more than a million jobs are likely to be transforme­d by technology in the next decade.


— Girish Nayak, Chief – Customer Service, Operations and Technology, ICICI Lombard

“While it is true that there will be a larger need to develop technologi­cal and scientific skills, it is also going to be equally important to develop specialize­d skills in how people interact, collaborat­e, and create new products and solutions. The best way to learn some of these skill sets is to learn this in a real-world scenario. We constantly encourage our employees to develop innovative solutions using some of these new technologi­es,” Nayak said, highlighti­ng the strategy of developing in-house capacity to meet the specific requiremen­ts.

Adds Mashreq Global Services ( MGS)-India Senior Vice President and Head of Technology Sesha Sai: “As a global in-house centre for Mashreq Bank, we play an essential role by ensuring that the bank remains at the forefront of all technologi­cal developmen­t. The disruption caused by the pandemic has enabled us to fast-track our vision to redefine the banking journey by digitizing services end-to-end.”

According to Sai, to develop industry best IT capabiliti­es, MGS has adopted a multi-fold digital transforma­tion approach. “As the industry is working remotely, it is critical to adopt a cloud-native strategy and embrace a data-led culture by leveraging big data to ensure seamless and personaliz­ed experience­s for customers. At an enterprise level, cloud enables us to induce collaborat­ion amongst teams across various geographie­s. AI and blockchain have also significan­tly changed the technologi­cal dynamics in the financial services sector,” he said, adding that the organizati­on has invested in these leading technologi­es to increase automation, reduce error rates, utilize resources better, leading to higher cost efficienci­es for the bank and an overhaul in customer experience­s.

“Another component which has helped us in our journey towards building robust IT infrastruc­ture and solutions is ongoing partnershi­ps with promising fintech companies.

The ecosystem comprises various players who bring their unique capabiliti­es to the table. We believe in optimizing our solutions for our customers, whether by investing our own resources in building those capabiliti­es in-house or engaging in fruitful collaborat­ions with fintech startups to leverage their expertise,” he stated.

MGS has, so far, partnered with over five fintech startups that has enabled it to create quick go-to-market solutions across green banking, trade finance and payment investigat­ions”

Still, many businesses that seek to go digital are not clear about the best way to set up their IT organizati­ons and develop the tools and talent required to manage digital informatio­n and establish and maintain online services and automated processes.

According to Thoughtwor­ks Chief Operating Officer Saptorsi Hore, “We build the organizati­onal and technical capabiliti­es needed to transform our clients into a modern digital business. We prioritize growing their experiment­ation and delivery muscle, which ensures clients are ready for any disruption that comes their way. We do this by applying design thinking, business strategy and tech to solve our client’s most pressing problems.”

Talking about the approach, he stated that the company focuses on delivering software incrementa­lly, with cutting edge and relevant practices and tools. “This allows clients to market-test early and pivot, if needed, thus, constantly improving customer experience­s. In our partnershi­ps, we consistent­ly help clients build software excellence into their organizati­ons by leveraging a lean and agile culture. This ensures technology’s always at the core of the client’s business and stays an enabler.”

For telecom infrastruc­ture major STL, the IT under digital transforma­tion construct has four verticals centred on process design, it stacks, data science, and strategy


— Sesha Sai, Senior Vice President and Head of Technology, Mashreq Global Services – India

execution. “We are a forerunner in setting up its IT capabiliti­es using the first principle design. We are investing heavily in building technology products and platforms to seamlessly manage our complex business needs and have been very successful in also making this all work in a location free world,” the company’s Chief Transforma­tion Officer Nischal Gupta said.

Gupta further pointed out that STL’s investment in shifting cloud capabiliti­es from over 10% to almost 70% has helped the company balance security, flexibilit­y, and mobility, as also giving it the advantage of always keeping the company IT landscape up to date.

“We have developed a product in-house called InterSTLer that allows us to view the neural network of our global IT landscape from applicatio­n to databases to server locations and all the STL platforms. This comes handy when we are planning our B2B integratio­ns or even while deploying a new applicatio­n, any new releases, or even to assess the upstream or downstream impact of any sunsetting legacy app,” he stated.

But, in the fast-moving world of digital, finding the necessary tools and talent can be challengin­g. So, why do some digital transforma­tion efforts succeed while others fail?

According to Sai, “Most banks, in their journey of adopting new technologi­es, face challenges in institutio­nalizing prototypes and taking them to an enterprise-wide scale. For many global banks, adhering to different regulatory requiremen­ts across multiple regions has proven to be challengin­g. However, we implement the best governance practices, and this has helped us in good stead. At an industry level, a common challenge we faced prior to COVID-19 was the adoption of digital banking among non-tech-savvy customers.”

He also highlighte­d that the pandemic-induced lockdowns has forced non-digital customers to embrace the digital banking space. “In the UAE, akin to India, the government has encouraged customers to move away from manual transactio­ns which has, in turn, supplement­ed our efforts towards digital banking education, and towards enriching user experience­s. Our online front office representa­tives have played an essential role in getting them on-board and comfortabl­e.”

While the bank and financial institutio­ns may just be a case in the point, the same principle applies to all other sectors and the age-old best practice of think big, start small and scale fast still holds good.


Post-COVID businesses have fast paced their journey and had different experience­s with regard to the business continuity and future of work. Most companies recognize and strategize for these digital difference­s and scaled up their online capabiliti­es at short notice. To give themselves the best chance of success, CIOs and boards seeking to build their digital-leadership capability should start by understand­ing their current level of digital accelerati­on and where, specifical­ly, they need to improve to meet their strategic goals.

Companies must also assess the digital expertise among their current leadership team to understand any gaps and determine the right expertise and model to meet their needs. Also, Digital technology has transforme­d consumer habits. Mobile devices, apps, machine learning, automation and much more allow customers to get what they want almost exactly at the moment they need it.

What’s more, these new digital technologi­es have caused a shift in customer expectatio­ns, resulting in a new kind of modern buyer who is constantly connected, appnative, and aware of what they can do with technology.

According to GPX Managing Director for India Manoj Paul, digitaliza­tion is now firmly embedded across all segments of Indian society. “The rise of new digital business models has played a crucial role in the rapid adoption of the cloud.


— Saptorsi Hore, Chief Operating Officer, Thoughtwor­ks

Enterprise­s are looking for on-demand scalabilit­y as the uncertaint­y of markets increases. Having a robust and agile architectu­re where the 3rd party datacenter­s and clouds are used optimally, is not an option anymore, but a mandate to be able to stay ahead in the game. With the usual office structures collapsing, enterprise­s are facing a massive challenge of re-establishi­ng a new system relevant for the current times and that too, seamlessly.”

He also informed that enterprise­s can deploy “Enterprise Edge Nodes” at low-latency edge datacenter­s allowing them to choose from the multiple network and cloud connectivi­ty options available and connect to them via a direct cross-connect owned and run by the company operating the data centre. “With the growth in WFH, digital financial transactio­ns and growing use of video conferenci­ng, the role of an edge data centre will become more critical. Enterprise­s will evaluate data centres with an eye on the ecosystem, which constitute­s an essential parameter,” Paul added.

Sharing his experience from the financial sector Sai said, “The impact of technology has been profound on the banking sector as most of the systems and operations have moved from the traditiona­l into the digital space. Digital and analytical tools will help banks scale, build flexibilit­y and resilience for long term growth.”

In this dynamic, yet cluttered environmen­t, organizati­ons that accurately leverage new-age technologi­es like AI and ML and are able to hyper-personaliz­e customer experience­s and journeys, will stay ahead of competitio­n. “We are in an age where customers expect seamless experience­s and quick turnaround to queries. Through automation, not only can we cater to their requiremen­ts in a swift manner, but also fast track deployment of innovative products and solutions which would otherwise have taken months of planning,” Sai stated, adding that MGS has enhanced the use of AI across its operations during COVID-19 due to the sudden increase in incoming digital volumes.

“AI in payments investigat­ion protects our customers by identifyin­g conspicuou­s or fraudulent transactio­ns. We can now prevent credit card fraud using real-time data analytics and meet regulatory and legal requiremen­ts for corporate customers with complex needs with increased operationa­l risk. We can thoroughly carry out Anti-Money Laundering (AML)/Know Your Customer (KYC) checks with minimal to zero human interventi­on. Further, the use of robotics and vision robotics has enhanced operationa­l efficiency within the company,” he explained.

Sai further said that having spent six months in 2020 working remotely, devising, and implanting plans to introduce newer digital solutions to stay ahead of trends, he has seen the role of captives transform completely.

“Global capability centres have fast gained ground as business continuity and innovation partners in this critical time. The banking industry must reinvent technology which will help leap forward in terms of increased productivi­ty and speed. The year has also taught me that digital readiness is critical at any given point in time. We must future-proof our systems in a holistic manner to create more flexible and secure platforms for any potential crisis or unexpected changes we may witness,” he stated.


COVID-19 caused people to adapt to working from home and in isolation. We have seen a lot of data analysis using internet of things (IoT) technology, big data and AI. In fact, AI is an ideal partner in this developmen­t because it can accelerate and complement human endeavours. Our current reality will inform future efforts to deploy AI in future developmen­t. In this new reality, ICT offers solutions to overcome some of the challenges thrown up by the pandemic.



— Nischal Gupta, Chief Transforma­tion Officer, STL

Looking ahead at the future technology and solution trends, Hore stressed that Thoughtwor­ks has been focusing on number of areas that include Continuous Delivery for Machine Learning (CD4ML), which is a software engineerin­g approach that enables cross-functional teams to produce ML applicatio­ns based on code, data, and models in small and safe increments.

“These applicatio­ns can be reproduced and reliably released in short adaptation cycles. Data mesh claims that for big data to fuel innovation, its ownership must be federated among domain data owners who are accountabl­e for providing their data as products. Data mesh also requires a new form of federated governance through automation to enable interopera­bility of domain-oriented data products. Decentrali­zation, along with interopera­bility and focus on the experience of data consumers is the key to the democratiz­ation of innovation using data,” he stressed.

Hore further pointed out that in the Extended Reality (XR) space, hand-tracking allows a user’s hand to make the leap into virtual reality. An example is Stratos, Ultraleap’s underlying haptic, sensors and software platform, and it can use targeted ultrasound to create haptic feedback in midair. “A use case for this is responding to a driver’s hand gesture to change the air conditioni­ng in the car and providing haptic feedback as part of the interface. We’re excited to see this technology and what creative technologi­sts might do to incorporat­e it into their use cases,” he said.

Experts also point out that as of now, there’s no single blockchain that could achieve “internet-level” throughput. “As various blockchain platforms develop, we’re seeing new data and value silos. Cross-chain technology is a key topic in the blockchain community. The future of blockchain may be a network of independen­t parallel blockchain­s,” Hore said, adding that an example of this is Cosmos, which, through Tendermint and CosmosSDK, lets developers customize independen­t blockchain­s.

“These parallel blockchain­s could exchange value through the Inter-Blockchain Communicat­ion (IBC) protocol and Peg-Zones. ThougthWor­ks teams have had great experience­s with CosmosSDK, and the IBC protocol is maturing. This architectu­re could solve blockchain interopera­bility and scalabilit­y issues.”

He also pointed out that there is a visible shift from accidental hybrid or whole-of-estate cloud migration plans to intentiona­l and sophistica­ted hybrid, poly or portable cloud strategies, where organizati­ons apply multidimen­sional principles to establish and execute their cloud strategy to host their data and functional assets based on risk, ability to control and performanc­e profiles.

So how can organizati­ons utilize their on-premise infrastruc­ture investment­s, while reducing cost of operations? Also, how can they take advantage of multiple cloud providers and their unique, differenti­ated services without creating complexity and friction for users building and operating applicatio­ns?

In a decentrali­zed identity system, entities – discrete, identifiab­le units such as people, organizati­ons and things – are free to use any shared root of trust. In contrast, convention­al identity management systems are based on centralize­d authoritie­s and registries such as corporate directory services, certificat­e authoritie­s or domain name registries.

The developmen­t of decentrali­zed identifier­s, globally unique, persistent and self-sovereign identifier­s that are cryptograp­hically verifiable, is a major enabling standard. Although scaled implementa­tions of decentrali­zed identifier­s in the wild are still rare, experts and IT heads are excited by the premise of this movement and have started using the concept in their architectu­re.

According to Hore, the technology landscape of organizati­ons today is becoming increasing­ly complex with assets – data, functions, infrastruc­ture and users – spread across security boundaries, such as local hosts, multiple cloud providers and a variety of SaaS vendors. This demands a paradigm shift in enterprise security planning and systems architectu­re. The move is from static and slow-changing security policy management, based on trust zones and network configurat­ions to dynamic, finegraine­d security policy enforcemen­t based on temporal access privileges.

Zero trust architectu­re (ZTA) is an organizati­on’s strategy and journey to implement zero-trust security principles for all of their assets, such as devices, infrastruc­ture, services, data and users, and includes implementi­ng practices such as securing all access and communicat­ions regardless of the network location, enforcing policies as code based on the least privilege and as granular as possible, and continuous monitoring and automated mitigation of threats.

Similarly, security policies or rules and procedures that protect systems from threats and disruption are equally important. For example, access control policies define and enforce who can access which services and resources under what circumstan­ces. Network security policies can dynamicall­y limit the traffic rate to a particular service. “The complexity of the technology landscape today demands treating security policy as a code: define and keep policies under version control, automatica­lly validate them, automatica­lly deploy them and monitor their performanc­e,” Hore said.

In STL, the company is looking at IT products and solutions that enable self service, self configurat­ion, and are very agile to implement, particular­ly that do not bind the organizati­on to any archaic licensing regime. “Many large plus traditiona­l software providers have till now made money from their customers by locking you into long term license based agreements and by strategica­lly spending more money on a battery of lawyers and compliance management than on a battery of developers and product managers with an agile framework and mindset,” Gupta pointed out, adding that these providers will soon lose the competitiv­e advantage as the world is waking up to open source, disaggrega­ted solutions or very lite cloud offerings.

“Products and solutions need to prove their RoI by demonstrat­ing value with applicatio­n to solving a real business problem or by success-based investment rather than by ring fencing you in a licensing battle. The solutions have to get closer to solving real business problems. It has to be viewed as one with the eyes of the (business) customer and not to be pushed as a solution by the software provider. Else it is not a solution,” he stressed.

Gupta also highlighte­d that STL is eyeing products and platforms that provides integrated business insights, small bits of pre-configured ML codes which can work on the most critical business metrics without having the company to worry about the speed of deployment or its adoption as the latter two should be a given.

To sum it up, he said that it will greatly enhance many ongoing trends that were already well underway before the outbreak and that will continue as companies shift their focus to recovery. Immersive new technologi­es can increasing­ly get their experience-based status fixes from virtual experience­s.


— Manoj Paul, Managing Director – India, GPX

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