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View from India: Hybrid technology and skills for last-mile business

Image credit: Karthik Chandran - Unsplash

The digital economy offers both opportunities and challenges. Digital is a necessary investment for all companies to have a competitive edge: that investment will bring about a paradigm shift in the way business is done.

Companies are investing heavily in digital technologies and training their staff for a digital output. Here are some of the forthcoming applications, scenarios and solutions that link end-to-end operations digitally. Check out the digital roadmap chalked out by many industries.

Both seasoned senior professionals and the young millennial workforce are reinventing themselves digitally. “Technology is the underlying fabric of a business. It has already brought disruption which has resulted in many unexplored outcomes like search engine optimisation (SEO) and a reduction in time to market,” said Lavanya Pachisia, chief financial officer (CFO), Actoserba Retail (Zivame). As a result companies are able to gauge the return on investment (RoI) on the capital expenditure (capex).

Besides the corporate world, Indian private banks have differentiated themselves from public sector undertaking (PSUs) by offering IT solutions for their customers.

Hospitals as a corporate chain have evolved in the last 8-10 years. To that extent, it’s a sunrise industry. “We use robots in surgeries. Bots enable many of our backend operations,” explained Sameer Agarwal, Manipal Group. Technology is being used for decision making in the administration department. “Technology is being leveraged to make transactions and accounts payable mechanisms. In healthcare, 3D printing will become more prevalent,” he added.

The e-commerce business is convenience shopping for consumers. It’s also a platform for brands to advertise on the e-commerce platform. This is a trend and is here to stay. “The traditional FMCG [Fast Moving Consumer Goods] model advertises in the media as it flags off a new product. A national multimedia advertising campaign is expensive. This is where e-commerce fits in with its personalised digital outreach,” said Raghavendran Swaminathan, CFO, Wipro Enterprises.

Organisations are adopting cutting-edge technologies and solutions in order to give a value-add to its output. A case in point is blockchain, the use of which will cut across industries. Other upcoming factors include predictive enterprise risk, cloud and enterprise resource planning (ERP).

Robotic process automation (RPA) technology is being leveraged as it can perform redundant tasks without error. In times to come (and not so far off) RPA will streamline processes and productivity will scale up. RPA uses artificial intelligence (AI) for repetitive tasks. In that sense, AI and the cloud are already technologies that are bringing in a change in the present scenario. AI is being tapped for revenue forecasting. Analytics and automation are being integrated to identify duplication on real-time basis across industries. Statistics reveal that the global AI business value was at $1.2 trillion in 2018, up 70 per cent from 2017.

However, a one-size fit won’t work everywhere. “Core tech companies are changing. Their operational processes are becoming more engaging with the inclusion of hybrid technology and hybrid skills. The outcome is that technology reaches out to the last mile of business,” pointed out Somick Goswami, executive director, PwC.

Another outcome is that the vision of the five-year IT landscape has now shrunk to 12 months or a maximum of 18 months. Decisions are taken and executed at exponential speed. The cost of failure and how quickly it can be reversed is factored into the ecosystem. 

Many of these solutions have opened out channels for the accessibility of data. Data availability is an opportunity as well as a challenge. Interactive visuals will become a tool for data links about the work in progress. This will then be showcased on the dashboard. Natural language processing (NLP) will help add commentary on the dashboard. The team head will look at the dashboard and through alerts raise questions about the updates.

Then, interconnected data will give the necessary link between two or more parties. This is particularly useful for IT contracts. These are typically very lengthy, so a contract analytical tool will help the company glean insights and zero in precisely on the required information.

The quantum of data has almost quadrupled over the last two years. “Data is always streaming in. This helps us look at trillion records within a short time span. That’s how playbooks can be built in a day. And accurate predictions happen. India grows 90 million tons of wheat. We retail branded wheat and use data and algorithms to predict its price,” added Neel Jasper, CFO, ITC Foods Pvt Ltd. 

The challenge lies in the widespread accessibility of data. Due to this, the exposure to risk has also increased. Options like BYOD (bring your own device) have increased the risk factor. Devices are loaded with information about the company and individual and hence are prone to cyber crime. The other fact is that a lot of assets are lying on smartphones and is subject to risk. India is a mobile economy.

Companies are incorporating cyber teams into their workforce. Enterprise privacy management software and compliance solutions are being deployed for data protection.

The speakers all shared their views at the CII CFO Conclave 2019. Tech CFOs was the theme of the event, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

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