Sustainability in the Digital World: Do’s and Don’ts

By Sairam Bollapragada

While the entire humankind is going ga-ga over the word Digital, there still seems to be much struggle around organizations in creating a Digital transformation blueprint/value and adopting the same quickly.

This note is an attempt to bring to table salient features of becoming Digital relevant in true spirit and deeds. Let us take the points, one after the other:

  1. Goals and Objectives: An Organization should ask itself if they have a dossier which explains to all its employees what Digital means to their business. It is not mandatory that all aspects of Digital should mean something to you. Pick the relevant ones which are critical to your business and get started on the transformational journey.

 

Organizations should get aligned to their clients (both current and potential) on how they can leverage your Digital capabilities to strike a chord with the digital needs of their clients as well. Hence the sales teams should understand the needs and current capability. In fact they should be the first agents of the change to bring to table the digital market needs and hence what we need to nourish as capability.

 

The upskilling is the next most important action. Since the entire demand is moving towards Digital, your upskilling plays a strategic role. The two cannot be misaligned considering even the short term requirements.

 

  1. Adaptability: Your strength to react to the changes in market demand is very critical if you need to be seen as the early adopters in the market . Understanding the market conditions and demand fast, acting to invest in a skilled workforce faster and be the first implementers is essence – which all sums up to reflect on how Agile you are as an organization. You may have to ruthlessly clear the clutter or legacy clingers who can become a challenge to the road to transformation. This will also help your perception in the market and make your sales teams to approach the market with that much more confidence. Unless you up your risk antennas, the conviction will be missing in your commitments. The challenges are greatest learning tools which prepare you to handle bigger commitments. Hence create a risk taking culture that thrives on innovation and experiments.

 

  1. Change Management needs to be carefully crafted out of a network of sources which should become your strongest source of drivers in enhancing your objectives of Digital transformation. Change. When inevitable has to bring in objectivity to avoid chaos. In the Digital space, it pays you richly through both internal and external partnerships. Co-creation is a critical component of this Change process. Please refer my earlier blog: https://itservicesdelivery.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/digital-transformation-looking-outside-for-a-change-agent/

 

  1. Congenial Work Environ: The culture of clinging and hugging often seen as threat to change, is led by folks who don’t want things to change as it reflects their insecure mind-set. Millennials must be provided a platform to bring in fresh ideas through their out of box creative minds. They don’t carry any baggage and hence you can almost always expect a fresh bag of ideas. Once you encourage such an environment, ideas will flow automatically. Let the owners of execution incubate these ideas and convert them into compelling propositions for their clientele. The more fresh ideas you take to clients, the more your probability as being perceived as a leader in the space. Remember perception management is also very critical across the ecospace. Strategic initiatives cannot be allowed to be held ransom to the feudal mind sets of folks obsessed with large teams. The question then to them is – how would you embrace the upcoming digital twins in your workforce.

 

  1. Focussed Teamwork aligned to Objectives: In the services business of annuity, we seem to understand a lot about value creation. We try and demonstrate through our PIPs (productivity improvements), CoD (Cost Of Delivery), etc. However, with the advent of Digital and Automation, the client’s expectations have gone exponentially wild compelling all service providers to think radically different. Hence the above point 4 holds that much more water. Most persons facing the client needs to come across as your digital brand ambassadors (if not all). The approaches you position to the clients should prove your thought leadership. Often the rift between what is sold and what is delivered leaves a bad taste with the clients. This is a true reflection of what lack of orchestration within the teams. Hence your need to align all the teams to speak one language of offerings-capabilities-capacities to establish credibility.

 

Last but not the least, every Digital customer is looking for uniqueness in the solution being delivered. So please be very cautious before you replay a plethora of offerings while you showcase your might.

The THREE “R”s as outcomes of Automation!!

The THREE “R”s as outcomes of Automation!!

By Sairam Bollapragada

IT has been predominant for its people and associated costs. People have been the epicenter of all the transformation/automation and the benefits measured have always hovered around the people, the efforts, their packages and associated costs.

These are the days of automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence and introduction of robotics. We are creating digital workforce, in a big way to transform the way we deliver solutions and services today.  Due to cost pressures, many times, evidently the quantitative savings take advantage over the qualitative ones. The more demanding clients do not budge on either.

The bi-modal approach on what you can do better with our existing work in your scope as well as what else you can do with our other work with other vendors is becoming a natural ask by clients. This then creates the platform to compete and who brings what to the table matters. While everybody seems to be selling the concepts and ideas, the rollouts from adoption is slow as indicated by a recent report. Hence, the benefits slowly reflected in the books.

Many a times, the teams are not able to articulate the savings and calculate on how do we arrive at the magical savings number and translate that to dollars. The efforts thus required to deliver the same service with the productivity improvements should lead to benefits that can needs to be captured and reflected.

All the benefits can be thus, categorized into THREE R’s that relate to the people aspect as follows:

  1. R1: Resize: when transformation/automation saves engineering effort and hence the cost of solution/delivery drops, you can release few team members. This resized team can deliver the same volume of work or keeping the same team size can take up more work. In typical annuity projects, one can re-plough the saved effort to create additional work in terms of additional tickets or CRs, either with no drop in revenue or additional revenue.

 

  1. R2: Restructure: while betting big on outcomes of automation, one can expect the productivity of the team as a whole to gain upward momentum. This should lend the capability of the higher end of the pyramid to delegate the some of, if not all their tasks to the lower band teammates. This is a true indicator of productivity improvement.

 

  1. R3: Resite : In all engagements, many times we come across mandatory set of tasks that should be done onsite or at client’s site. Transformations/Automations can also bring in the capability to move those tasks offshore bringing down the cost of solution or engagement. This may add to your bottom lines or you may choose to pass on the benefits to the clients. Whichever way, more presence of tasks at offshore has always been a strong indicator of confidence levels of delivery as well as capability of the team.

However, when it comes to benefits @ R1 or R2, there is strong feeling that it only leads to job loss. Positively put, it can aso mean the higher band resources can be released (and if they are very capable) where they can be deployed for account mining or/and other transformational consultant roles to demonstrate technical prowess or thought leadership in different areas – both  focused at increasing the footprint from growth standpoint.

If we don’t embrace automation/transformation, somebody else may move your cheese. Till the outcomes hit the financial books, the last mile is not accomplished….so, we must compel ourselves to drive these market-mandated changes, as long as the choice is still with us….

The Need for Intelligent Command Control Center for Robots (IC3R)

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

It is predicted that the industry economy whether IT or non-IT, will go full throttle in the upcoming FY 2017-18 to create a financial realization called autonomics – unlocking the potentials  of robots that are being conceived. Over 2.5 billion people have at least one messaging app installed, within a couple of years that will reach 3.6 billion, about half of humanity. (Source: The Economist) However, the outcomes as suggested by many big market research houses have not been up to the desired expectations. With the things heating up around automation and artificial intelligence/RPA, we can foresee that we will be very soon seeing an increasing need to have some solid controls in place.

The Industry economy in the coming days will create a financial realisation called autonomics – unlocking the potentials of robots that are being conceived and driven towards this direction. However, the outcomes as suggested by many big market research houses have not been up to the desired expectations. With the things heating up around automation and artificial intelligence/RPA we can foresee that we will be very soon seeing an increasing need to have some solid controls in place. Today, the market is focused on Industrial Networks, Industrial Robots, Machine Vision, Control Valves/Devices, Field Instruments, Enclosures and Cables.  Each of these components have an IT and a Non-IT element with technology landscape consisting of SCADA, PLC (Programmable Logic Controllers), PAC (Programmable Automation Controllers), RTU(Remote Terminal Units), DCS (Distributed Control Systems), MES (Manufacturing Execution System), PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), HMI(Human Machine Interface), and above all Safety.

While creating new technical solutions every day and getting excited with it, we are probably too casual on the flip side of the consequences. Lets focus on the negatives for a moment – what if an unmanned vehicle had a bad bug? or what if the programming in the automated manufacturing plants were intercepted/hacked altering the desired behavior or leading to disturbing outcomes?, it can become a nightmare!! For example a recent crash involving Uber Technologies Inc. driverless car suggests autonomous software sometimes takes the same risks as the humans it may one day replace. While we are creating bots at an unprecedented speed and passion, we may also need to secure these advancements through a control mechanism, which will help us to have the desired outcomes, intact. The technological singularity will compel us to start thinking on automatic recovery with deep machine learning capacity.

Hence, are we talking about having a Command Control Mechanism to protect the desired outcomes of all the automated bots whether Soft or hard? The answer is yes. We need to soon develop and establish command control centres for a set of digital work force you want to monitor on a continuous basis to ensure they are aligned to the expected behavior patterns. In fact, there should be a proper set of guidelines issued by the state agencies before allowing any robot to go commercial in the market. The audit and strictures will help control the release of un-certified or Rogue robots. This would be especially true with the craze of smart cities catching up like around the globe. The creation of the digital twin space is also something that must be looked into seriously for potential disruption.

A command control center will help in creating a centralized monitoring service which will track monitor and report the behavior of these bots while positively looking at it, it could also lend performance improvements towards the desired outcomes. What with the introduction of aggressive mind-control technology and Drones we should have a proper access control on this technology based robots. A C3 with an end-to-end visibility across robots with real-time rolling view to help us have a central control of work schedules, job cards, execution, and support for various robotic activities

While the support for high availability/disaster recovery and network load balancing is the intent, the central control mechanism, will be mandated to have a cyber-cop kind of functionality. For example, while monitoring the bunch of UV Cars, suppose an unmanned vehicle on road was malfunctioning, one should have the ability(or create one) to monitor it in real time and stop the functioning of the engine remotely to avoid any major disaster.

A secure central monitoring system laced with analytics, could be enabled through the log base where robots pass on every information pertaining to each activity they are instructed to perform. With this much of an information being logged, one can get a deep insight into the business and the activity patterns being conducted by or through robots. With so much of information at our disposal one can really create a very good analytics use case to understand and comprehend the behavior of these robots as they are unleashed into the market.

The global industrial automation market is extremely fragmented due to the presence of several players in the global market. Some of the leading players operating in the global market are ABB Ltd., FANUC Corporation, Honeywell International Inc., Toshiba Machine Corporation Ltd., Yokogawa Electric Corporation, Emerson Electric Company, General Electric Company, Yaskawa Electric Corporation, Rockwell Automation, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, and Voith GmbH.

However, while doing a cherry pick of the best of the lot or robots to make their organizations more productive and efficient, we hope that the focus will begin from creating a solid Intelligent Command Control Center upfront to monitor, maintain, track and continuously do course correction for these disparate bots – soft and hard alike. The industrial control and factory automation is projected to reach USD 153.30 Billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 4.88% during the forecast period and hence the emphasis. The state agencies must work towards evolving policy guidelines within and beyond for all entities looking to employ the automation-Digital bots effectively.

Digital Manufacturing through Industrie 4.0

by Sairam Bollapragada

From the 1784 first mechanical loom to the current definition of Smart Manufacturing in the era of IoT, the manufacturing industry has come a long way and we have left the first programmable logic controller of 1969 far behind.

What started early in 2012 as the research alliance,  the German Mechanical Engineering sector has worked hard to freeze on the launch of the joint platform in mid-2013 and ensure it had a vision ready for field test in late 2014.

Though initially meant for the German industry, the concept and standards are propelling to fuel the market, hand-in-hand with the IoT fever acting as catalyst.

Taking a leaf from my earlier note on the manufacturing (https://itservicesdelivery.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/smaciot-and-manufacturing-a-perspective/),  there is an ever increasing pressure on

  • Optimized Opex, upwards demands on flexibility and productivity,
  • Compulsions of competitive differentiation creation,
  • Progress in communication and sensor technologies,
  • Production and operational processes getting more robotic in nature,

the Industrie 4.0 is here to challenge all the manufacturing industry players and push them to the brink further on

  • optimized resource usage,
  • shortened lead times,
  • personalized fit-to-purpose manufacturing,
  • increased (squeezed?) productivity,

– with technology opening up new and sustained methods of innovation, production, consumers demand-supply through faster and better information flowing through the processes.

Will too much of IoT/automation eat away into our jobs then?

Yes and No. Yes because the repeatable jobs will be taken up by bots. No because the need for a knowledge worker will still persist. For all supported processes, while data required will be faster acquitted, the data quality would still need to be the essence. This will need appropriate invention since ¾ th of the data so acquired may not be having self-correcting capabilities.

Also a NO because the supported products could expect the onboard service revenue increase in its industry revenue share down the line due to connected products. Supply chain experts will look beyond silos to get more from the eco system (a value-network interconnecting objects, devices, human) creating a potential real-time optimized system.

The new manufacturing industry would rally around traditional parameters with the following changes:

  • Design and conceptualization – the demand of an Industrie 4.0 construct will keep the manufacturers to be in an “all time ready” mode. Understanding of new technologies, devices  to be factored towards design of the smart products clubbed with their feasibility, environment specifications, data to be captured, communication channels to be used, etc. will become part of any design engineers mainstream thought process.
  • Demand Planning – when customization is leaning more towards a mass B2B, the demand planning should be done meticulously. The demand-variants will be many. The challenges staring would be stocking inventories with different materials and smart component leading to Smart Inventory Management. These in turn become the capability to churn out customized orders in bulk.

However, networked machines are expected to optimize the production. Sensors fitted to transmit data into the data lake for getting analyzed for increasing efficiency while cutting on downtimes.

  • Shop floor activities will need to re-cast themselves as the design teams would start catering to the ways and means of interfacing smart component into their traditional device production.
  • Product Operations: Instead of being a discrete process which ends when the product is packaged and shipped, the operations cycle would extend till the product grave. The objective is continuous product improvement
  • Supplier Network Design- In order to have such a dynamic planning done for the clients, the material supplier network would need to keep itself most active. What I mean is all vendor partners would need to keep themselves committed to deliver timelines (anytime) to the variant needs.

The design of such a network would be driven by the single goal of optimized T2M (time-to-market). Even after so many years, conventionally this is still an area of concern for most product companies. With Industrie 4.0, the demands will stretch the ask even more.

  • Supplier Management – Smart Logistics, Smart Mobility, Smart products, and smart machines – all will make the supplier management more drawn to bringing virtual and physical parameters of the connected B2B world together.

The suppliers will expect to be managed more efficiently with reduced warehouse dwell times and increased material utilization levels. The connected devices would call for the distribution and logistics companies to configure and re-configure the networks with most finely tunes service level management.  Hence the supplier management is targeted to become more effective than ever before.

  • The framework consideration for the Industrie 4.0 would push a huge focus on data security, communication infrastructure, innovation funding, and reference architectures.
  • Supply Chain Visibility – the capability to respond quickly to the events in the upstream and downstream supply chain through the Industrie 4.0 defined standards will, making the zero-latency supplies more realistic. The connected devices will be able help transmit the data pertaining to their locations, (mal)functioning, associated bugs, etc. and hence the supply chain visibility.

What about post-services?

  • Remote Services will become a critical part of the services league which will kick in once the connected devices hit the markets. Sysmex is a classic example. It is a simple blood/urine sample collection equipment used by pathology clinics. Loaded with connectivity feature, the same is used for remote monitoring and servicing. When the offshore and onsite difference is defeated, the objectives of service costs, equipment utilization, and CSAT makes these connected devices a winning enabler.
  • Using the predictive analytics in the connected devices, the early warning signs of a “to-be faulty” machines can be helpful. It helps to slot out the preventive and proactive maintenance of devices and keeps the uptime high for the better performance.
  • Value Added Services is another thing which will catch up as each connected device is identified with a signature address. The performance parameters data gathered for equipments, especially ones which are complicated in size and function, is analyzed by the product engineering/development companies for advising how best to use, optimize, accomplish efficiencies, and eliminate potential showstoppers.

Every connected device is a potential entry point into the network for cyber-attacks. The devices exposed must be provisioned with smart ways to get a security blanket covering it against any potential vulnerability.  Similarly, means to detect early intrusion and a mechanism to study, analyze and improve the device security against a break-in should be a continuous effort from product engineers.

The risks arising out of penetrating connected components in aircrafts, automobiles, medical equipment, generators, and others could be far greater than the risks from a breach of a business e-mail server. That seems much simpler now.

Will the new Industrie 4.0 lead to new culture?

The Organizational behavior will be compelled to see a big change. The silos across the organization need to be erased. The organization would need much more orchestration to manufacture smart devices. Every unit within the organization, be it design, prototyping, shop floors, CNC teams, inventory, supply chain, invoicing-billing-finance, logistics, HR, training – all need to be in a perfect sync to be able to target (in-tandem) the shortest time-to-market – to beat the competition and be a leader! In the next blog, I will focus on how the IT industry will need to align to its manufacturing clientele as the latter change their organization norms, working policies, and more importantly the structure.

DIGITAL: Showing Might v/s Showing Customer Empathy

By Sairam Bollapragada

Digital components are technically complex and they are going to drive the solutions to be more complicated. Technically speaking, the next gen of every field is getting re-defined, be it usage of drones for crop surveillance by Agriculture insurance companies, usage of analytics for precision Agriculture, be it concepts of hovertrain (the word dictionary does even recognize it and marks it in redJ), Neuro-informatics, Brain-computer interface, regenerative medicine, Cognitive radio, augmented reality, WiTricity(WET), Zero-energy building and many many more – it’s all about customer experience!!

So far, in the Web wave, the IT service providers have only been harping on their capabilities. It has been a pattern almost always that the IT service providers are very keen to showcase what they have in a bid to allow the customer to cherry pick on the capabilities. Many customers have gone back saying we wanted to see capabilities in area A but the company is very strong in area B which is not our priority right now. This act will start costing dearly going forward. The customer will upfront drive more aggressively on what is needed by him. If we fail to recognize this, and start showcasing sundries, we will soon be out of pockets on the opportunities.

However, there are many traditional customers who do not want to change their stance while adopting the technological transformation journey; while there are also some who are allowing technology companies/vendors to drive their strategic glide-path for what is best for them – in a win-win partnership mode! There are others who are very obsessed with getting the cheapest solution versus providing their end customers with a worthy experience. All put together, the experience through Digital should be intriguing.

Let me put across an interesting experience with the former category with one of the hospitality customers request. The customer wanted their hotel suite entrances to get digitized. One opportunity was to provide a key-less digital entry and another was towards power consumption. The need was to get this done without touching the door or door-frame. The point was how do you do that without a need to implant some device somewhere – on either of the two places.

The second need was to optimize the power consumption when guests leave the suites with electrical gadgets still on (like geysers, fans, etc.). The point was to have an innovative solution where a device could sense absence of the guests in rooms and auto switch-off electrical gadgets and hence help power savings. The draft concept was drawn up and a proposal with technical components was submitted.  At the sight of the cost of the solution (which was not so huge as per my knowledge), the customer retracted a few steps, going back to his traditional thinking which was this – “… you know manpower is cheap in this part of the globe and don’t you think we can hire somebody who can cycle around this 20 acre project, door –to-door and check if the power is switched off or not? and if not do the needful….”

For all such business folks, I have the following to convey – you may save some money tactically, and if you are looking forward to long term gains, you would need to understand clearly (and nothing new about this) that Technology and customer experience do not come at zero cost!  It is not the solution which is costly – it will be ultimately the late adoption which will become expensive – while you may not adopt the new technology for whatever it costs, others would. The technology is more used now for providing convenience and comfort to the customers.  When the customers start getting it, irrespective of the cost and technology, the experience itself is intoxicating. The human psychology is always to get more for their investment as a customer and whoever they think can provide them, will naturally attract more clientele.

The services industry keeps making and breaking the new concepts over and over again to fit the latest and greatest into the current frame of market demands. Customer Experience (Cx) centers are channels to exhibit the capability. The Cx is becoming increasingly a driving quotient in the decision making. As mentioned in my earlier article https://itservicesdelivery.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/the-digital-era-learner-re-wiring-your-skills/ , 86% of the customers are prepared to pay a premium for great customer experience. Soon the comparisons will be drawn and higher bang for buck will rule the market.

So all the business units, especially in the customer care/service would need to be on their feet to pick one or more technology partner(s) who can help them adopt faster and continue in the race, if not lead.

The technology product and service providers, in turn, will need to move faster and shed the baggage of past glory to surge ahead. This is a big critical success factor to grab as many business opportunities. The following are some of the areas where you need to put your acts together:

  1. Getting your Digital offerings together in place by choosing your target segments (not sure if one can play expert in all areas)
  2. Training and orienting your sales force and senior management in the offerings, capabilities and potentials. (Digital Manpower Transformation)
  3. Technically building an amalgamated teams of engineers from various fields for the targeted solution areas where you want to play.
  4. Prepare your commercials and contract crafting teams to understand the new Ts and Cs that can come in.

Another compulsion would be to drive these technological transformations from low cost locations to be aggressively competitive. This further means that you need to not only shift the work-packages to lower cost locations but also very quickly build labs, capabilities and capacities in these places. One of the proven strategies is to refresh academia-industry relationship.

Many customers would more brazenly adopt the “show & tell” strategy. If one cannot show the working technology aligned to their needs, you have already lost the opportunity.  It is coming up now that all those who chose to ride this wave 3-4 years ago, are already growing at a phenomenal pace of 2x and some at 3x.  They have done most of the right things to be at the right hand top of the quadrants. Those do have not done so yet or are still in board-room discussions on when and how to get ready, will have none but themselves to blame as  the “Me too” opportunities will also slip away soon.

Customer retention will be a bigger challenge and whoever can do it faster, quicker, cheaper, in a differentiating way for each client, will be the winner.  Hence it has to be “…let me know what you need” rather than “let me tell you what we think you need..”!

For delivery managers who are sitting pretty and assuming getting them up to speed is the employer’s headache, will soon get to reality the hard way. The push to shove will happen soon. When they get eased out of traditional accounts, unable to sell the same stuff, the customers may simply quip – “…please take your junk away”….

Management by Escalations – the new norm ?

By Narayan Katti

In the past few years, I have seen a new trend – managing projects, programs and related business in IT Services Industry by escalations. This has become the norm than an exception and it is quite a disturbing trend. Unfortunately, this has encompassed customer organizations, as well and not just limited to IT services companies.

This topic might raise few eyebrows and some may brush this topic aside, but I feel it is definitely thought provoking. If one were to look at this dispassionately, it could raise many questions that need attention and answering by the teams and especially the leadership team.

The formal definition of Escalation is “a rapid increase”, “rise” and also “an increase in the intensity or seriousness of something; an intensification”.

Going strictly by this definition and the spirit behind it, one expects that Escalations are created / raised when the matter is very serious. Also, escalations are raised when the resolution of an issue has not happened or the way the progress towards resolution of issue is not satisfactory. But I find that today, the escalations are created / raised with a drop of hat, without proper due diligence, working together to resolve the issue or providing a solution to resolve the issue. Hence I am asking this question – are Escalations becoming a new norm than an exception ?

I am not suggesting, even remotely that escalations should not be raised. I am just questioning the timing and the spirit behind raising escalations. When matters do go out of hand that would cause material impact, one has to raise escalation. Matters and issues that need higher level attention for resolution need to be raised. But before reaching that stage, one should ask this question – has there been enough effort spent to work together to resolve the issues.

Consider the following scenario:

A web commerce implementation project goes haywire due to various issues. The customer IT manager, who is responsible for the project panics, raises an escalation to the CIO through his manager. The customer IT manager blames the IT services organization squarely. The CIO becomes furious. He has a direct connect and rapport with the CEO of the vendor IT services organization and hence escalates this issue directly to the CEO of IT services organization. All hell breaks loose in the IT services organization. The team involved in the implementation till the Delivery Head are taken to task. After a very careful and deep analysis by the team, it is found out that there were configuration issues in the platform which was not under the purview of the service organization. Later on the product company is involved and the issues are resolved. But the damage was done to the team, whose morale and confidence was shattered by this episode.

I have come across many such scenarios, where in the issues are escalated without much diligence and understanding. This creates a panic situation and does not help the situation.  I have often found that the customer organization never understands the vendor organization properly and hence is blind-sighted to these so-called escalations. Many a times the vendor leadership also gets into the haste mode to fix the issues (brazenly?) without deliberating or reasoning with the teams. The erosion of confidence levels of the team is more in this case.

My take

Issues are bound to arise in any IT engagement and depending on the size of the engagement, the number and impact of issues may vary. When issues do arise, we should encourage the teams to do the following.

  1. Encourage the team to bring up the issues to higher management, depending on the seriousness of the issues.
  2. Encourage the team to conduct the root cause analysis, impact assessment and try and rresolve the issues themselves and then reach out to wider organization

The management team instead of reprimanding the team, should understand the issue, provide all necessary help and as needed provide support through wider organization