Top 5 Reasons why Digital Transformations can Fail !!

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

Digital has been the heartbeat of the emerging technology forums and every second evangelist can talk for hours together on the benefits various industries, sectors, functions etc.… can derive out of Digital.

This note is an attempt to portray top 5 reasons why Digital Transformation(DT) journeys fail based on learning experiences of real time case studies and suggestions on measures that need to be proactively taken to be successful…

  1. Digital Definition : DT may mean different things to different people in senior management, depending on the role they play. It is evident from CXO studies that CXOs today take a very different approach towards DIGITAL; while the CIO and CTO are more technical to digitalization,  the CMO and CEO see it as business while the VP Sales may see it as new revenue channels. dt2The result is spectrum of variances in expectations and ambitions within the company. Some convergence is necessary to drive the scope and its applicability to an organization.

Suggestion : Establish a common DIGITAL DEFINITION across the organization and connect the definition with the objectives every unit in the organization can relate to and carry.

  1. Upskilling of workforce : It is no wonder then, that many traditional skills are now facing obsolescence. To put this in context, the latest report titled “The future of jobs” by the World Economic Forum cited that on average, by 2020, more than a dt3third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.

 Suggestion : Workforce includes all, not just the IT folks. While IT teams can enable bring the technology solutions to the table, the SMEs should look at explosion of up-skilling in their skills distribution reflecting on the critical dynamic of  “Digital catch-up” and potentially improved economic inclusivity. Business leaders, educators, and policymakers observe that we now face a massive digital inclusion challenge  and everybody needs to transform and upskill/re-skill themselves. (

  1. Lack of ownership : Digital Transformation (DT) efforts should be all prevalent and not limited to just a few focus groups or techies. Even though the CxOs can call upon teams to help drive adoption, it does not mean in any way that the adoption is somebody else’s sole responsibility. dt4The maturity lies in each and every unit in the organization to realizing that the DT journey is mandatory to their very survival – nothing less. Most misses result from the fact that “this is not my responsibility”

 Suggestion: To succeed, every person and unit in the organization should agree and understand that each of the them need to evolve for survival and hence share equal responsibility for the overall DT journey.

  1. Shun Big Bang Approach : Every organization wants the digital spread to be quick and now! It does not mean you need a big bang approach of a centralized guideline or Digital playbook and then wait for it to pass through several internal champions and unit heads. dt5This approach of roll out has rarely worked fast. Organizations must get the independent business groups/units to understand that “Change starts with you”..

Suggestion : DT journey is more about bringing the fit-to-purpose ideas between Domain and technology. A careful consideration of divide-and-rule with sufficient degrees of freedom provisioned to each Independent Business Grups/Units following a continuous improvement framework will be the best way forward.

  1. Hyper efforts in creating lab with eternal PoC mode: We see that organizations have started being so blind-sighted making their labs that they seem to be stuck in time. Sometimes the solutions are found not to leave the lab forever – keeping stakeholders guessing. Culmination of innovative prototypes can be only called out ONLY if it hits the markets and finds a customer base. dt6An eternal POC mode, builds a perception that either organizations are not confident of their solution or are lost.

 Suggestion: Fail and fail fast! That mantra works. The labs cosmetics to impress potential to-be clientele is colossal waste of time/effort/energy. Clients refuse to be enchanted by the show and feel of real estate. Solutions speak for themselves and the organizations capability to deliver outcomes and most clients are aware. Help clients co-create solutions to their specific needs and the earlier you come to this state, the better is your hold on the potential client – even if it means fail fast a few times.

While there can be many more reasons to add to the above list, the basic insurance against these would lay a foundation to cover other “Don’ts” like some want to scamper onto the analysts quadrants to prove how digitized they are, some may still be wading through the haze of their digital objectives, some may try to copy from what has worked for others without proper fit-to-purpose analysis, some may lose sight of their current differentiators to create new ones to cling to the market, etc.

However, set of failure points will vary from organization to organization and so will the remedies. However, it is proven that Digital is an inevitable transformation journey for organizations to survive and sustain themselves in the market. The maze they can traverse will decide the destination and destiny!


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:


  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.

VUCA in the Digital world!!

VUCA in the Digital world!!

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

Across the globe, all are now connected in unprecedented ways. This is both a boon and a bane, where we live in an era that is transforming and setting stage for the next revolution. Times when we were disconnected and every country operated in silo the challenges were limited to the internal affairs and the near border conflicts only.

With technological advances where today we look at a bright and secured future on one hand, on the other hand the unrest continues and is growing bigger day by day, conflicts, civil unrest, terrorism, ransom ware, cyber crimes, etc… are now integrated into our daily life.

The digital reality is shaking up some of the beliefs and compelling us to move to a more knowledgeable IT economy what with automation and AI which were limited to books, have finally come to the open challenging how that can transform every space of the life. Soon all white-space is expected to be filled with cognitive behavior and techniques. Automation is forcing re-wiring of skills for many of the IT workforce (read : ) spelling end of the careers if not done.

Hence one can relate to the 4 key parameters of VUCA : Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Each of these factors are challenging the order of the day stuff and hence the need to cope with the same in the turbulent times.

The compounded problem statement with external influencing factors from market pressures, competition, shareholder expectations, stakeholders, are strong indicators, to the fact that the leaders will need to be hard wired to resilience.

The role of the leaders managing workforce, will be crucial and critical in shaping the digital future of any organization.  Most of the requirements to support a digital environment are not about the technology per se, but it is also about creating the environment to re-skill, create flexibility to be agile, adopt to changing demands, and groom the right talent for a safe digital future.

Let’s take each of the parameter at a time to see what it means in Digital world:

(V) Volatility: The nature and Dynamics of change that is blowing across the landscape mandates catalysts to adopt to these changes. The legacy of efficiency and productivity will no longer continued business anymore. Disruptive innovations are indeed unsettling dominant industries in today’s world. Hence the times call for compulsive innovation and a drift away from SOPs.

U (Uncertainity): This is a factor which reflects the lack of predictability and many surprises. Another indicator of this is the refusal of the current technology wave to move easily beyond the labs. The ever-experimenting mind-set is also reflecting that the solutions themselves are prone to obsolescence, from the very moment they are conceived with high degree of unpredictability.

( C)Complexity:  Multiple parameters built into the character of the issue spells complexity – be it chaos or confusion-led issues.

Complexity can also reflect multiple influencing factors which can unsettle easily. Complexity is good or bad depending on your strategy. Having a bullet proof strategy is impossible – nevertheless one should have a solid strategy to counter complexities and challenge the same.  Even if it comes with short expiry date (2 years) you should have one.

Digital space is getting more and more complex with each passing day rolling out a new platform, new innovations coming to light, new solutions offered, disruptive models coming to life, etc. Hence to deal with all these changes, a strategy for managing this change is mandatory and thus the

(A)Ambiguity : The fact that we only know 40% of how technology will fold into the lives and markets as an influencer, is a true reflection of haze in the Digital space. This then raises the question of business risk, which is quite a reality today.

At various levels of an organization, there are ambiguities relating to progression and growth, whether at organization level or career levels of professionals.  Except for the lexical meaning of the Strategic and Tactical approaches, the lines are thinning out.

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity will continue to exist but what leaders today can do is to play a vital role and attempt to control the levers by moving in to a Hyperawareness zone of informed decision-making, and fast execution. Winning in the Digital Vortex is not just about algorithms, architectures or innovative business models; it requires organizational change and workforce transformation. And successful transformation is enabled by a company’s digital business agility, building on the fact that people are an organization’s most important asset. Hence, everybody is but compelled to think on the forward thinking strategies to adopt to the Digital VUCA scenarios….

Digital Transformation: Looking Outside for a Change Agent?!

-By Sairam Bollapragada

Every Organization is wanting to go Digital but having its own share of challenges on route to the Digital Transformation. The struggle is not so much with technology which is a given. The challenge is with the DNA of the organization which has been in existence for more than 2 decades and the standard operating procedures (SOPs) have got ingrained into the constituents of the organization. Change is a hard reality and people naturally resist. The resistance is not just about the change, but is more about being compelled to accept the change pushing them off their comfort zones.

When we talk about digital transformation, it is about the journey straddled with the change in human behavior, the cultural change, the change in communication, the change in offerings, the change in skill-sets needed to service the digital client, the change in mindset and leadership, etc. Change happens one step at a time but here we need to bring in a phenomenal change across the organization- many steps at once, across the skills, the mindset, the ways in which we plan and execute, the way we design and create the solutions for the future, etc.

While everyone is aware of the benefits, lets refresh the salient 5 benefits here:

  1. 63% improved customer satisfaction
  2. 49% increased lead generation
  3. 75% lift in engagements
  4. 46% better client conversations
  5. 53% higher traffic


Some facts and figures to refresh the challenges to Digital transformation journey: While 35% of the companies are >80% digital, 68% are hoping to reach there in the next 5 years; while 39% of the challenges are in establishing the right operational and governance model, 39% are around evolving the company culture; as common drivers, 50% evolve around customer expectations, while 45% are due to rapidly changing competition in the market; and the list continues…

Let’s look at 5 Digital Strategy points (one should look for while stepping into the digital strategy):

  1. A Digital Strategy positioning Technology as a potential differentiator:

Digital is more about how fast an organization is able to adapt to the changing expectations of the market and prove you have the sustaining technological ability and agility to change at that speed. Hence a good and sound strategic plan to prepare the organization for the upcoming technological change that is not only vital but absolutely critical for survival. 80% of the companies report that their companies are getting processes and tools to expedite Digital roadmap, but actually only 46% aim to overhaul customer services. Digital is a space where Technology can both be a solution and a problem.

  1. The CxOs would need to lead from the front: The leaders must play a very critical role in this Change management with nothing less than absolute involvement to demonstrate their willingness to learn and drive the change themselves. The leaders must spend a lot of time with the digital strategy team to understand the context and lead the future blueprint from the front. Every part of the organization must be so synchronized in the blueprint, that it would become a seamless means of accomplishing the singular organizational Digital objective! Though 88% of companies report undergoing Digital transformation, actually only around 29% have mapped digital customer journey and know where they stand.
  1. Create an Organization structure that will be built for Speed, Agility and innovation: Decision making should be given top priority and right people should be moved to the right positions in order to create a very strong sustainable structure – challenging the traditional and the obvious challenging organization constituents and their conventional standard operating procedures. One should target to remove all the potential silos (read threat) not allowing the politics of the organization to hamper the future prospects and final successful end-goals. As an organization every client wants you to innovate uniquely and exclusively for them. Hence the need to pick the right (enabled)leaders who can take smart quick and compelling decisions, though hard, in a very timely fashion.
  1. Outside in view: For two plus decades now, the IT industry has been working in a community manner which has built very strong intertwining relationships between team members with various flavors of emotions, bonding, sentiments and strong linkages. However, the casualty of such organization is its being detrimental in the transformation. Hence to bring in required changes, professionals with immense unlearning and re-incarnation mindset are the need of the hour. Hiring/positioning creative consultants or even workforce, with innovative mindset is more critical than just the experience. This is more observed in larger entities where the larger and longer the team’s existence, the harder to resistance to change.
  1. Cultural change: The thinking of the new generation which has channeled so many startup entities around is a mix of forceful strategy, fearless thinking, innovation through Technology and creative market offerings. An organization marred with Legacy – non-digital businesses and annualized (operational based) economy, these traits will be hard to get from within. Resistance to adoption of new ideas, accepting the new market expectations, creating disrupting growth strategies, coupled with new disruptive generation thinking will double the challenge for the legacy entities – culture being the biggest challenger. Unfortunately, only 63% of the companies feel that culture is a major challenge while remaining 34% sort of agree.

With the complexities of cultural inertia, organizations are being compelled to get the Change Agents outside the organization. This trend has become inevitable when the leaders realize that there is a dearth of talent of such kind within the organization. In many places majority percentage of strategy looks at hiring innovative talent from outside where you can bring in an outside-in viewpoint with dispassionate recommendations of building a potential digital organization of the future. Many experts believe infusion of external talent can ignite the digital transformation much more easily. However, there should be heavy involvement of HR to ensure the moves are not abrasive in nature and the sensitivities are handled with utmost caution.

In addition to the above, the learning and training teams would also need to play a critical role by launching few initiatives like:

  1. Digital by Mentoring: Bring in mentoring of batches of folks under capable Digital leaders. These mentors should have a true capability with knowledge and ability to transform handful of associates.
  2. T-C-H: Training+Certification+Hands-on: mere training of employees may not be a great help but a good certification (internal or external) to gain confidence (self and others), added with hands-on experience in the digital labs would greatly benefit the individual and organization.

I would pause here for you to take a note and will come back with the metrics on Digital transformation of the Organizational Change Management in the next sequel of this….Till then, Happy Digital Transformation!!

Digital Workforce: Next Gen Engineers as Assets

Digital Workforce: Next Gen Engineers as Assets

By Sairam Bollapragada

The IT industry service providers are right now struggling with means and mechanisms to transform the existing workforce to adopt and adapt the Digital skills. As they keep stepping deeper and deeper, the journey seems to be getting more difficult and complex. The lateral folks resting on their laurels for long are finding it difficult to put their arms around the new technology and software engineering changes demanded as the industry as a whole seems to be suffering from inertia, built over more than a decade.

The technological advances in the past 2-3 years have been going at a phenomenal pace. The platforms, packages, penetration of Social Media, Mobile apps, transformation to Cloud, Analytics being used as a primary R&D tool for almost all domains, and latest being the IoT – all have brought in compulsive factors in each of the industrial domain. It now looks like no industry will survive without embracing technology.

Many of the technologies/platforms that we hear today in the IT industry never existed 8-10 years ago like Raspberry Pi, Xively, Thingworx, Mahout, Apache KafKa, IBM Bluemix, Osmosis, etc – and to add further to the pace, what we see today maybe just the 40% of what we will see in the next 5 years!!  The bright minds would be needed in every organization to drive the adoption and delivery of solutions using these technologies.

The Next wave of engineers who will come out by 2017-18  hold the key. When I speak to them on the transformations and new developments today, they seem to understand most of the emerging areas, thinking like professionals who are ready to learn, execute and conquer the new technological frontiers beckoning them. Many with right support of the campuses are ideating like never before. Many are taking on the mantle of becoming entrepreneurs and donning a techno-commercial hat. They are able to talk, like the typical maverick innovative thinkers. Though many would think that’s not what we want, I would contest that this is what is needed now. If we cannot think out of the box, the conventional approach will spell a disaster.

The IT Organizations (especially those in service industry) are running aggressive internal transformation programs, some in a focused and some on discretionary ways, but the attention and absorption being quite low, the grip on the handle is a suspect. Hence the infusion of the new blood to mix and rejuvenate the read-to-learn experienced folks will create the new organizations which will sustain the next five years, if not the decade.

The young engineering students pursuing technology to graduate in 2017-18 will have bigger challenge to close the gaps between what was taught in earlier part of the curriculum and what is being rolled out in the current curriculum. The following will come true in the next few years:

  1. There will be unprecedented collaboration between industries and academia to create unique products on mass scale. Both will come together to create a more vibrant workforce for facing the upcoming market competition and demands.
  2. Project works or internships may start assuming more significance as IoT areas would require more hands on than being limited to a theoretical exercise. Industries would demand longer duration of projects/internships. It would extend from 6-12 months than the current 3-4 months. The top students would get paid heavily by the Indian outfits.
  3. More internal labs and incubation centers would find places alongside customer CoEs, co-created between service providers, academia, product vendors and customers. All would focus to create innovative market disruptors and hence may unleash a fierce but healthy competition between the internal lines of business. Perhaps a mini Technology office within each delivery unit will be a need for the next 4-5 years.
  1. With the above, more patents are expected to be created and the IP creation will become a buzzword to swear by, more aggressively.
  1. Cloud, Mobility and Analytics will no longer be niche areas and every IT professional has to understand about few of these areas to decent levels of depth. Hence each delivery unit will need to have architects in these areas embedded into their organization.

With this being the futuristic scenario, the existing workforce will have quite a bit to bite and chew. The organizations struggling to wriggle out of the historical structures (especially ones where personality based organization structures have been a trend) would need to be dismantled. Every organization would need to re-incarnate themselves with a heavy focus on the next generation engineers playing a heavy role in the transformation. The quality of engineers will be focus and the pay packs are slated to surge up. Hence the intake may be limited to those who can walk the talk.

New roles or positions pertaining to IoT like IoT Node Experts, IoT Middleware Experts, Things Mobile Experts, Things Ux experts, Things Domain experts, IoT Security experts, IoT Account managers, etc will be soon found marking themselves high amongst the recruiters. Many may move to crowd-sourcing than outsourcing.

The screening of academia and staff will also play a vital role in the job offers as everybody would strive to get the best to stay ahead of the curve. Mediocrity will no longer be an option.

The same would apply to the existing workforce. Every experienced professional would find himself under the heat to learn the new technologies, new terminologies, and new methods of planning, estimation and governance. Those who don’t welcome the change with open arms and mind would find themselves fading away too soon. The timeframes for the reaction and change would be too short.

The loading of entry level technically strong guys will create a healthy competition to learn and excel. This will lead to refresh in the organizations both technically and the amalgamation will constitute new organization, just not the structures.

Hence the organizations would need to create leaders who are solid technically, have demonstrated technology management skills, and can lead the organization into the next wave. The organizations would depend on these visionaries to create this amalgamated organization between the old and new breed, to deliver the best of the hybrid race to ride the digital tiger.

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 , 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”….

The Digital Era Learner: re-wiring your skills

by Sairam Bollapragada & Riyaz Mulla

Continuing the streak from the earlier notes on skill demand , the Digital Era is characterized by imagination, speed of change and integration – of technologies, experiences and disciplines.

The one quality or competency needed to survive in such an era would be “Learnability” – the ability to learn, adopt (and not just adapt) and re-learn. One may argue that this has always been the case with the human race but the speed, intensity and novelty is at a scale never before demanded in human life.

That sounds a little dramatic (isn’t it?) -so let us look at it in some detail and also see how learning and learning systems need to adapt. Just like the IT professionals and others are assuming that the HR and L&D departments would take care of their learning, the story will be actually entirely different. In the span of the IT careers, this wave is going to challenge every engineer to re-craft and adapt oneself to fit into the fast developing future market demands (– very much like the video below).

(please see :

Let us begin with imagination – today success, rather survival, of business depends upon their ability to imagine a user experience. Implementation is the easier part. So you have aggregators who hardly own any physical infrastructure having tens and hundreds time more customers than traditional, brick and mortar organizations who had perfected their business models over the ages simply because they have been to imagine and tap into a customer experience.

And you have IT and Telecom companies applying for Payment bank licenses and professional networking organizations buying out eLearning companies simply because they could imagine a user experience which was till recently not considered as part of their domain.  This is not a first instant and everyone will have at least a few such examples in their businesses.

What this means to learning is that we have to become essentially multi-disciplinary to survive. A Project Manager can no longer rest on strong process skills of managing scope, time, cost, quality and risk. There was a culture earlier where a pure project manager was in demand to plan and execute deliveries without getting into the nuts and bolts of the technology. To do the job, a PM only needed to understand multiple domains, new estimation techniques, different business models and their contractual and commercial implications, new tools and governance models and so many things more.

On the changed scenario of SMAC/IoT, there is too much being said about speed of transformation so we will not delve into that. What it means for the leaner in the digital era is not just that one has to learn new things continuously, but that the utility of is learnt is also short-lived, comes with an expiry date. Which means that one has to not only learn a particular tool or technology but also has to keep oneself abreast of industry developments, market trends, futuristic research etc. It is like the stock trader who has to trade in a continuously volatile market – you can’t pick your ten long term bets and go to sleep assured.

And finally it is about integration – of bringing multiple technologies, products, platforms, devices, people, domains, organizations, business processes, country and trade regulations etc. together to bring that one seamless user experience to that runner whose wearable fitness device detects an abnormal heartbeat and sends a message to an ambulance to reach the location of the runner, keeps the local hospital informed to prepare an ICU bed, sends the complete medical history to the doctor on duty, contacts the insurance agency to arrange for cashless admission and sends an alert to an immediate family member to rush to the hospital. Extending the scenario further to a smart city, further adding to the speed here would be instant availability of PHR (Patient Health Records) for quicker diagnosis initiating on-need medical insurance processes.

Is it possible for one person to architect and implement such an application or platform without learning on the aspects of Medical, pharma, insurance, emergency action aid, etc? Thus a learner of the Digital Era must gear up to learn about complementary skills which he needs to procure or collaborate, the technological, business, cultural and regulatory sensitivities of collaboration and the ability to integrate, dismantle and integrate at continuous pace. Most importantly one has to learn the art of networking and building relationships beyond a sphere of influence.

Continuous Learning thus isn’t just about classroom lessons – whether brick and mortar or virtual, whether self-paced or in groups. It is also about learning by the minute – watching videos, reading informative blogs while commuting, subscribing to e-newsletters and research papers, attending seminars and symposiums – mostly on own cost and time, crowd-thinking: joining relevant forums and having conversations with new people across age groups, professions, cultural background – basically as diverse as possible. Availability of sandboxes and lab environments is highly critical now, rolling up sleeves and dirtying hands with new technology – till something works – for sure. Undoubtedly, it is an iterative process with infinite loops and variations.

The future workforce is going to be a world of nervous, eager, excited, confused people. Many of them would also be passive and would prefer to lie back and watch.

In the ever changing, fast paced technological scenario where hiring multi-skilled and talented workforce will become inevitable, it is difficult to predict too much in advance. However, one thing which will not change now will be the need to learn continuously. The skill gaps will be too much of a risk glaring at the employability and hence the Learnability of all will be challenged!

A ¾ th of the companies feel that the gap in the skills is holding them back from the digital transformation. Very few of the companies are yet on the bandwagon which are making conscious efforts to train their workforce to adopt to the digital needs. HR is often left out of the participation to develop those skills. Learning modes will shift to Gaming, Competitions, Technology incubation, hackathons, and many alternative methods. Four of the 10 pain points faced today are related to skill gaps. A third of the IT team members fail to keep their skills current.

Every business unit should do an intense skill-gap analysis to understand where, how and when their existing workforce need to take up Digital skills and what upskilling efforts and/or investments would be needed to meet upcoming demands.

Hence the strategy for moving from Industrial era to Digital era will be like:

  • Moving FROM managing the teams TO leading the teams from the front
  • Moving FROM hiring the best players for your team TO rapidly assembling and disassembling the teams
  • Moving FROM Specialized domain expertise (SME) TO Digital skills embedded into every role
  • FROM following a need based skill upgrade for your teams TO pro-actively upgrading the team skills
  • For professionals, personally up-skilling rather than waiting for the companies to sponsor their trainings and learning will be the key to survival
  • Certifications would assume significance right from the school curriculum.

Companies like Microsoft, Adobe, and others have started running certification programs for school children from class 6th onwards. Hence the next gen is getting to know the basics quite early and that too under the direct umbrella of top brands. They would know at an early age what many of us even don’t know now and hence be ready to be taught a lesson or two by the next gen!

Conversations with clients lift the brand and relevance in the market- AT EVERY LEVEL. This calls for a cultural change in the corporates.

The increase in customer demands for the same budget is also fuelling the change in the corporate culture as ever. Dell has completely adopted Social Media to succeed. They see that as the future way of doing business. Dell is also created their twitter profiles of their customer service and support – DellCares. The intent is to help clients real-time with personal touch.

Referring to NASSCOM’s data points at ILF2016, we can expect 50% increase in the digital technology based jobs; of the 4.4 million jobs created in Big Data in 2015, 66% were unfulfilled; and 500% increase in key digital business jobs by 2018 is expected. All this indicates that we need to embrace Digital skills in an exponential way.

Digital/IoT is all much more about Customer experience. Forrester conducted CX index suvery of 299 brands in mid-2015 and found that 2.3% have improved, 69.2% remain same and 28.5% have gotten worse – all this while it is known that 86% of the clients say they are ready to pay a premium for great customer experience.

The Digital wave is just not impacting the IT folks and engineering folks. It is impacting anybody and everybody whose occupations are touched by it. One of the many examples is Marketing and Sales folks. The amount of campaign that has gone digital through social media has been enormous in the recent past. All marketing and branding techniques used earlier have in many ways got dated. The Digital Marketing dovetailing into the Digital Strategy of organizations is compelling the marketing and sales teams to pick up their game and play to win at different level. Those harping on their past glory are getting left out.

The irony is that more than 85% of companies feel that by digital transformation of its employees, they would create USP. NO!! They need to fast realize that It is their survival at stake. Around 54% of them are not yet convinced they need to take to this roller coaster which will shake their inertia. Even today, more than 80% of the training budgets are spent on developing and honing traditional skills and not the emerging ones. In the midst of all this confusion, more than 60% organizations refuse to realize that the traditional training methods need to be replaced.

The three most demanded skills in order of priority as per the market is Mobile, Analytics and Social media. Knowledge of Cloud is a given ICT skill that people should know.

Some areas where large scale ITC focus are being predicted are – 4G/5G, Ambient Intelligence, Artificial Brain, Atomtronics, Augmented reality, cryptocurrency, IoT, 3D optical data storage, Machine Learning, mobile collaboration, Optical computing, Speech recognition, 3D ICs, Ubiquitous  computing, Quantum cryptography, wearable computers, Cyber sciences, Android/gynoid, swarm robotics, UAV, etc.

Unfortunately, it is found that IT fraternity, especially folks in app development/support, tend to get married to the product suite from a vendor  and don’t show inclinations to move across the boundaries set by the product vendor (hence the dearth of Enterprise Architects). Going by the predictions, EA will be inevitable and people would need to skim across vertical solutions and be adaptable to understand, appreciate and learn the other skills as well.

Looking at the gaps, we can say that ”The speed of the change will matter”. Hence Learnability –  by all means, whether personal or through sponsored channels, will hold the biggest key!

About Authors:

Sairam Bollapragada:

Sairam started his career as a scientist in the Indian Defence R&D and has been in the industry for the last two-and-a half decades. He is passionate about incubating new technological advances in the IT sector and brings to table his technology management and IT delivery experience to table. He has taken to writing to blogs in the recent past and expressing his thoughts and opinions at…….for his profile, pls refer :

Riaz Mulla:

Riaz is a Trainer, Facilitator and aspiring Writer. He heads Functional and Virtual Training for Tech Mahindra and is passionate about building new age learning ecosystem. The inherent dichotomy of human drama fascinates him and he is grateful life has given him the opportunity to make a profession out of his passion. He has one published story and is about to finish his first novel.

The Digital Era Skill Demands

By Sairam Bollapragada

Many companies – product manufacturers, product vendors, sales, marketing, technical design entities, information technology service providers were so far marred by the lull(recession) before the storm (the Digital wave). The advent of the new areas in the connected world, has swept all by the feet and the ride on this tiger demands new skills across the value chains of technology and conventional manufacturing outfits, as well as new working styles and cultural norms. There is accepted acute shortage of skills.

IT fraternity has so far got habituated to the “…been there, done all, know all” feeling and the new wave is compelling the folks to change that mind set with a new learning curve. The sooner the folks get out of the traditional mindset, the sooner they can insure their careers.

The brighter side of the story is that the skills needed to design, make, sell, and service smart, connected products are in high demand but short supply.  There is a sudden urgency for finding the right talents and in the wake of market flooded with startups, the pay packs for these technology geeks and mavericks have skyrocketed.  The learning is found to be fast shifting from Mechanical Engineering to Software Engineering, from pure software coding to stepping into real-time product testing, from product repairs to getting used to SLAs for availability, and working with varied partners.

Along with crazy talent demand, the learning curve has gone berserk too.

Folks in the shop floor may soon have to hire experts in applications engineering, user interface development, and systems integration. The list does not end there – the need for data scientist across all the verticals who can blend technical and business data to lend the capability to create, build, and run analytics for predictive analysis and upfront fitment to market demands as well as creating those action plan blueprints, will be inevitable.

However, the demands stated are fine, but the bigger challenge is how informed and ready are the manufactures for these changes – especially in growing economies. This is more so in the case of traditional and conventional manufacturing entities where technologies and product manufacturing are treated totally disparately.

Some are taking rapid steps to move closer to technology abundant cities. By 2020, the manufacturers will need to establish collaborative learning between academics, product innovation and technology.  New hiring models like internship programs (international at that), infusing technological staff at their factories for product advancement and innovation with technology, and incubating labs to continuously bake their next products will be order of the day.

Build-your-future-staff and Internships: The internships should create a scope for these companies to bring together a blend of talent from technology, engineering and business to build collaborative platforms to build newer models, conceptualize disruptively innovative ideas, and drive the “build-your-future” culture. Imagine a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, an information sciences engineer(data analyst) and( lead by) a production engineer – all brainstorming to create a new concept in companies like a Schneider or a GE or GM. The brilliant lot of the ideas will flow into the IoT/Smart lab for PoCs and incubation and to production after successful trails. The crux will be matching the speed of thought and working between these team members.

Compensation and incentives: Manufacturers will also need new approaches to attracting, motivating and retaining talent. With the acute shortage of skills, the talented folks will call the shots. It is said that against the 45000 jobs being created out of 1b$, the industry will now see around 15000 jobs per billion. People with high skills and continuous learning capabilities will take better jobs. Going forward, as per NASSCOM, the selection process during intake will now be based on ability to learn rather than just knowledge. The $130 billion industry, which employs 3.2 million people, will add another 1.2 to 2 million. Investments in training will actually go up, even as training extends to almost a year from three to six months at present on projects in engineering. Companies and universities will collaborate like never before to improve quality of talent.

Perks like job flexibility, concierge services, sabbaticals, and free time to work on side projects of personal interest are the norm in high-tech firms employing the type of talent manufacturing companies will increasingly require.

Where do we go from here?

The existing IT companies living out of annuity business face a larger survival threat. The folks who are looking at AD/AMS kind of activities and sticking on to it are also in the red zone from capability standpoint. Migration to newer skills and capabilities is inevitable. For non-IT folks who have for some strange reasons created “I don’t need IT” mindset would be challenged to deliberate and discuss next ideas with IT engineers. If you cannot engage in such discussions, strong indicator is that your survival itself is at risk.

These synergies between two camps is what is going to drive the digital wave – higher the team-knowledge, higher the tide!! In next part we will discuss on the new learning eco systems where we will focus on how organizations need to embrace the change through steeper learning curves.

For all those, who are sitting back thinking what next to do, the prompt is get on to the learning curve fast. Get onto it now!!