Tech Firms Gearing up to Improve Workplace safety, Mental Health

It’s been more than a year since the pandemic upended the business universe. As companies plan to re-emerge in 2021 and beyond, CXOs will have to build on the lessons learned so far by revolutionizing business models and workforce strategy. One of the key concerns for companies is to ensure adequate safety and wellness of its employees. Leaders in the tech industry believe, it is their responsibility to make workplaces safer, maintain every possible safety protocols, streamline work through digital tools and automation and most importantly address the mental health issues of their workforce.

Digital tech makes work smooth
There has been a surge in the popularity of workforce collaboration tools focusing on team communication and efficient project management today. High-quality video conferencing tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Google Meet, and Skype are the most popular daily communication channels between remote team members spread across the world.

“The access to high-speed internet in remote centres in India has helped individuals relocate to their home towns in tier 2 and 3 cities to continue business as usual,” believes Smitha Hemmigae · Head of Marketing at ANSR.

According to him, several organizations have upgraded their email etiquette and procedures to ensure data protection while still communicating effectively with external stakeholders.
Sankalp Saxena, SVP and MD-Operations, India, Nutanix states that technologies such as virtual desktop infrastructure and desktop as a service can maintain business continuity over the past year.

“These solutions enable organizations to have virtual workspaces running within an hour so that employees can immediately and securely access their work systems from the safety of their homes. Businesses in India will continue relying on end user computing and cloud solutions to support the decentralization of teams, even as offices open up and they adopt hybrid work models,” says Saxena.

By investing in cloud infrastructure, organizations have ensured that their remote teams have access to data or information available seamlessly across the organisation in a secure manner. As Vikram Ahuja, Co-founder of Talent500, says, “Remote work has accelerated the adoption of cloud services and along with it renewed the emphasis on cybersecurity.”

Organizations are strategically thinking about cybersecurity investments to protect their workers, data, and their infrastructures, as Ahuja states, a data breach can lead to loss in reputation as well as customer and employee data. Sudeep Ralhan, Vice President – People, Walmart Global Tech India, says, “Safe remote working is important irrespective of the size and scale of an enterprise and the core principles one could adopt has moved from a traditional “trust but verify” to a “never trust but always verify” space.”

While zero trust in security is preferred in a remote work setup, from a preventative front, he stressed on multi factor authentication as an important aspect with principle of least privileges. Ralhan says, “As we mature in the remote working models; protecting data will remain as the prime requirement.”

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Demystifying the future of digital commerce

Digital commerce involves a combination of positioning and selling, and hence different from e-commerce.

The changing landscape of digital consumption is driving new services and experiences delivered in seconds, leading to digital commerce’s growth. The potential of digital commerce has been realised and enterprises and organisations will recognize that staying away from digital commerce is fatal for fortunes.

What does Digital Commerce entail, and how is it different from e-commerce?

Digital commerce involves a combination of positioning and selling, and hence different from e-commerce. It attempts to bring both parts together, resulting in a much more fulfilling and transparent experience for consumers, while tying everything between people, processes, technologies to deliver consistent and reliable user journeys.

With the pandemic accelerating the need to go digital, businesses that never had a website are digital today. This shift from a traditional experience to an online front means service providers need to rethink their strategies accordingly and scale up fast. This inflection point is where service providers can bank on digital commerce and drive success in the future.

Digital commerce helps businesses and enterprises integrate all their functions onto a digital platform, provides accessibility and interoperability through APIs, and enables customers to purchase goods themselves through interactive touchpoints and self-service experiences. The takeaway from such engagements is two-fold: one, high customer satisfaction as the buying experience is streamlined — two, a digital-first ecosystem that is agile and nimble enough to make transformational changes.

Digital commerce is the new normal

McKinsey reports that US e-commerce penetration made a 10-year growth leap in 90 days. This shows how the retailer game is changing – and changing fast. The 2020 pandemic put our best efforts at business continuity and disaster management to the test. Since then, the demand to go digital has only skyrocketed. Today, businesses have aligned to a digital-first model across every sector. With several countries still under clampdown and with a possible resurgence of yet another wave, digital is the only logical option to connect, collaborate, and move forward in these pressing times.

Due to the pandemic’s pervasive effect, almost all businesses and organizations have reduced spending and are on a cost conservancy model, spending only “mission-critical” requirements.

It is predicted that most organisations’ recovery may extend to two or three years to reach pre-2019 spending levels and requires a mindset change. This makes the case more potent for the B2B segment to invest in digital commerce platforms and drive business benefits.

What are the trends driving digital commerce?

Digital interactions, unlike the traditional ones, create consistent, reliable, and promising experiences that are rich in interactivity, information, and transparency. These attributes have exponentially spawned next-generation e-commerce activities that signalled the move from physical store experiences to more engaging, personalised, and contextual ones. Few key trends that will continue to fuel this growth into the future include:

1. Social commerce

Social media users are projected to reach 3.1 billion by 2021. More social media providers are expected to enable shopping directly on their platforms like Facebook Marketplace.

2. Mobile apps

Today, up to 70% of traffic happens over mobile phones. Thanks to integrated payment systems and biosecurity features, shopping in mobile apps have become seamless both in physical and virtual spaces driving its adoption and acceptance.

3. Omnichannel selling will become the norm

Customers like to see and interact with content across multiple channels. Service providers are already integrating their business platforms with applications like Amazon Personalize and Pinpoint that help them drive CX and communicate with customers across multiple channels.

4. Personalisation will go beyond purchases and forge bonds

97% of leaders agree that customer experience management is an essential business strategy for creating loyal and long-lasting customer relationships. Customers engage more often with the same brand when they personalise messaging.

5. Subscription commerce

The ability to provide repeat business by subscribing to service has swelled in popularity, making it a promising business model within industries. The global subscription e-commerce market is expected to attain a $ 478.2 billion market size by 2025, growing exponentially at an exponential CAGR of 68.0% during 2019-2025.

6. PWAs (Progressive Web Apps)

A nifty way to deliver bite-sized content helps enterprises connect with their customers through device and technology agnostic means. PWAs rank high on the experience quotient and blurs the lines between web and mobile applications by providing seamless accessibility services across both worlds.

7. Immersive experiences (VR/AR/XR)

Immersive technologies like virtual and augmented reality have transformed the way users shop and interact with products. XR or Extended Reality is a new concept where the experience is made up of virtual and physical interactions. Unlike in-store VR experiences, these interactions and their outcomes can be dynamically updated. The retail sector has the maximum potential for XR, topping out at 80%.

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What one year of remote work has taught IT and energy sectors

On March 23, 2020, the Government of India ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, limiting the movement of the nearly 138 crore population of India as a preventive measure against the emerging Covid-19 pandemic in India.

Subsequently, the corporate world scrambled to ensure its business and employees remained safe. The idea gave way to the rolling out of the work from home (WFH) policy across sectors. Following the same, ETHRWorld tried to assess India’s two prominent sectors that are responsible for the nation’s economic bulk on how they have fared in the remote work culture: IT and Energy.

IT making its way

Speaking of the initial challenges faced while managing various HR operations remotely, Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP and Head – HR (Global) & Corporate Quality, CSS Corp, said the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, coupled with isolated working, had been difficult for many employees.

Accepting the change gracefully was the only effective way to move forward and IT service management company CSS Corp was able to transmit this equipoise across the organisation with its CHEER framework.

“Our CHEER framework (Communication, High-lighting accomplishments, Energising teams, Engagement with employees and Recognition of achievements), developed specifically for the Covid times, has been instrumental in driving high employee morale and positivity,” Visvanathan said.

For Chirag Doshi, Head of People, ThoughtWorks India, the initial challenge was figuring out how to make sound hiring decisions bereft of any in-person interactions.

“While remote interviews have been commonplace at ThoughtWorks for a few years already, before the pandemic, we usually ensured at least one in-person interaction for every candidate,” he said.

However, in 2020 the software company adapted to assessing candidates’ culture-fitment during the remote interviews.

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Workplace should be gender neutral and inclusive for everyone: Industry leaders

While sharing her experience of facing misogynist attitudes in the early years of her career, Shefali Mohapatra, Senior Vice President – Human Resources, Act Fibernet, said, “It only propelled me to decide that when I reach a position of power, I will ensure workplaces are free from such regressive approaches.”

A woman in a key business position shouldn’t be an idea, result of a morning meeting but an accepted reality which has been missing in corporate spaces for long now. The equal participation of women in the workplace is needed as the offices are not just missing an identity but a personality which makes half of this planet.

While major changes are taking place in the corporate world with initiatives by companies and policies of the government, the equality the world strives for, is still a moon day away awaiting the sunrise of equal opportunities for all.

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When leaders Choose To Challenge: International Women’s Day 2021

As a part of the She Matters campaign, we asked leaders to raise their hand high and show that they commit to “choose to challenge” and call out inequality and create an equitable workplace.

In the wake of major social and political changes over the past decades, leading companies are taking steps to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion. According to a number of researches, we have found that diverse companies outperform with more homogenous demographics, have lower volatility, a better return on equity, and the higher the degree of creativity and cognitive conflict during the decision-making process.

While organizations around the world understand the need for diversity and are putting efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive work (workplaces), the progress doesn’t seem to be much. Programs designed to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace often fail.

She Matters, an annual campaign by People Matters that aims at enabling organizations to help their women employees to thrive and be empowered at work.

This year’s women’s day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.

As a part of the She Matters campaign, we asked leaders to raise their hand high and show that they commit to “choose to challenge” and call out inequality and create an equitable workplace.

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Rethinking Women in Tech in the Next Normal

The glass ceiling, the broken rung, or whatever name you give it, gender inequality at the workplace continues to be a looming issue. The tech industry too has a long way to go toward achieving equality in the workplace. In fact, at the bigtechs too (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft) women make up barely over a third of the workforce.

The divide becomes even more prevalent at the top, where men are 30% more likely to be hired for managerial roles than women. In fact, only 23% of C-suite positions are held by women, with women of color receiving even less recognition, making up just 4% of senior leadership team, according to World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, which noted it will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress..

Now that the world has become further disrupted – thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic – and organizations and individuals are geared towards the ‘next normal’, it is even more important to think about the future of work for women in technology. What are the new challenges for women in tech? How are the new generations of women leaders breaking the glass ceiling? And how this entire conversation can change the future of work? With these and many more questions in mind, CXOToday reaches out to men and women leaders in the tech industry who enlighten us about the current scenario and the future of women in technology in the next normal.

“In more ways than one, the pandemic has changed our overall approach towards work and life at large. While the change enabled women to manage their work schedule and simultaneously attend to the needs of their personal life, it has also blurred work-life boundaries with increased responsibilities affecting their wellness.  On the positive side, it has opened up avenues for women joining back from sabbaticals with the benefits provided by companies like limited hour engagement and absence of login/logout compulsions. The technology industry is one of the spaces where a woman can explore a plethora of options like contract/consultant-based jobs to carry on her career journey without much sweat.  It calls for playing the balancing act well with appropriate support systems and mentorship. The tech industry has been increasingly providing opportunities for women to not only enter the industry, but also break the glass ceiling. But ultimately, the onus is on women themselves to make the optimum use of opportunities through constant motivation, continuous upskilling and networking with other leaders to grow in this space.”

 – Kalpana Sudharsan, Senior Director, Corporate Quality at CSS Corp.

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Mapping Your Digital CX Journey is Like A Road Trip

CXOs are increasingly recognizing that stepping up their digital game would lead to more efficiency, innovation, and customer satisfaction. But the problem is, ‘where does one even begin?’ Experts recommend, it begins by mapping your digital customer experience journey – which is pretty much like a road trip. It helps brands in understanding their customers’ needs and behavior that can help improve the brand’s product or service.

In an exclusive chat with CXOToday, Vivian Gomes, SVP & Head – Marketing & Inside Sales, CSS Corp., discusses why mapping your digital customer journey is becoming more important than ever in the current scenario, the key challenges and opportunities in this space and how brands can develop their customer journey map, going forward.

Why is digital customer experience getting more important given the current business scenario?

Since the onset of the pandemic, the relevance of creating no-touch experiences has become even more apparent. The entire ecosystem today is evolving around virtual operations, especially, in the B2C context. Customers are becoming more empowered and self-service is a rising trend that is seeing applications in many fields as an enabler in facilitating seamless customer engagements. With this changing business landscape, mapping the customer journey becomes critical to creating digital experiences that will differentiate.

How and why is it important to map your digital customer experience journey?

Businesses today are dealing with digitally-savvy, conscious consumers whose purchase priorities and buying behavior have changed. With the digital highway wide open, brands are understanding the importance of using modern, new technologies such as real-time messaging tools, AI, automation, chatbots, and self-service among others to remove friction from customer interactions. Mapping the digital customer journey becomes imperative to ensure that customers receive a seamless experience and any impediments along the journey are removed.

What are the biggest obstacles companies are facing around digital customer experience?

Digital customer experience is a goal that is easier said than achieved. The key to providing best-in-class CX is personalization, which relies on gathering intelligence about the customer context. This calls for smooth and efficient data capture mechanisms and analytics-led decision making. With so much dark data that is not being used and functions operating in silos, organisations are still grappling with data ecosystems that are yet to mature. Also, many companies are caught in the web of technical debt which prevents them from creating agile infrastructure ecosystems needed to engage today’s consumers effectively. Finally, structuring CX calls for a cultural and mindset shift in the organization. All this takes time as there is an inertia that impedes progress.

What are your recommendations to CXOs looking at designing their CX strategy?

If we look at the evolving technology landscape, cloud technology, data analytics, AI, automation, and other next-gen technology enablers, which were considered cutting-edge before, have become table-stakes today. It is not only important to create a holistic plan to weave in these technologies into the overall strategy, but also to create champion change agents who will be willing to adapt to change and drive it at the grassroots levels. It is also important to build the right digital infrastructure that can support omnichannel experiences.  Lastly, mapping the customer journey to create frictionless and empathetic brand experiences should be the way forward for companies.

It’s important to be mindful of trends in the digital customer experience space so that CXOs can quickly adapt their strategy to meet the latest industry insights and create an effective customer experience. In this video, Gomes talks about the recent trends in the digital customer experience space.

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Understanding Metaheuristics Algorithm In 800 words

The term optimisation is not only mathematically important but also closely linked to any business. Everyone aims to optimise the way things are executed, processed, or delivered. For a given problem, there is always going to be the best way among the many possible solutions or approaches, and this is usually referred to as an optimised solution. Here are a few examples of business optimisation:

  • The one-way airfare between New Delhi and Bangalore is INR 5000. There are nine flights scheduled every week with a seating capacity of 120 to 340, depending on the plane type. The average occupancy per route is 150 passenger seats. Research shows that if there is a 3% reduction in ticket cost, then the occupancy is likely to increase by 12 passengers, on average. The constraints are plane type, occupancy rate, scheduling, time, and discount offers. The value of fare that can maximise the revenue and profit with the given constraints is a classic example of an optimisation problem.
  • A tech support business servicing a large global client has daily incoming calls in the range of 20000 to 35000, in a 24 x 7 mode. The support staff is equipped to handle seven languages, and work can be executed in four different centres. The cost of operations varies in each region, and the tech-support specialist/engineers’ availability also has certain limitations. The setup of this project’s operations is another such case of business optimisation with the given constraints.

To solve any optimisation problem, there are three main fundamental elements that one needs to understand.

  1. The single numerical quantity or objective function: It forms the goal of the problem. This objective function must be either maximised or minimised. The best fare for travel is an example of minimisation.
  1. The variables and attributes associated with the problem statement: Their values can be varied, and their impact is likely to be observed on the objective. In the tech-support business, some of the variables are incoming calls by time-day-language, availability of right skills in each centre, cost of operations per seat, attrition rate and calls by technology-module pattern.
  1. The constraints: There is no business without constraints. Most of the constraints can be mapped to a combination of time, cost, quality, and tools & technology. Understanding the restrictions and limitations of a constraint can help in solving optimisation problems.

In the context of optimisation, a heuristic is defined as a method driven by rule-of-thumb without any specific procedure. A metaheuristics method is designed by leveraging more than one heuristic methods and thus inheriting all heuristic methods’ characteristics. Natures inspirations, such as ants searching for food, wolves hunting their prey, the formation of water droplets, diffusion of two chemicals, cell formation, the attraction between electrostatic objects, gravity, have resulted in the ‘Metaheuristics Algorithm’.

Metaheuristic algorithms’ adoption rate is surging in engineering, finance, retail, healthcare, insurance, and biomedical science. The optimisation is a critical factor in solving business and engineering problems. These algorithms can be summarised as a form of stochastic optimisation (an optimisation method that generates and uses random variables) independent of the surface gradient for optimisation. Most of these algorithms are inspired by different sources of nature and evolved from a purely mathematical model to a highly intelligent method of solving problems. Metaheuristics, along with machine language, is gaining wide acceptance in solving complex problems.

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TSIA and CSS Corp co-author a report on outsourcing trends in 2021

CSS Corp a new-age IT services and technology support company in association with The Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), has released a co-authored report named ‘2021 Trends in Outsourcing’.

The report uncovers two major 2021 trends in outsourcing- an increase in outsourcing contracts and service providers creating sophisticated digital capabilities’ businesses to meet the needs of enterprise customers.

The first key trend predicts an increase in outsourcing contracts this year, as many companies were grappling with their business continuity plan due to several reasons like lack of infrastructure and inability to transition to a 100 per cent work-at-home model. The second key trend focuses on how service providers have begun creating separate business units to make digital capabilities easily available to meet the requirements of large enterprise customers.

Leading service providers have made great advances in sophisticated digital capabilities, including artificial intelligence and robotic process automation. This has led them to identify opportunities to effectively scale operations and accelerate development of digital expertise in support functions across enterprise customers.

The report highlights the trends and patterns that are going to be mainstream in support outsourcing in 2021 and how enterprises can leverage the right digital support partner. It showcases how the outsourcing value proposition has evolved in areas such as near-shore outsourcing, outsourcing of non-traditional functions like sales that form a significant portion of costs in XaaS companies and the rise of outcome-based commercial models.

It also talks about how outsourcing can enable organizations to expand into new geographies. The pandemic has ushered in an era of work-from-anywhere which has further dwindled location dependencies and provided a fillip to remote operations.

John Ragsdale, Distinguished Vice President, Technology Research, TSIA, said, “Technology companies are increasingly forming strategic relationships with outsourcers to not only help scale support operations cost-effectively and guarantee a high-quality customer experience but also to accelerate digital transformation. 2021 will see this trend amplify further and service providers like CSS Corp are well placed to emerge as strong outsourcing partners for technology organizations.”

“The Covid-19 crisis has emphasized the need to adopt digital technologies to build agility and resilience in the organization’s operations. Technology service providers like CSS Corp, have deep industry expertise in enabling business transformation for its customers and driving impact by blending human ingenuity with cutting-edge intelligent technology tools.

As organizations look to strategize in a post-Covid business environment, it will be critical for them to strengthen their core capabilities while partnering with apt service providers to help them in their digital journeys, driving innovation and creating better experiences for customers.” said Sunil Mittal, Executive Vice President, CSS Corp.

Prioritizing technology innovation in response to a rapidly changing world has never been more important. The ‘2021 Trends in Outsourcing’ report is a useful tool for companies wanting to rapidly accelerate their digital automation journey with insights on effectively partnering with technology service providers to leverage their full potential.

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Survey shows companies in Indian cities plan to hire freshers between February and April

Hiring spree

Around 15% of companies in Indian cities plan to hire freshers between February and April 2021, shows a survey by learning solutions firm TeamLease Edtech shared exclusively with ET in February 2021. “Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, hiring of freshers continues to be on a strong growth trajectory,” Shantanu Rooj, chief executive of TeamLease EdTech, said. “For the period February-April 2021, freshers hiring intent has improved by 2.5 times from the lockdown period, and, as the economy opens up, it is expected to go up further.”

Top job roles

The survey covered more than 800 companies across 18 sectors and 14 cities, and asked them about their intent to hire graduation freshers from both engineering and non-engineering backgrounds. The top job roles freshers can expect to be employed in are business development or sales professionals, graphic designers, digital marketing associates, content writers and web developers.

Who are the top employers

IT companies are the top employers, with 24% of them expressing intent to hire, followed by telecom companies (21%) and startups in e-commerce and technology (19%). This is followed by healthcare and pharmaceuticals, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and financial services. The lowest intent to hire was in travel and hospitality.

Necessary skills

The top soft skills in demand from employers are reasoning, analytical thinking, complex problem solving, and active learning and critical reasoning. Among technical skills, spreadsheet skills, product/service marketing, data analytics, web development and mobile app development are most in demand.

Bright-eyed employees

“Freshers constituted a significant section of our hires. We interviewed and identified over 500 candidates across colleges. The largest chunk joined from October 2020 onwards after completing their college formalities,” says Brijesh Balakrishnan, SVP, Talent Fulfilment and Digital, CSS Corp told TOI in an earlier report.

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