2018

Ways in which telecom companies drive competitive advantage using AI

Digitization has shifted the competitive boundaries in this sector with voice and messaging businesses experiencing a downward spiral due to the frantic use of social media channels as a medium of communication.

The telecom industry has undergone a radical transformation in the last few years.

Digital and new age technologies have also presented a plethora of opportunities for telecom companies to rebuild their market positions, and re-engineer their existing business processes and products to delight customers. Adopting newer technologies can create strong competitive advantage for telecom companies, while improving customer engagement.

With increasing unpredictability in the market, magnitude of the competition and ever-changing customer expectations, organizations need to renovate, innovate and evolve much faster than the market to stay relevant. Several leading industry influencers, analysts and futurists have reaffirmed that AI can help an organization endure the storm of changes in the ecosystem.

Just as electricity transformed almost everything 100 years ago, today we have a hard time thinking of an industry that we don’t think AI will transform in the next several years.

Powering the Experience Economy with AI

Demand for personalized customer experiences across different industries is fueling the AI boom. McKinsey projects that telecom, high tech, and financial services are the leading early adopters of machine learning and AI to gain competitive and internal process efficiencies.

Forward-thinking telecom companies are increasingly plugging in conversational artificial intelligence in their strategic investment roadmaps to leverage it for customer service functions. Regardless of wherever you fall in the AI spectrum, the fact that speaks volumes is that we’re foraying into a key transformative cycle across most industries.

Artificial intelligence is poised to unleash the next wave of disruption in telecom. The advent of artificial intelligence, sharing economies, advanced automation and modern currencies are likely to disrupt the face of the telecom business landscape.

The next few years are expected to be the golden age of the consumer, who’d have more control and choices than ever before. This continued evolution in consumer demand, coupled with proliferated smartphone usage, will continue to drive fundamental changes in the way consumers react to services and have taken the consumer-brand collaboration to the whole new level.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) & The Telecom Industry

The telecom industry is increasingly adopting AI, primarily triggered by the enterprise requirements to drive viable efficiencies and consumer demand for contextualization. It helps telecom operators in assessing the offer conversion rates and content usage trends. AI also plays a critical role in subscriber profiling that helps in extending custom offers to subscribers based on their specific needs, at the right time.

AI can help incredibly in the support department of telecom companies by detecting the problem and take actions autonomously within the policy framework. It can also predict system failure and prompt the remedial actions to combat the situation. With 5G network, high-density urban deployments would be needed, which will generate many patterns that would not be possible for humans to manage, but which AI can.

Why does Telecom need AI now?

Disruptive technologies such as IoT have created a number of endpoints for the telecom operators. The Advent of 5G is likely to lead to high-density urban deployments, which would create multitudes of patterns that’d be practically impossible for humans to manage but a task made easy by self-learning AI.

AI is likely to impact the telecom industry across a wide range of areas such as:

  • Traffic classification
  • Anomaly detection
  • Resource utilization
  • Network optimization
  • Network orchestration
  • Humanizing telecom customer service through AI-powered chatbots
  • Creating personalized and adaptive customer journeys

Betting on AI to lead the expectations game in telecom customer support

AI can deliver a certain level of responsiveness that isn’t humanly possible. A Forrester report on Customer Service Trends discusses the concept of pre-emptive customer service. The telecom sector companies have now started to tap the power of intelligent virtual agents to supplement their static self-service content with conversational interfaces. Proactive support, self-service, call deflections are now standard. This proactive customer experience offers telecom companies with a competitive advantage in the form of increased productivity and efficiency gains and will solve most of the issues related to customer care, network coverage, billing, service/product offering and many more. Personalization of service and care would witness a new benchmark. Integration of omni-channels and knowledge sources helps a great deal in this transformation. It’s a win-win situation for telecom companies and customers, alike.

AI to play a key role in automating the telecom networks

IDC has predicted that 31.5% of the telecommunication organizations are mainly focusing to utilize current infrastructure and 63.5% are making new technology investments for AI systems. The Counterpoint Research indicates that the AI application in mobile networks covers three applications – Self Optimizing Networks (SONs), Software Defined Networks (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and enablement of neural networks. SONs are likely to be the first to arrive and these would enable the operators to automatically optimize the network quality that’s based on traffic information by region and time zone, powered by different machine learning algorithms.

Conclusion

The telecom industry, by virtue of its scale and continued growth, is a perfect playfield for highly sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation technologies. Leveraging this disruptive technology, telecom companies can dramatically cut down their operating costs, while improving their quality and speed of services and resultant customer experience. Machines have already started reading the network content that determines how to route the network traffic. The next frontier would be self-optimizing networks that are based on the existing conditions, pre-set goals and limits. However, we are just at the beginning. The telecom industry is poised to see even bigger changes, driven by AI, with the ultimate goal of delighting the customers.

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Contextualization is the new personalization: Sunil Mittal, CSS Corp

By Srikanth RP – Editor, Express Computer

The IT services ecosystem is changing rapidly with automation being the norm than the exception. In this era of digital disruption, every IT services firm is reinventing itself to adapt itself to the new era. Sunil Mittal, EVP, and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, CSS Corp, tells EC, on how his firm is integrating capabilities of AI, machine learning and deep learning to predict network related issues and proactively manage complex ecosystems effortlessly

 

How has your firm adapted to the digital era where automation has become the norm?

Today’s digital age has enabled increased collaboration within the business ecosystem. Businesses are focused on creating a larger ecosystem by building synergistic relationships with partners, suppliers, and vendors to drive better accountability and deliver seamless customer experience.

Let’s take an example of the telecom industry that impacts end-consumers, enterprises, and industries. Telcos of the 90s largely operated in silos. With the advent of digital, today telcos have created an integrated ecosystem that involves various stakeholders like news agencies, content aggregators, payment gateways, over the top (OTT) media services and record labels. This model significantly increases service consumption and average revenue per customer (ARPC) through a single platform.

Organizations are rethinking their customer value chain to adapt to the new realities and demands in a collaborative business model. In this context, lever technologies like AI and automation play a larger role in driving predictability, faster time-to-market and new revenue models. So, today automation is not a technology decision but a business decision.

Also, businesses are re-looking into ways to engage with millennial customers, bringing in greater personalization, and embracing digital to manage customer expectations and growth. Today, the success of any transformative initiative in organizations across industries is largely dependent on the contextual applicability of digital and automation in business processes. Generalized adoption of automation does not yield business outcomes.

At CSS Corp, we strongly believe contextualization is the new personalization and that’s our way forward. Reimagining customer engagements through contextualization are the core of CSS Corp’s services vision. AI-based automation is an integral part of our service delivery organization supporting global customers in various strategic and modernization initiatives.

CSS Corp’s intelligent automation framework brings together two different platforms that drives modularity and nimbleness to meet the evolving customer expectations: Contelli (Intelligent automation for IT operations (automation of back-office operations in cloud, data centers, telecom networks and security) and Cognitive Customer Experience Platform, which is a smart agent solution (front-office solution for customer support, customer interactions and customer analytics))

Our approach in intelligent automation solutions for business and IT operations are largely based on customers’ business critical metrics and more closely aligned with factors impacting business outcomes. Our automation strategy did not develop out of labor arbitrage but rather as a driver to deliver superior customer experience, provide instant gratification and delight customers.

In that last 18 months, we have invested heavily in our ‘Innovation Labs’. CSS Corp’s Innovation Labs act as an entry point for clients to access the new age capabilities that augment customers’ existing capabilities, find solutions to crucial business problems, and drive new growth streams.

Today it’s a 70-member team with expertise in various technologies like TensorFlow, big data, BigTable, Hadoop. Across our teams, you will find UX designers, extreme programmers, big data engineers, AI & NLP experts, data scientists and as well as professionals from diverse fields like linguists, behavioral researchers, and domain specialists. We expect to double the capacity in the next 12 months.

 

Can you give us specific examples where Artificial Intelligence has made a big impact on the services deployed?

We live in very exciting times. The AI debate is intensifying. There is a constant commentary on it from some of the finest thought leaders of our times. Some are for it with gusto and some asking for caution. One thing is certain that advances in AI have accelerated in recent times like no other in the past few decades. Artificial intelligence is pushing the envelope on what machines are capable of doing in all facets of life. It is very clear that AI will become much more pervasive and intertwined in our day to day life. It will change the way we live in fundamental ways.

AI is the ultimate frontier in technology. Organizations are investing significantly in AI and it will continue to happen with AI becoming more of an edge than an enabler for businesses. However, we often see organizations struggle to effectively leverage and implement AI capabilities to drive customer experience, efficiency, and productivity improvements. It is about finding the right use-case and reimagine it with AI support.

One of the successful use cases could be the customer support industry where AI based virtual agents enable the convergence of human and machine intelligence. This results in improved business agility, operational excellence, and resilience, and brings about better customer experience. According to Gartner, non-voice interactions in customer support are likely to rise from 55% in 2015 to 85% by 2020. Virtual agents offer personalized and context-driven support, with a human-like interaction. The ability to respond instantaneously and accurately to customers’ questions and helping them in decision-making processes has made AI an integral part of brands’ customer experience ecosystem.

For instance, our AI platform for front-office modernization, Cognitive Customer Experience Platform, integrates with all customer channels like voice, email, chat, and website, and provides a seamless and consistent omnichannel experience. It offers predictive intelligence, automated queuing, routing and channel allocation. Cognitive Customer Experience Platform can offer personalized recommendations based on customer analytics. It can indicate customer emotions, intentions, and relevant signals during real-time conversations, thus improving customer satisfaction levels.

Today, Cognitive Customer Experience Platform is the nerve center of CSS Corp’s customer experience (CX) engagements driving customer-centricity. Cognitive Customer Experience Platform recently won the 2017 Silver Stevie International Awards and has been chosen as the Best New Product/Service of the Year – Platform as a Service. Our platform has garnered rave reviews from reputed industry analysts for its novel usage of AI in simplifying customer engagements.

 

How has the focus on automation helped your firm? Can you give us some measurable statistics?

Demand for intelligent and contextualized services across industries is fueling the need for convergence of artificial intelligence (AI), analytics and automation. Forward-looking enterprises are willing to plug in AI in their strategic roadmaps to harmonize customer experience, automate IT operations and modernize support workflows.

In this context, CSS Corp’s Contelli, our intelligent automation platform helps realize the fullest value of hybrid IT infrastructure investments. Contelli is a context-driven automation platform that promotes proactive customer engagement by transforming the core of IT operations. Contelli can detect and analyze the vast volume of data and automate IT processes or workflows while learning and adapting to the processes. The platform can surface probabilistic failure patterns, map dependencies, identify uncharacteristic system behavior and resolve issues ahead of the impact.

For instance, today we manage 4 million networking devices across 85,000 stores for a large retailer through Contelli. We integrate capabilities of AI, machine learning and deep learning to predict network related issues and proactively manage complex ecosystems effortlessly resulting in 40% reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO), 30% productivity improvements, 97% availability of network connectivity and 98% resolution rate.

Our existing customers and prospects have shown utmost interest and enthusiasm to implement Contelli to modernize IT operations. Our customers feel Contelli is far superior compared to any AI solution offered by other leading players in the IT Industry. Contelli today supports 36 million events with over 2500 inbuilt automation solutions achieving 50%-85% automated resolution based on the maturity of customers’ IT ecosystem. We also use Contelli internally to manage our organizational IT infrastructure. Hence, our focus on intelligent automation has helped us build our client base significantly besides helping smoother internal IT operations.

 

Opportunities for your firm in emerging areas such as Artificial Intelligence?

We are moving towards a conversational economy where the voice is the new frontier. A few spoken words to a smart virtual assistant can help accomplish a seemingly complex business transaction. As AI technology is maturing, businesses are plugging in conversational AI in their strategic investment roadmaps to leverage it for their customer service function.

At CSS Corp, we have embarked on a new journey in AI to disrupt the customer experience ecosystem with a new model called ‘Conversational X’. Conversational X aims at simplifying and personalizing customer engagements through AI based voice platforms. We offer AI-based solutions that enable customers to have powerful, impactful conversations with brands and helps them with insights and a new radical vision to solve a challenge.

Our focus and investments in AI are helping enterprises adopt the right customer engagement and support strategy and move from traditional models to outcome-based service models that help them identify new revenue streams.

Let’s better understand the key tenets of Conversational [X] that can help enterprises and even SMBs to personalize customer interactions. A new era of customer experience has dawned upon us. Voice assistants and social messaging have given birth to the intelligent experience economy and made the customer experience more conversational than transactional. You can ask Apple’s voice assistant – Siri – to get you weather updates, find out and help you buy specific movies, play your favorite songs and a gamut of other specific activities.

For example, Amazon’s Alexa can help you perform several tasks like booking a doctor’s appointment; sports scores and game times; important event dates, hear the latest news; tracking traffic; manage calendars, to-do lists and shopping lists, set alarms and timers; read Kindle books and play audio books; make purchases; control smart home devices, etc. Many B2C businesses are using conversational intelligence with bots as a platform for offering customer support. We offer tech support services with this new conversational model that would field customers’ questions and get more real-time access to resolutions. This boosts overall business efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Conversational commerce refers to real-time customer communication through different messaging applications and chatbots. It fits into each of the distinct steps in the customer purchase journey. These platforms empower businesses to generate a sense of need for their products to potential customers. The chatbots also act as personal shopping assistants to customers as well as provide recommendations.

 

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Shift left and get right

In today’s rapidly evolving environment, customers are at the center of the business ecosystem. Millennial customers being tech savvy with high expectations are looking for fast and easy solutions and instant gratification. Customers looking for support for consumable goods don’t necessarily look to queue up to talk to customer support representatives, but choose quick self-help options. They are channel agnostic and often prefer that necessary information is made digitally available. And if their providers are unable to provide them with this omni-channel customer experience, they have limited tolerance and often prefer to switch to a competitor.

To overcome typical customer support and channel management issues, organizations have started to embrace “Shift left” principle that moves the issue resolution as close as possible to the front-line and the customer, at the lowest cost level.

Shift Left accelerates case resolutions and requests by enlightening the customer and agents with low cost, self-help options that lets them solve cases themselves and become brand champs. This setup cuts down calls to support saving revenue and turnaround time. Shift Left also allows agents to be critical and on top of their jobs by utilizing the latest Knowledge Bases, AI and Smart Support. The revenue gained can be pumped into customer experience initiatives which further augments the support mechanism by taking the customer through guided points of resolution.

Shift Left relates to IT Services Management (ITSM), and as a discipline minimizes business and productivity impact on the customer. Many enterprises consider this principle in terms of Service Modeling, for it offers various desirable benefits, for both short and long-term gains.
The Shift Left strategy is critical in showing a commitment to superior-grade customer service and experience while freeing up costlier project resources so that they can focus on executing more mission-critical projects in a timely manner.

Key Elements for Implementing the Shift Left Principle
(a) Knowledge Management: Implementing an effective Knowledge Management process calls for a shift in mindset, which must slowly get embedded in the DNA of the organization’s work culture. This would provide a framework for creating a repository of best practices of customer service in a knowledge-intensive environment.

A Knowledge Management System is the core of any Shift-Left approach. The repeated updates and content refresh keeps agents ticking and helps them close more cases than before. It augments engineer’s productivity making them more focused to deliver when it’s necessary avoiding expensive training costs and alignment programs.

(b) Automation: It’s indeed the most tangible way of reducing cost and boosting performance. Automation helps witness a significant drop in fault percentage, a dramatic increase in process efficiency and drives cost optimization. Applied within a Shift Left system, it removes sluggishness from the system, makes workflows sync and “in-line” with other sub systems bringing long standing efficiencies.

(c) Self-service: This adds value to the customer, and can be the best delivery channel. It results in higher user satisfaction and more measurable business results. Finding the right metrics to measure self-service performance is however too significant to demonstrate any reduction in service low costs.
Imbibing self-service for self-help includes access to portals like FAQs, Wikis, and online references and makes use of all options that are not cost bound. This helps customers understand their challenge and solution at their own pace, making them brand evangelists over time and deflects calls to the support center. It’s a win-win for the enterprise as they don’t incur costs for this support function, yet gain customers.

 

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5G: How It Will Change The Network World?

Gartner’s Hype cycle chronicles the innovation triggers that is re-defining the technology trends of the future. This year’s future-ready movements include the dominance of immersive technologies, digitalized eco-systems, democratized AI and ubiquitous infrastructure. The future connected space is made possible through the tactile internet, ubiquitous IoT and hyper communications that are underpinned by 5G infrastructure.

The exponential advancement in the telecommunications trajectory is entering it next paradigm shift with 5G technologies. From the 1G analog phones; human have pushed ahead with the mobile revolution through 2G, 3G, and the current 4G standards. The decade-old fourth generation has exploded into our consciousness with high-speed internet at 100 kbps with information, entertainment and connectivity at our fingertips.

As per Cisco Virtual Networking Index, global IP traffic will triple with a CAGR of 22% over the next three years. One billion internet users will reach out through 3.4 devices consuming over 194 Exabyte of data per month. Machine to machine connections will reach over 12.2 billion engendering an IoT revolution.

A transformative force for global change

Imagine a world with no barriers where communication shrinks space and time. High-speed data with reduced latency and low energy consumption promises light speed connections with near zero information loss. This facilitates businesses, governments, organizations, and communities to seamlessly interact, proactively remove obstacles and extract high efficiencies. This is an innovation trigger that can re-invent the way of life.

5G is not an extension of 4G speed. It leverages the data crunching potential of cloud, virtual networks, edge computing, IoT and more to deliver mission-critical services worldwide. University of Surrey’s 5G innovation center reports an average network speed of 800 Gbps that will bring new dimensions to instant gratification. Qualcomm reports over $12 trillion in 5G services that can impact on how humans work and play on earth and in space.

For example, high-speed data is critical for autonomous vehicles. Seamless urban traffic to 5G driven Vehicle-to-Everything communication will make accidents passé’ and snarls redundant. Lightning speed connections and responses where vehicles share information with urban artifacts and architecture, fellow vehicles and with pedestrians will completely transform how we manufacture cars, design our cities, and use machinery and so on. The ramifications can be felt in industries such as agriculture, mining, construction, transportation, retail, etc.

Re-defining human connect

Human connects will be unconstrained by geographies with the evolution of internet speeds. Researchers are excited about Edge or Fog computing which involves personal cloud power for people.  Imagine billions of clouds churning out data that are instantly converted to actionable insights for personalized responses.

Healthcare is another sector that will reap the benefits of 5G connectivity. The “Tactile Internet” which is an amalgamation of real and virtual objects will blur the boundaries of reality. Ubiquitous sensory wearables can seamlessly map movements and project alternate realities across spaces. This means surgeons can use the tactile internet in telesurgery for patients across the globe. Data streaming through sensory devices can provide real-time health information for doctorxs to deliver accurate diagnosis a world away. But the tactile internet is only possible with low latency high-speed 5G connectivity. And this is not a sci-fi fantasy world, companies like Huawei are actively investing to power the possibilities of the tactile internet.

Why businesses consider 5G to be elusive

Capital investments, lack of business need and customer adoption stand in the way for true 5G adoption. 53% of executives believe that there is no compelling reason to shift to 5G immediately. But most of them are unified in their views about the long-term potential for high-speed 5G connectivity.

A large majority cite high capital investments as a deterrent towards 5G investments. But experts point out that exclusive 5G networks need not be built as it will seamlessly connect with 4G cells. Mobile network operators will be spending less than $20,000 inclusive of all costs for upgrading existing nodes. With more migrations happening to 5G, technological advancements will eventually allow the peaceful co-existence of 4G and 5G spectrums resulting in a better allocation of services ensuring cost savings.

5G – A change of a lifetime

Every technology does have its detractors. Therefore, it is prudent for market challengers to keep 5G within their crosshairs to ride over the disruption curve that will explode in the next decade.

Bearish outlooks are not marring the long march towards 5G. Technological advancements in autonomous vehicles augmented reality and AI is fueling this surge. The emergence of SpaceX, functional humanoids like Sophia and Smart cities across the world will necessitate 5G connectivity. Smart devices can work together only if data connectivity is 10 times faster than 4G networks and latency drops by a factor of 10. With customers demanding immersive experiences that transcends space and time, it is imperative that businesses remain bullish about 5G capabilities.

The author, Phani Kishore Burre is Senior Vice President & Global Delivery Head – Networks, Cloud, Infrastructure & Security Services at CSS Corp

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CSS Corp recognized as major contender in cloud enablement services by Everest Group PEAK Matrix

CSS Corp, a new-age IT services and technology support company, today announced that the Everest Group has recognized the company as a ‘Major Contender’ in its PEAK MatrixTM for Cloud Enablement Services. Demonstrating its innovation and growth in the market, CSS Corp was strongly positioned for its ability to delivery flexible, on-demand, scalable and elastic services which make them well-positioned to help enterprises transform from legacy systems to new age digital ecosystems.

Everest’s PEAK MATRIX is a framework to assess the relative market impact, overall vision and capability of service providers. The report provides a view of 20+ vendors and recognizes key players with advanced cloud expertise that help enterprises in seamless transition to the cloud.

CSS Corp’s Cloud Migration Services enables enterprises to simplify migration planning for agile cloud adoption, remove cloud transformation complexities, and move beyond IaaS to improve cost and efficiency, resulting in better customer experience and faster time to market.

CSS Corp has developed a complete suite of solutions to shift from a “program” to “continuous delivery” model for cloud adoption.  Key cloud solutions are:

  • CloudMAP – Automated cloud migration assessment and planning for a specific business process or enterprise workload. Reduces migration planning time by at least 40%.
  • CloudPATH – Simplified, industrialized and predictable method of migrating enterprise workload through re-factoring, re-platforming and live workload migration. Improves success rate of migration by 30-60%.
  • CloudDRIVE – Operational readiness from day 1 in the cloud using Next-gen predictive operations and automation platform for continuous optimization. Saves cloud spend by 20-25%.

Speaking on the recognition, Manish Tandon, CEO, CSS Corp, said, “Cloud is becoming a mainstream component of enterprise IT ecosystems. With a plethora of cloud migration services available today, it has become important for enterprises to choose the right service provider with the right set of capabilities. CSS Corp’s Cloud Migration and Management services makes a compelling business case on both technical and commercial aspects.

He further added, “We are delighted at being recognized by Everest for our capabilities in the cloud migration segment, which reflects the value we deliver to our customers through our differentiated cloud offerings and innovation in service delivery.
About CSS Corp

CSS Corp is a new age IT Services and Technology Support company that harnesses the power of AI, automation, analytics, cloud and digital to address customer needs. The company partners with leading enterprises to help realize their strategic business outcomes. Its team of 5,500 technology professionals across 16 global locations are passionate about helping customers differentiate and succeed.

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The clearer the CSO role, the easier to get budget approved: Mushtaq Ahmed, CSS Corp CSO Online

By Vaishnavi J Desai – Correspondent IDG Media
Indian enterprises aren’t new to the threat landscapes; but still seem to struggle with cyberattacks. The common knowledge would be to increase security budgets, increase the efficiency of infrastructure, etc. But the one role in the organization that can help navigate threat is that of a CISO/ CSO.

In an exclusive interaction with CSOonline.in, Mushtaq Ahmed, CIO and CSO, CSS Corp, talks about CISO’s biggest challenges in the IT industry, the role of a CISO in determining security budget and how to correct the IT strategy to combat increased threats.

What are a CISO’s biggest challenges in the IT industry today?

A recent IT security report shows that, only 38 percent global organizations affirm that they are ready to handle a sophisticated cyberattack. With teams lacking specialized cybersecurity professionals, and the ever-increasing landscape that cyber terrorists are covering under their belt every year – it has become a tough challenge for CISOs to keep their organizations safe.

To top that, the economies of cyber threat are becoming attractive for hackers who are increasingly finding newer ways and means for causing damage. Using sophisticated technologies, they are now shifting from volume-based to more target-specific attacks. Hackers use the weak points of a system (that they identify while performing reconnaissance), and exploit these areas to gain access, plant malware, launch remote attack, and cause disruption to the organizational security.

The boom of IoT devices today poses great security challenges as these devices are poorly managed and offer easy opening for attackers. Additionally, the attackers are using techniques such as sandboxing to be more successful and to evade detection by behavior analysis tools. A big challenge for the CISOs is thus to guide in the development of strong processes and mechanisms that can thwart such attacks.

Phishing, DDoS, and botnet are the most common attacks that do not spare even big brands like Netflix. The latest addition to the list of threats last year were Ransomware and WannaCry that targeted systems that were using outdated software and equipment. These threats make patches and regular updates a critical activity that CISOs need to track, apart from implementing practices such as regular training about procedures that employees need to follow to safeguard against the threats.

What is your organization’s cybersecurity challenge?

In today’s rapidly evolving landscape, at times one wonders if security is only a problem of IT alone, as it spans across the entire organization. However, at CSS Corp, we have aligned ourselves to lead and implement safeguards and tool-based protection against targeted phishing attacks (CXO fraud scams), SPAM, ransomware, and data leaks.

Another challenge (and focus) for us is to safeguard our data. There are multiple copies of data backups at off-site (datacenter, cloud) that if not checked, may prove vulnerable. For the same, we have to ensure protection against every access and entry point. To overcome the challenge of keeping our staff updated about the latest threats, we need to keep working on spreading periodic awareness by means of posters, wallpapers and through internal mailers.

What role should a CISO play while determining the security budget of an organization?

The earlier an attack is controlled (the kill phase), the easier it is to prevent an attack. Traditional signature-based defense mechanisms are not enough to defend against AI-powered attacks.

To ensure that the organization has the right technology and tools, as well as agility to thwart attack chains at every stage, CISOs need to regularly audit and update the investments being made in the security-related tools and processes. Organizations having a clearly defined role for CISOs make it easy for them to get approvals for the budget increases. For an organization to be secure from any cyber threats, investments are required to be made in technology, people, and policy and finally must have a process of enforcement.

In today’s scenario, investments need to be made in security analytics platforms and technologies with AI and ML capability that can detect evolving threats and prevent zero-day attacks. Some organizations may even plan for a contingency fund to handle potential financial loss due to cyber-attack.

Despite increased security budgets, the threats are on the rise. Where is the correction necessary?

For having the necessary curbs and controls on the rising threats, a continual risk assessment must be in place instead of a point-in-time assessment. There must be regular awareness campaigns regarding cybersecurity across the organizations, and identification of insider threats. The board members and senior management must be actively engaged in all activities pertaining to cybersecurity, and there must be a 360-degree visibility to infrastructure and supporting security framework. Having a robust and comprehensive access management and use of AI and ML tools strengthens an organization’s ability to detect a threat early in the attack chain.

 

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How CSS CORP is betting on AI, automation, analytics to open new revenue streams

California-based IT services company CSS Corp, which has offices in Chennai and Bengaluru, has been investing in new technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, and analytics over the past few years to accelerate revenue growth. This renewed focus has helped the company, which is majority-owned by Swiss private equity firm Partners Group and had hired former Infosys Ltd executive Manish Tandon as its CEO in August 2016, report an 11% growth in revenue for 2017-18 to $158 million. In a conversation with TechCircle, CSS chief delivery officer Nishikant Nigam and chief information officer Mushtaq Ahmad explain the company’s initiatives in emerging technologies. Edited excerpts:

How is CSS using emerging technologies such as automation, cloud computing, and analytics?

Nigam: CSS works significantly with the business-side stakeholders in an organization who are responsible for the customer experience and revenue generation. Use of contextualized intelligence is critical in such scenarios. Adoption of emerging technologies like AI, analytics, and automation can accelerate usage of contextualized intelligence.

Our digital solutions leverage automation, AI and analytics to help customers combat disruptions effectively. We are helping pharma companies in driving patient adoption for vaccinations through deep analytics and AI; helping digital marketing teams in consumer packaged goods companies with creative interventions and insights on customer behavior, and driving predictive intelligence in managing the business and IT operations.

What products and services are being offered under the aegis of these new technologies? 

Nigam: In the past 20-plus months, we have invested heavily in our Innovation Labs. The Labs act as an entry point for clients to access new-age capabilities that augment customers’ capabilities, find solutions to crucial business problems and drive new growth streams.

Today, it’s a 70-member team with expertise in various technologies like TensorFlow, Big Data, Bigtable, and Hadoop. Across our teams, you will find UX (user experience) designers, extreme programmers, Big Data engineers, AI, and NLP (Natural Language Processing) experts, data scientists and as well as professionals from diverse fields like linguists, behavioral researchers, and domain specialists.

The labs have developed Cognitive Customer Experience Platform, a contextual AI platform for customer engagement; Contelli, an intelligent automation platform for IT operations; and  Active Insights, an AI-led customer analytics solution.

What industries are you targeting for these solutions? How do these help save cost and time?

Nigam: We have carved out a niche for ourselves in select industries like technology, media and telecommunications; retail and consumer packaged goods to handle digital and managed services expectations of our customers.

For instance, CSS helped a large consumer packaged goods company to modernize its digital marketing ecosystem through the adoption of digital technologies. We came up with a solution that helped the customer to launch global campaigns on the fly. The time-to-market rate was seven times faster and total cost of ownership reduced 60% through rapid adoption of cloud and automation.

Our customers in the telecommunications sector are looking for solutions to modernize and optimize their technical support operations to effectively manage the customer experience.

For instance, Cognitive Customer Experience Platform has helped a couple of our telecom customers reduce the cost involved to run a technical support operation by 30-40% through unified knowledge management and automation.

In a recent case, Cognitive Customer Experience Platform transformed the customer experience of a company specializing in VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls from the ground up. Cognitive Customer Experience Platform amplified agent capacity and efficiency to 65%, reduced the learning curve from 90 to just 15 days — helping agents to get on the floor faster. Using its automation capabilities, Cognitive Customer Experience Platform improved agent performance by 80% — reducing and removing all redundant tasks.

How has the adoption of such technologies helped CSS boost its revenue?

Nigam: We are seeing significant acceptance of our digital services among our customers. In the past two years, large portions of our investments have been dedicated to building digital and customer-centric solutions. These solutions are opening new revenue streams, not just for us but for our customers as well.

Our digital practice has grown significantly in the last 12 months and has opened new opportunities for us. Today, we are managing interesting analytics engagements for some of our customers that have a direct impact on their revenue and customer retention.

We are helping to discover new ways of doing business by leveraging new digital technologies. These kind of opportunities are usually content-driven, co-creation type opportunities, which tend to be smaller than the traditional opportunities. However, they are extremely strategic and open up channels and avenues for downstream revenue creation, both for service providers and customers, which the traditional services cannot generate.

Is there any particular initiative that encourages employees to come up with new solutions?

Nigam: To augment our efforts towards enhancing our technology competency, we launched our digital-career progression framework called Reimagine. This reorients our service lines and re-aligns the growth of our employees to meet the growing business needs.

The Reimagine framework promotes a multi-disciplinary approach towards acquiring new domain and technology skill sets. The framework includes structured learning paths around AI, automation, data science, machine learning and other topics in a logical progression.

What are the cybersecurity challenges you face as a digital IT services company?

Mushtaq Ahmad: With the rapidly evolving landscape, at times one wonders if security is only a problem of IT alone as it spans across the entire organization. However, at CSS, we have aligned ourselves to lead and implement safeguards and tool-based protection against targeted phishing attacks, spam, ransomware and data leaks.

Another challenge (and focus) for us is to safeguard our data. There are multiple copies of data backups at offsite places (data center, cloud), which, if not checked, may prove vulnerable. For the same, we ensure robust security protection against every access and entry point.

How has Tandon’s appointment as CEO helped revenue?

Nishikant Nigam: CSS had management rejig in August 2016, which led to the appointment of Manish Tandon, our CEO. The first goal was to arrest the sluggish growth in the company. Once that was done, there was no looking back. The revenue of the company has been showing an optimistic growth trajectory, growing at 3% quarter-on-quarter, leading to annual double-digit growth in 2017-18.

There were some under-invested areas like sales and marketing, which have been strengthened with an increased presence in the US market, closer to our clients. We have also been able to build the Innovation Labs.

 

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How to Leverage Geospatial Data to Map Locations and add Business Value

The story of Robinson Crusoe who survives the storm and the wilderness is one of the most enduring classics in English literature. This genre of humans surviving in the wild against all odds is immortalized on screen through films like “Castaway” and “Life of Pi.” However, the emergence of GPS, Google Maps, and satellite imagery has reduced the meaning of the word “lost” to a fictional term. A large number of people on the move, from an adventurer to a top executive are using sophisticated street maps, satellite imagery, and route planners to leverage location intelligence and identify the area of choice. This form of intelligence combines the capabilities of geospatial technologies, data analytics, and artificial intelligence to visualize the geographical patterns, routes, and spatial trends to plan, map, and optimize the positional dimension.

Location — The New Value Multiplier

Geospatial technologies facilitating high-end locational intelligence will be the catalyst for a smart, inclusive community. Internet of Things, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence integrated with spatial intelligence will transform the way we live and work. For example, United Nations Smart Cities initiative aims to create self-sustained urban pockets to combat the bottlenecks of congestion. By 2050, 70% of the global population will be concentrated in cities and planners are turning to information and communication technologies to create secure living zones for all.  Location data gathering is made possible through the network of connected sensors that delivers real-time information of community movement, utility deliveries, traffic, crime, etc. Geospatial technologies can use the power of IoT and analytics to provide real-time insights to manage basic amenities such as power and streamlining postal operations.  This form of data combined with market intelligence, demographics, and operational data can be used for building marketing networks, creating telecom infrastructure, or scheduling healthcare visits in smart cities.

Streamlining delivery- Mitigating Risks

Global supply chain experts are also increasingly depending on locational intelligence. Amazon’s highly efficient supply chain is enabled through a plethora of sensors, RFID tags, and next-gen geospatial tools. Amazon’s delivery center has complete visibility into 680 million packages delivered with real-time information of its position on planet earth.

This visibility becomes imperative for cold chain operators wherein locational information necessitates quick actions. For e.g., if a truck of life-saving vaccines is stuck due to document holdups, then executives need to take action in split seconds. IoT enabled sensors can drive real-time asset monitoring to provide reports and alternatives needed to salvage the situation. The stranded truck can then be re-directed to the closest airport or land transport location wherein the shipment can move ahead. Spatial integrated real-time asset monitoring is helping organizations to move away from reactive actions or post-mortem analytics to predictive analytics to ensure cold chain efficiencies.

Location analysis- Creating the Impact

Here are a few industry areas which are bound to witness a resounding impact through the use of geospatial data.

Telecom: 5G is bound to revolutionize mobile internet connectivity. This technology is driving a confluence of digital technologies such as big data, AI, cloud, and automation, to enable seamless, low latency, high bandwidth connectivity, and bring in a paradigm shift in customer experiences. For transmitting high-frequency 5G waves, accurate geospatial data is a must, since the waves can get disrupted even by the most negligible blocks (e.g. raindrop). Geospatial data can also boost location-based advertising, drive adoption of network-driven wearable devices, and help evolve new digital products and services.  New distributed messaging systems are also evolving which enables the transfer of large data volumes through geo-distributed replication to multiple data centers.

Automotive: The advent of digital maps has changed the way we perceive the world. It is now possible to quantify the time required to travel from one point to the other or to decide on the fastest travel route. Though widely used apps such as Google maps help in leveraging geospatial data, its real business use is in the area of logistics and transportation. Key intervention areas include mapping inventory locations, analyze faster routes, track vehicles, and govern dispatch schedules. Location data is widely used in building safe driverless cars for collision avoidance, parking assist sensors, mapless navigation, vehicle localization, mobile eye implementations, and build high definition maps.

Utilities: Renewable energy firms and utility firms leverage location analytics continually to optimize service outcomes and monitor equipment health for optimal performance. Geospatial data can be used to track power consumption and weather patterns to foresee future consumption needs, and when synergized with IoT, it can help in the overall performance of power grids. A community in rural Vermont powered by renewable energy was able to save $200,000 at the right time by using location-based data.

Geospatial Intelligence- Empowering business

For tomorrow’s connected world, geospatial data will emerge as a key differentiator for businesses while building new products and services. This form of data can also be leveraged for decisive insights and enable smarter business decisions. The synergy of analytics and location intelligence can also empower organizations to delve deeper into the customer journey and drive more location-specific business. Geospatial data, when combined with customer profiles, can make your business more contextual helping in sustaining growth momentum and competitive advantage.

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Technology Predictions 2018: Artificial Intelligence

In 2017, Artificial Intelligence crossed the barriers from being a buzzword to a major business driver for enterprises. AI coupled with improved machine learning capabilities made inroads into numerous fields. Organizations have started investing in smart systems aimed at marked improvements in business efficiency, security, data analysis, and delivery. AI has been helping companies redefine the customer experience. Big data, powered by AI is transforming how businesses are defined, designed and delivered.

Gartner forecasts that AI will lead to $200 billion in the new revenue and 768,000 new positions in 2018 alone. Another study predicted that almost every new software product or service will adopt AI by 2020.  Humungous amounts of data being generated each day have been the main driver as enterprises apply this data-driven intelligence to automated machine learning to meet business goals.

Businesses will start to experiment with collaborative and conversational technologies in order to revamp and contextualize customer-centric experiences. Chatbots have been the first deployments of AI and are rapidly evolving and can now almost mimic humans perfectly.  2017, also witnessed widespread adoption of smart voice-enabled devices like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana in the consumer space. Businesses will start to leverage these voice-enabled devices in 2018 and find new use cases for it.

AI-driven products and services are enabling businesses to drive sales & support cycles and explore new revenue channels. Businesses and customers alike will witness a growing AI influence in their life. Businesses will inculcate intuitive decision making and enhanced interactive capabilities between chatbots with humans. AI will also impact solutions like ERP and CRM systems in a number of diverse ways in 2018.

“Technologies such as AI, voice assistants and social messaging will give birth to the intelligent experience economy, making the customer experience more conversational than transactional.” – Sunil Mittal, EVP & CSMO, CSS Corp

AI in Security: Powerful Hacks for Dealing with Security Threats

In an increasingly digitally connected world, enterprise IT systems are more vulnerable than ever to security threats like viruses, application-specific hacks, phishing attacks, etc.

In an increasingly digitally connected world, enterprise IT systems are more vulnerable than ever to security threats like viruses, application-specific hacks, phishing attacks, etc. With the prolific use of the Internet and other interactive mobile technologies, many small to medium-sized organizations are facing gargantuan challenges of addressing security threats to their IT systems.
Cybercriminals are discreetly finding new ways to invade the most sensitive networks. Safeguarding business data is a huge challenge for businesses today. Here are some of the top threats to information systems:

  • Phishing
  • Virus back doors
  • Blended attacks
  • Spyware
  • Spam
  • Privilege Escalation
  • Key loggers
  • Adware
  • Trojans
  • Worms

How the Hacker Ecosystem is Blooming?
As AI advanced in terms of self-driving cars, big data, etc., in 2016, so did the number of botnets, ransomware, malware attacks and cyber criminals across the world [Source: Malware Byte’s State of Malware report]. Similarly, the year 2017 witnessed many destructive cyber attacks and hacks such as myriad of WordPress sites hacked, spread of malware through cell phone towers, and many other such instances.

It’s important to cite here one of the largest and most intrusive breaches in history – the big cyberattack on the Equifax credit reporting agency that took place last year. This incident led to the theft of Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and other data of about 143 million U.S. customers. The hackers found a soft target in this Atlanta-based consumer credit reporting agency and leveraged the vulnerability of this US website application to access certain files including dispute documents. One of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies in the U.S. – Equifax – is home to data of over 820 million customer and more than 91 million businesses across the world.

As per the latest WEF Global Risks Report, cyber attacks are one of the biggest threats to the world in 2018. This clearly implies that organizations need to address this issue and secure their systems so as to combat these likely-to-happen cyber attacks. It’s also predicted by many experts that the coordinated “botnets” will become more prevalent, especially with unsecured IoT devices.

ML and AI Transforming the Cyber Security Industry
We are at a turning point in this information age. Machines seemingly have far superior computational abilities than human beings today since those can sift through massive piles of data and leverage it to make better informed decisions.

Many cyber security experts see similar value in the predictive technologies such as machine learning
applications and AI. According to ESG research, 12% of enterprise organizations have already deployed
AI-based security analytics extensively, and 27% have deployed AI-based security analytics on a limited basis.

The important question that arises here is that why is AI and machine learning being perceived as the future of cyber security. This increasing technology adoption is being driven since this:

• Accelerates incident detection
• Triggers incident responses
• Enables organizations to better detect and communicate risks to the business
• Sifts through multiple software vulnerabilities, configuration errors, and threat intelligence
• Helps enterprises gain an improved understanding of cybersecurity situational awareness

Use Cases of AI and ML in Security Today
ML solutions supplement existing technologies with incremental analytics for driving enhanced efficiency and value, and act as helper applications. Some AI-based solutions function as standalone solutions as well as operate in synergy with different other technologies of security operations and analytics platform architecture (SOAPA).

According to ABI Research estimates, machine learning in cyber security will increase spending in big data, AI and analytics to $96 billion by 2021. Enterprise security vendors are plugging-in machine learning into new and existing products to improve malware detection. Google has already been leveraging machine learning to identify and assess potential threats against mobile endpoints on Android. The technology giant is also using machine learning to eliminate malware from the already infected handsets.

In 2017, Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched data security service – Macie – with machine learning, to identify, sort and safeguard sensitive data across the cloud service. The idea behind this cloud infrastructure giant using machine learning is to protect and analyze the increasing amount of sensitive data using a picture of historical patterns of positive and negative behaviors, as it grows within an organization.

Predictive technologies such as AI and machine learning are notably useful in filtering the sensitive data on high priority security incidents. The online payment platform – PayPal – uses machine learning algorithms to battle fraud. By leveraging deep learning techniques, PayPal analyzes humongous customer data and assesses risk accordingly. AI is a powerful technology stack that enables enterprises identify and eliminate bottlenecks in their cyber security roadmap to combat ever-increasing cyber attacks in this digital age. California-based Cylance is the first company to leverage AI and machine learning to cyber security for understanding the root cause of attacks and their prevention.

Drivers and Benefits of AI and ML Adoption
Cyber security organizations are increasingly adopting AI and ML tools to ward off the rising number of attacks on networks. As the world turns toward the proliferate use of IoT and connected devices, overlooking AI cannot be afforded by cyber security companies since this predictive technology helps them sift through and analyze enormous amounts of data for preventing networks from getting infiltrated.

Another huge benefit of adopting AI and ML is that it can be used to study files or their behavior and detect potential threats such as anti-malware, dynamic risk analysis and anomaly detection.

Can these key drivers of AI and ML adoption make people’s jobs in cyber security redundant? The answer is a plain “No”. Since humans only design malwares and hacks to bypass automated security solutions, enterprises would need humans, who can think fresh and find out innovative ways to defend networks from hackers and cyber criminals.

Thinking about the Future
Let’s take a look at an interesting angle. According to the Verizon Data Breach Report, over 70% of attacks exploit known vulnerabilities that already have available patches. The ever-rising number of cyber attacks and the unpreparedness of many enterprises to tackle those threats have posed a gargantuan risk on the business level. In addition to this, the cyber security workforce is hard pressed to keep pace with the pressure of addressing these potential threats.

According to ‘The Cybersecurity Jobs Report’, by 2021, it is estimated that there will be 3.5 million vacant cyber security positions worldwide. This means that the cyber security professionals would have two options – either to work real hard or work longer hours. With this current state of the cyber security industry, the implementation of machine learning and AI-based solutions into the mix can revolutionize the landscape. These systems can free up significant amount of time for your tech workforce.

 

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