Outlook 2020: Quantum computing and AI to be among top tech trends this year

The last decade saw an unprecedented adoption of digital transformation initiatives. Technologies such as cloud, mobility, analytics, automation, AI (artificial intelligence) and the likes enabled enterprises to reimagine everything from customer experience to business growth. These technologies came, they reigned and they transformed. Every facet of enterprise strategy bears the sweeping impact of these technologies and their transformative touch. Digital innovation is reaching new heights and ushering in digital maturity and adoption at scale.

Technology is taking huge strides in the areas of hardware, software/services and human experiences. These developments are inter-related and their intersection compounds their impact on transformation. Here are the top trends set to make a mark in 2020:

Quantum computing, 5G and autonomous things top the list of advancements in hardware

  • Quantum computing: With the competition for quantum supremacy becoming intense, 2020 should see advances in quantum computing where it begins contributing to the real life by powering complex AI  applications.

AI and quantum computing will emerge as two sides of the same coin. For instance, a quantum computer could help enterprises that process voluminous transactions at super speed to develop virtual assistants that have high contextual awareness and almost human-like sensitivity towards customers.

  • 5G: Although 5G has gained significant momentum, and some operators have begun offering high-speed services in dense urban locations in some countries, challenges persist. When it comes to the scale of deployment, operators can deploy 5G at a larger scale, but with low band. A combination of 5G+4G (non-standalone deployment) facilitates optimal coverage without compromising on the data demands of customers. Moreover, most devices in the market are ill-prepared to support 5G yet. In 2020 and the years ahead, manufacturing companies will catch up to build devices that support 5G.
  • Autonomous things: AI, ML (machine learning) and deep learning are equipping robots, drones and autonomous vehicles to act and control their environment. Gartner stated that the leaders of enterprise architecture and technology innovation are gearing up to take advantage of the opportunities presented by autonomous things. Amazon’s package delivery through drones and automated warehouses are prime examples. The year 2020 will see the introduction of many more autonomous devices to empower humans.

In the software/services area, expect hyper-automation, digital workforce and AI-based security to mature

  • Hyper-automation: Hyper-automation goes beyond desktop automation to integrate systems and automate core business processes to amplify the organisation as a whole. It involves everyone in the organisation to be part of the transformation journey. With RPA (robotic process automation) at the core, hyper-automation will leverage people, processes and tools such as AI, analytics and deep-process mining to scale up automation capabilities and unlock unforeseen efficiencies.
  • Digital workforce: With the power of RPA, AI and ML, digital workers have incredible potential to augment the human workforce.

Digital workers can analyse like humans, and execute with the speed and accuracy of robots. A digital worker can automate the entire process without any supervision. As digital workers become mainstream in 2020, it will usher in a new future of work.

  • AI-based cybersecurity: With the growing number of interconnected systems, the threat of cybersecurity looms large. AI-based attacks have increased significantly and enterprises are turning towards highly-sophisticated AI cybersecurity (offensive AI) to counter the advanced attacks in the modern threat environment.

A focus on amplifying experiences for both customers and employees will drive conversational commerce, ambient experience and citizen access

  • Conversational commerce: This offers a convenient and smart way for customers and businesses to interact. Conversational commerce is possible through AI-powered chatbots coupled with cognitive intelligence to deliver an augmented and personalised customer experience. Enterprises can shorten the time it takes to satisfy customer needs, right from the first greeting to the final payment, and redefine customer experiences through conversational commerce.
  • Ambient experience: Enterprises are swiftly moving towards offering ambient experiences across omnichannel. The rise of AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality) and MR (mixed reality), along with a cohesive integration of knowledgebase and CRMs have made ambient experiences a high possibility — especially in environments with high customer interactions. AR, VR and MR have emerged as compelling options to provide premium customer experience by harnessing the power of AI to merge the virtual and real-world seamlessly in real time.
  • Citizen access: Building reusable applications through low-code or no-code platforms, or drag-and-drop interfaces is the new norm.  The industry will witness rapid democratisation of technology, which will allow people to access technical expertise easily and create technical solutions without any extensive training on the necessary skills, eg: citizen data scientists and citizen programmers. Organisations would rely on AI-driven development and automated testing so that all employees can contribute to it.

Technological advancements across hardware, software/services and experiences, and their controlled collision are pushing the envelope of innovation with every passing year. These technologies are high in value, maturity, or both, and together they are redefining the way organisations operate and create value in the ecosystem.

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Ride The Cognitive Technology Wave The Right Way

According to a 2017 Deloitte report, “90% feel that cognitive technologies will be somewhat or much more important to their companies’ strategies [in the future] than they are today.” Working with a company that offers cognitive-based technology solutions, I’ve seen this increase in importance firsthand.

The cost of missing out in the cognitive race can adversely impact your business. But the good news is that it’s become much easier to adopt cognitive technology today. The caveat is that lofty hopes, poor planning and inexperience could quickly derail your cognitive initiatives.

Here are some perspectives on creating a systematic strategy to integrate cognitive technologies in your enterprise, set pragmatic expectations and reap maximum return on investment (ROI).

Who Owns It?

Depending on which side of the fence you are on, you might say the onus of cognitive projects lies with IT or business. Well, it’s time to burn the fence. IT and business have a shared responsibility toward crafting and driving the cognitive strategy. Several early adopters are creating new roles, with chief experience officer (CXO) sponsorships, to steward their cognitive initiatives to drive positive business outcomes.

Brace For The Challenges Ahead

Some of the challenges that come with adopting cognitive technologies include:

• Finding The Right Problem To Solve: If you were thinking of using artificial intelligence (AI) to eliminate X percentage of your workforce, think again. This scenario is neither real nor ideal—and you will run into massive change management challenges internally. It is widely accepted in the industry today that AI cannot replace humans, not anytime soon at least. A smarter goal would be to minimize employee effort in labor-intensive, repetitive work. Create a transparent AI manifesto, which includes upskilling of employees to cowork effectively with AI.

• Integrating With Existing IT And Business Ecosystems: Integration of cognitive technologies with existing workflows is one of the biggest hurdles that organizations face. Ensure you check the feasibility of this integration and bake that into your strategy.

• Identifying The Right Cognitive Solution: Organizations often lack the understanding of cognitive technologies necessary to identify which solution is right for their needs.

• Finding The Right Partner: Lastly, the steep shortage of talent with technical skills and experience is hurting the cognitive roll-out. However, leading technology service providers have developed strong cognitive competencies that can be leveraged by forging strategic partnerships.

Look Inside And Start

Now that you have some idea of the challenges and the solutions, look inside your organization to start your cognitive journey. Look for projects where big data and analytics have already been leveraged. Chances are, they use some element of AI, even if it’s elementary.

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“Is Work From Home (WFH) during Lockdown Productive?”

Most of the businesses have gone remote to help fight the spread of COVID-19, but there are still some who are worried about jumping onto the ‘work from home’ bandwagon. We have heard all the cons of remote work – employees don’t get any work done from home, meetings are ineffective and unproductive, it kills the work culture, and so on – it’s difficult to distinguish the actual fact from fiction. Many organizations switched to remote work mode early. While remote work has its challenges, most of them get solved when you focus on keeping your employees engaged.

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5‌ ‌things‌ ‌lockdown‌ ‌has‌ ‌taught‌ ‌to‌ ‌IT‌ ‌professionals‌ ‌and‌ ‌IT‌ ‌companies

1. Shift to the New Normal
The way the IT industry works will never be the same, and the shift to the new normal has not been an easy feat for many. Invaluable takeaway from the crisis is the swift migration to a high percentage of virtual work, and the increasing use of digital collaboration tools. The industry is thinking about redrafting job templates to include remote work options in the post-pandemic phase; a significant portion of the workforce is likely to work from remote.

2. Bolster Wherewithal
Another key lesson from the crisis is the need for enterprise resilience; tempestuous seas have revealed skillful sailors who can transition unchartered waters. The IT industry is taking this learning to accelerate their customer experience. Enterprises are thinking beyond core capabilities; they are strategising around emerging and future capabilities to future-proof their business. Toughening operational resilience is on the to-do list of industry’s top brass.

3. Invest Strategically
In line with what I said earlier, a vital lesson from the crisis is to invest in best practices, solutions, and industry standards. XaaS (cloud, consumption-based pricing), digital innovation, extreme remote work, employee reskilling, and rapid response frameworks are a few examples. The industry has learned to make quick decisions and accelerate digital transformation.

4. Amplify Customer Experience
The industry learned to handle the significant spike in demand for customer support. IT professionals realised that an organizations’ display of assurance, continuity, and engagement during a downturn will be indelibly imprinted in the minds of customers. The IT fraternity has learned that when the stakes are high, customers do not care how much we know until they know how much we care. The crisis is the catalyst to transform the customer engagement model.

5. Ramp up Employee Experience
The last but essential takeaway for the industry is that employees need emotional succor. IT professionals have had demanding schedules and they have stretched themselves to ensure business continuity for customers. Prolonged confinement, gloomy news, and fragile job situations have brought IT professionals’ mental health problems into focus. The industry has taken this seriously and intensified their programs on psychotherapy, self-help, virtual engagement, and counselling. The industry has learned to be more empathetic and appreciative so that employees have a deep sense of belongingness and satisfaction in what they do.

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Leveraging Human Intelligence & Automation To Drive Business Outcomes Of Choice

The human brain is known to rely on heterogeneous data associations to enable computational functions. Looking at a granular level, the brain is seen as a control center, and with every lobe comprising billions of cells work together to ensure what is perceived is conceptualized into thoughts and translated into actions. While the left lobe is analytical and responsible for linear thinking, the right lobe is more into creativity and intuition. The memory is a data bank that is leveraged for references, context and tasks that needs instructions. The peripheral nervous system generates a degree of forces through sensory signals for the required external stimuli.

Human brain categorizes tasks based on the degree of imagination and cognitive activity, as represented below.

A screenshot of a cell phone Description automatically generated

The only way humans can liberate themselves from routine tasks and free up time for strategic decision making and innovation is through technology intervention. Automation is a way of applying technology on a task to make it more efficiently executed, enable faster processing of voluminous tasks, reducing turnaround time, and improving the ROI. It is an ideal way to improve operational performance and can also be a strategic lever to sustain a competitive edge. Automating redundant activities by following standard operating procedures can save cost, time, improve workflow efficiencies, thereby reducing human error and increasing accuracy. It also allows employees to take up more challenging activities that can expand their intellect and imagination, leading to better competency and deeper job satisfaction levels.

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Tech Firms Put Mental Health at the Top of the Agenda

On World Mental Health Day 2020, CXOToday puts the spotlight on some technology companies that are putting mental health at the top of their business agenda.

From increased isolation due to working from home to blurring work-life boundaries, the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in increased stress levels for employees. A recently released LinkedIn report that surveyed professionals between April and September this year shows that nearly 40% professionals are experiencing increased stress or anxiety due to Covid-19.

While the economic repercussions of the ongoing pandemic have made IT professionals vulnerable to job uncertainty, financial instability, and bleak company outlook, as they continue to work remotely in social isolation, it has also given an opportunity for companies to use this time to rethink work-life balance and prioritize mental health.

On World Mental Health Day 2020, CXOToday puts the spotlight on some of these tech companies that are putting mental health at the top of their business agenda. Let’s hear from the experts

“At CSS Corp, we have launched several initiatives in line with leveraging technology towards advancing mental health and wellbeing. Our 24/7 employee assistance platform called ‘Turning Point’ provides counselling and aid to employees, along with HR chatbots that automate responses for queries, thus leading to faster issue resolutions. Additionally, we have been conducting virtual mindfulness sessions to enable employees to find the balance in the midst of their hectic schedules. It is to be noted that the increasing use of gadgets and technology could lead to ‘increased digital quarantine’ which can cause other health problems. Hence, it is crucial to be cognizant of one’s priorities and use technology appropriately. Also, there are limitations in the use of technology as it cannot replicate the human touch and reassurance. Sometimes, a simple pat on the back can be good enough to alleviate stress and anxiety.” – Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP, Head of HR (Global) and Quality Control, CSS Corp

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Employee wellness: From benefit to necessity

What changes did 2020 bring about in employee wellness?

Employee wellness, as shared above, buckets several components of well-being. 2020, bringing upon the worst health crisis the existing generations have gone through, forced one and all to rethink and reset the importance we place on wellness.

Post shifting to remote working overnight, several organizations emphasized communication, connection and collaboration as focus areas, to the extent of incorporating over-communication, not realizing the long-term impact of the excess conversations and timelines on the blurry work and home boundaries, and consequently, the well-being of employees, which has in recent months resulted in excessive stress and burn out, and deteriorating mental health.

Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index report brought how the pandemic impacted well-being at work globally with five key findings:

  • The pandemic increased burnout at work – in some countries more than others
  • Causes of workplace stress differ for Firstline and remote workers
  • Six months in, there are more communications and fewer boundaries
  • No commute may be hurting, not helping, remote worker productivity
  • Studies show meditation can fight burnout and stress during the workday

According to the report, over 30 percent of firstline and information workers stated the pandemic has increased their feelings of burnout at work. The report also highlighted that everyone is experiencing this time differently—44 percent of those in Brazil are feeling more burned out compared to 31percent in the US and 10 percent in Germany. In terms of how longer workdays impact feelings of burnout—workers in Australia saw the highest increase in workday span in Microsoft Teams (45 percent), with a medium increase in burnout. While workers in Germany saw very little change to workday span or feelings of burnout. Among all the surveyed markets globally, India was found to have the longest workday span.

Highlighting the criticality of ensuring mental well-being, SVP and Head of HR (Global) & Corporate Quality, CSS, Corp Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, said, “Uncertainty breeds anxiety, and we are living in uncertain times. Since the pandemic began, 36 per cent of India Inc. employees reported that their mental health had worsened, found a recently concluded survey by HR and well-being firm – The7thFold. It goes without saying that it is the need of the hour to have our minds healthy and hearty to overcome the isolation, fear and agony caused by the pandemic.”

Speaking of the much needed education about mental health to effectively address it, Shefali Garg, Senior Director, People Strategy, Publicis Sapient, said, “We need to create spaces at work that are inclusive and non-discriminatory. To do this we must empower ourselves with the right knowledge about mental health, practice empathy, and help to create a safe space where people can open up about their mental health issues, instead of feeling judged for seeking help or wanting to seek help.” Garg added that despite mental health being a pressing subject, most healthcare providers don’t share it in their plans voluntarily. “At Publicis Sapient, we worked with healthcare providers to include mental healthcare as part of the insurance cover, over and above the Employee Assistance Program services we provide.”

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Geospatial data will emerge as a key differentiator for businesses: CSS Corp’s Manish Tandon

Chennai: Tech company CSS Corp is investing heavily in geospatial technologies as they see huge potential in the space. Manish Tandon, CEO of CSS Corp said their services will enable organizations to visualize spatial data, generate insights on spatial relationships from massive datasets, and simplify data management.

He said the company’s services enable organizations to acquire and merge high-quality spatial data efficiently from multiple sources, allowing for easy access, analysis, allowing for easy access, analysis, and utilization. It also help organizations generate new revenue streams through value-added services using locational context and targeting under-served markets using spatial analytics.

“Geospatial technologies facilitating high-end locational intelligence will be the catalyst for a smart, inclusive community,” he said. “Internet of Things, Big Data Analytics, and Artificial Intelligence integrated with spatial intelligence will transform the way we live and work. Geospatial data will emerge as a key differentiator for businesses while building new products and services. It can be leveraged for decisive insights and enable smarter business decisions.”

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Digitalization Redefining Everything

Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Cognitive Analytics and Extended Reality (AR/VR/MR) have become the buzzwords today. Enterprises need to leverage these technologies to create a sustainable competitive advantage. We are using these technologies to develop cutting-edge geospatial solutions from our innovation labs. Building on our strength in Cloud transformation, Big Data, cognitive technologies and custom application development, we have been able to create a niche differentiation for our geospatial offerings. Our customized solutions enable faster acquisition and accurate location intelligence for enterprises and consumers. With our rich experience and global presence, we are able to work with clients across geographies and help them solve challenges in both evolved and emerging markets.

Tech at core of digitalization
Technology is indeed at the core of digitalization. Technologies like AI/ML, IoT, Cloud, Big Data Analytics, mobility and automation are enabling enterprises to redefine everything — from business growth to customer experience. In the digital age, the importance of geospatial information across processes has grown multifold. The integration and interaction of geospatial and digital technologies create a complete picture of the real world, thereby creating new solutions, productivity gains and cost benefits. Be it 5G, autonomous driving, smart cities, HD mapping, or field operations, new-age geospatial technologies are pushing the envelope of digital innovation. CSS Corp leverages digital technologies to power its industry-leading geospatial offerings.

CSS Corp is a global geospatial player with a vision to provide innovation, unrivaled customer experience and shared success for overcoming business challenges. We offer geospatial technology services across telecom, navigation and utility domains to acquire and merge high-quality location or spatial data efficiently from multiple sources. Our services allow for simplified spatial data management, geo-analytics, visualization and utilization. We leverage digital technologies like AI/ML, automation and predictive analytics to generate actionable insights from massive datasets and develop highly accurate mapping solutions. Our niche capabilities drive enhanced business efficiencies and create opportunities for our customers. For instance, we enabled one of the global mapping companies to bring improved map features and drive adoption with automated map content extraction and enrichment.

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CSS Corp Divests Glow Networks to Altruist Group

Bengaluru: CSS Corp, a new-age IT services and technology support company announced that it has divested Glow Networks to Altruist Technologies Private Limited, a multinational provider of telecom and business process optimization solutions.

The sale was concluded in March 2020. Glow Networks is a network design and deployment services company which was acquired by CSS Corp in 2010.

“Over the last decade, Glow Networks has been integral to CSS Corp’s strategy of providing end-to-end network solutions in complex technology environments. With the upcoming 5G revolution underway, we felt that Glow needed to align with a telecom solutions ecosystem to capitalize on this opportunity,” said Manish Tandon, Chief Executive Officer at CSS Corp.

“Altruist emerged as a suitable parent with its comprehensive suite of telecom products and services, coupled with its diverse geographical presence. We believe the synergies arising from this development augur very well for Glow’s business goals and for its customers,” added Tandon.

“With noteworthy telecom partnerships in more than fifty countries, Altruist’s acquisition of Glow Networks is a strategic step towards diversifying its portfolio. Altruist is a leading telecom-centered solutions provider to more than hundred operators globally,” said Dharamjeet Taunque, the newly appointed CEO for Glow Networks.

“With this acquisition, we aspire to forge our existing expertise in content services, platforms for value-added services, big data and billing, business assurance and enterprise solutions, with network design and 5G deployment capabilities. We have acquired Glow in its entirety; therefore, there is no impact on existing customer relationships or obligations,” he added

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