November

5G operators using low-band spectrum vs mmWave: CSS

How are organizations handling 5G infrastructure challenges, globally? For instance, why are some operators opting for low-band 5G spectrum instead of the so-called mmWave technologies? Arun Kumar, VP – Network Solutions from CSS Corp., tells us more in an exlcusive chat. Excerpts:

V&D: Why are some operators opting for low-band 5G spectrum instead of the so-called mmWave technologies?

Arun Kumar: Opting for low-band spectrum enables communication operators to deploy 5G at a much larger footprint when compared to mmWave implementation. This band range is ideal in covering wide areas, both indoors and outdoors, with efficient connectivity and highly-reliable low latency communication networks.

Low-band 5G spectrum is an optimal and cost-effective option for service providers who are deploying greenfield networks. For instance, a network company based in the USA is currently building a virtualized 5G network from ground up that aims to provide both IoT connectivity and low-latency broadband service.

Since their network equipment is based on network functional virtualization (NFV), the opportunity for a lower cost deployment by implementing a low-band spectrum is significantly high. Additionally, the ability to create network slices brings in a new dimension of utilizing the same base hardware or setup, to create networks that are custom built for every situation (eMBB / eMTC / URLLC) thus, fueling cost efficiency.

V&D: It is that said despite 5G offering a significant increase in speed and bandwidth, its more limited range will require further infrastructure. How can this be overcome?

Arun Kumar: There are immense developments happening through 5G technology. However, the complexities that arise due to limited range is a significant challenge that is constantly being dealt with. To that end, service providers are working on overcoming this through a combination of measures:

* The providers are opting for non-standalone deployments (5G + 4G) that facilitates optimal coverage, while providing required data rates.

* The providers utilize the mmWave technology that enables them to offer focused area coverage and high data rates needed for the urban and city center areas.

* Alternatively, the service providers also opt for low-band options of deploying 5G to enable extensive coverage with the trade-off of lower data rates, but still significantly higher that 4G speeds.

V&D: How can 5G help industrial cases of ultra-low latency applications?

Arun Kumar: The ultra-low latency offered by 5G will power applications that are yet to be seen on mobile phones. With the processing power inching closer to the edge, we will see mobile phones and other modern appliances perform at whole new levels in terms of efficiency, quality and consistency. The following are some of the use-cases that 5G could transform in the coming years:

* Autonomous vehicles
* Logistic management (with high efficiency levels)
* AR/VR applications built for human safety in high risk environments like technicians working on towers or power lines.

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CSS Corp Addresses Commercial Challenges of Cognitive CX Transformation

One of the main challenges facing front-office automation projects is the adoption of commercial terms protecting the interests of both clients and CX services providers. In an industry dominated by traditional per FTE and per hour/minute pricing, to be successful, end-to-end digital transformation requires significant initial investments, new KPIs, a stake from the vendor, and a longer project horizon.

The cannibalization dilemma

Cost saving is a direct benefit of front-office automation, generated by deflecting traffic from live agents to self-service and improving productivity to enable reduction in required FTEs. Effective cognitive bots deployed in key customer journey stages or back-office workflow can eliminate the need for human intervention and decrease the volume handled, thus reducing vendors’ revenues.

So far, CX services providers have responded by absorbing the financial impact, hoping to protect their position from competitors, gain additional share of the client’s business down the road, or use it as a lever in the next renewal negotiation. However, this approach cannot be sustainable because cognitive CX is not an end solution but a continuous journey addressing customers’ increasing service expectations and growing acceptance of bots. Even in narrow-scope deployments, traditional performance metrics such as AHT lose their relevance when more complex and challenging interactions end up with human support.

Footing the robot bill

Clients commonly do not want to invest heavily upfront, especially when they do not know what outcomes to expect from CX automation. CSS Corp addresses this pain point with an upfront contract commitment to achieve cost out while backloading most of the investment and blending it in the rate. The company’s commitment stems from its significant experience with the specific client and vertical and from its cognitive IP. For example, its first large-scale CX automation project was with an existing home networking client, which CSS Corp has supported since 2005 and is now the sole supplier. The digital transformation with the client evolved from several joint RPA implementations and simplifications such as screen scraping in the past to 22% TCO reduction through automation. The vendor’s domain experience in home networking with multiple clients, accumulated customer data, and digital assets integration practice gives it confidence to accept the risk.

In another example, for a U.S. VoIP service provider, CSS Corp manages sales, customer care, technical support, and retention. It is responsible for increasing sales, reaching retention numbers, maintaining credit per line, and achieving customer satisfaction levels. CSS Corp charges on a ‘cents per active line per month’ basis. The provider owns the automation and tools but has agreed on a penalty matrix for FCR, CSAT, retention rates, etc.

Contracting with ‘unknowns’

In cases where the domain is less mature for the provider, or the client RFP does not give access to internal data, cases, or existing infrastructure, CSS Corp utilizes reference information and demands a clear view of the internal development roadmap. An example is a hardware storage manufacturer which CSS Corp supports in APAC, U.S., India, and Europe with 200 employees. The contract is based on flat per hour pricing with targets to reduce the headcount by year, 1, 2, and 3 with an increasing rate per hour.

A vital element here is the realistic assessment of meaningful results to justify the cost to the client. When these results do not bring savings, the company contracts against customer satisfaction improvements delivered through the CX automation. CSS Corp’s best practice is to employ a conservative calculation in generic cases. For example, it underwrites only 14-16% TCO over three years when the level of automation is limited by the product, languages, or degree of customer base exposure to chatbots.

Workforce model for bot-human support

With both established and prospective clients, CSS Corp applies a workforce model based on the number of eliminated contacts, volume of self-service, percentage handled by a chatbot or voice bot, and efficiency improvement for technology augmented live agents. It also includes the usual quality and SLA terms. If the automation benefits do not materialize, the provider accepts the need to overstaff. If the benefits exceed targets, CSS Corp gains from the additional savings. For ROI calculation to come through, the contract duration typically needs to be three or more years. Also, to win the buy-in from the organization, CSS Corp shares its calculations and research data, conducts onsite consultations, and organizes workshops.

The proper due diligence from CSS Corp requires sign-off on the client product release and IT update schedule. For these requirements it works with marketing, product development, IT, and operations in addition to customer service departments. The client’s IT approval is crucial to ensure an alignment of deployment dependencies and timelines. For example, in one instance, the client’s delayed telephony upgrade pushed the introduction of parts of the automation components back by six months. Here, the outcome-based pricing kicked in only after the infrastructure upgrade was complete.

Co-innovation with pricing

CX automation programs require investments from the client and vendor, and advanced pricing models are a must to ensure ‘skin in the game’ from both sides. True co-innovation entails a more flexible commercial approach which translates into a next-level CX services partnership. One of the main challenges facing front-office automation projects is the adoption of commercial terms protecting the interests of both clients and CX services providers. In an industry dominated by traditional per FTE and per hour/minute pricing, to be successful, end-to-end digital transformation requires significant initial investments, new KPIs, a stake from the vendor, and a longer project horizon.

The cannibalization dilemma

Cost saving is a direct benefit of front-office automation, generated by deflecting traffic from live agents to self-service and improving productivity to enable reduction in required FTEs. Effective cognitive bots deployed in key customer journey stages or back-office workflow can eliminate the need for human intervention and decrease the volume handled, thus reducing vendors’ revenues.

So far, CX services providers have responded by absorbing the financial impact, hoping to protect their position from competitors, gain additional share of the client’s business down the road, or use it as a lever in the next renewal negotiation. However, this approach cannot be sustainable because cognitive CX is not an end solution but a continuous journey addressing customers’ increasing service expectations and growing acceptance of bots. Even in narrow-scope deployments, traditional performance metrics such as AHT lose their relevance when more complex and challenging interactions end up with human support.

Footing the robot bill

Clients commonly do not want to invest heavily upfront, especially when they do not know what outcomes to expect from CX automation. CSS Corp addresses this pain point with an upfront contract commitment to achieve cost out while backloading most of the investment and blending it in the rate. The company’s commitment stems from its significant experience with the specific client and vertical and from its cognitive IP. For example, its first large-scale CX automation project was with an existing home networking client, which CSS Corp has supported since 2005 and is now the sole supplier. The digital transformation with the client evolved from several joint RPA implementations and simplifications such as screen scraping in the past to 22% TCO reduction through automation. The vendor’s domain experience in home networking with multiple clients, accumulated customer data, and digital assets integration practice gives it confidence to accept the risk.

In another example, for a U.S. VoIP service provider, CSS Corp manages sales, customer care, technical support, and retention. It is responsible for increasing sales, reaching retention numbers, maintaining credit per line, and achieving customer satisfaction levels. CSS Corp charges on a ‘cents per active line per month’ basis. The provider owns the automation and tools but has agreed on a penalty matrix for FCR, CSAT, retention rates, etc.

Contracting with ‘unknowns’

In cases where the domain is less mature for the provider, or the client RFP does not give access to internal data, cases, or existing infrastructure, CSS Corp utilizes reference information and demands a clear view of the internal development roadmap. An example is a hardware storage manufacturer which CSS Corp supports in APAC, U.S., India, and Europe with 200 employees. The contract is based on flat per hour pricing with targets to reduce the headcount by year, 1, 2, and 3 with an increasing rate per hour.

A vital element here is the realistic assessment of meaningful results to justify the cost to the client. When these results do not bring savings, the company contracts against customer satisfaction improvements delivered through the CX automation. CSS Corp’s best practice is to employ a conservative calculation in generic cases. For example, it underwrites only 14-16% TCO over three years when the level of automation is limited by the product, languages, or degree of customer base exposure to chatbots.

Workforce model for bot-human support

With both established and prospective clients, CSS Corp applies a workforce model based on the number of eliminated contacts, volume of self-service, percentage handled by a chatbot or voice bot, and efficiency improvement for technology augmented live agents. It also includes the usual quality and SLA terms. If the automation benefits do not materialize, the provider accepts the need to overstaff. If the benefits exceed targets, CSS Corp gains from the additional savings. For ROI calculation to come through, the contract duration typically needs to be three or more years. Also, to win the buy-in from the organization, CSS Corp shares its calculations and research data, conducts onsite consultations, and organizes workshops.

The proper due diligence from CSS Corp requires sign-off on the client product release and IT update schedule. For these requirements it works with marketing, product development, IT, and operations in addition to customer service departments. The client’s IT approval is crucial to ensure an alignment of deployment dependencies and timelines. For example, in one instance, the client’s delayed telephony upgrade pushed the introduction of parts of the automation components back by six months. Here, the outcome-based pricing kicked in only after the infrastructure upgrade was complete.

Co-innovation with pricing

CX automation programs require investments from the client and vendor, and advanced pricing models are a must to ensure ‘skin in the game’ from both sides. True co-innovation entails a more flexible commercial approach which translates into a next-level CX services partnership.
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CSS Corp recognized by CIOReview as one among the top 20 most promising AWS Solution Providers in 2016

With two decades’ worth of knowledge in building and leading large IT services business across all service lines, Nishikant Nigam, EVP and Chief Delivery Officer, CSS Corp, acknowledges that cloud technologies impact every aspect of a business. From being a mere buzzword, cloud has become a proven computing model with long term business benefits. As an early adopter of cloud and with the capability of building intelligent cloud tools, CSS Corp stays ahead of the technology curve. However, Nigam stresses that many organizations are struggling with hybrid cloud adoption, which fundamentally changes the IT landscape, requiring reengineering of enterprise IT architecture and integration with enterprise data centers. “Another concern that CIOs face is the long timeline for workload migration. The industry needs a solution that accelerates workload migration while decreasing cost and downtime, and enhancing the customer experience,” adds Nigam.

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Here are the top employers looking out to hire in 2020: Top Jobs in India by Indeed & People Matters

Indeed & People Matters bring to you, “Top Jobs in India”- A Hiring Week, starting from November 2 to November 6, 2020. The week showcases India’s top organizations hiring actively now. Here is a list of top companies in India participating in the hiring week as they look out for talent like yours for their organization.

As employers, employees, and economies transform amid the COVID-19 times, it is essential to identify the jobs that will be in demand and help the current and future workforce prepare for them. It’s critical for governments, workers and employers to come and work together to build a sustainable future as we step into the future of work.

Being at the center of the People and Work, Indeed and People Matters bring to you “Top Jobs In India” a hiring week starting from November 2 to November 6, 2020 to get job seekers back to work.

Here is a list of organziations participating in this hiring week and looking forward to hire for prime job roles.

[24]7. ai

November 2, 11:00 am

[24]7.ai is a customer experience software and services company that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand consumer intent. It helps companies create a personalized experience across all channels.

Join Shivesh Kundan, Head of Talent Acquisition at [24]7. ai on November 2, 11:00 am as he shares some of the basic skill sets and top roles the company is looking to hire for.

VMware

November 2, 4:00 pm

VMWare is a global leader in cloud computing and virtualization software and services. It was also one of the first commercially successful companies to virtualize the x86 architecture.

Join Ashish Goyal, Director – Talent Acquisition India, Co-Lead D&I India Chapter, VMware on November 2, 4:00 pm as he takes you through the company’s culture, some of the assessment types, and what can get you hired at VMWare?

Credit Suisse

November 3, 11:00 am

Credit Suisse Group AG is a global wealth manager, investment bank, and financial services firm founded and based in Switzerland.

Join Prashant Bhatnagar, Director – Human Resources, Credit Suisse on November 3, 11:00 am as he shares what kind of talent the company is looking to hire, what are some of the parameters the candidates will be assessed on, and what it looks like working at Credit Suisse.

UST Global

November 3, 4:00 pm

UST Global operates in 25 countries and deliver future-ready digital transformation strategy services, products, and platforms that create new possibilities and help you imagine what’s next in financial services, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, semiconductor, and communications.

Join Kavita Kurup, Global Head – Talent and Organizational Transformation at UST Global on 3 November, 4:00 pm and uncover what it is like to work at UST Global.

CSS Corp India PVT Ltd

November 4, 11:00 am

CSS Corp is an IT services and premium tech support solutions company to harness the power of digital, cognitive IT service management to address customer needs.

Join Brijesh Balakrishnan, SVP, Global Head – Talent Fulfilment at CSS Corp on November 4 at 11:00 am and know what are the major roles they are hiring for, what are the locations they are planning to hire for and some tips to stand out in the interview.

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Chennai’s IT services company CSS Corp to acquire US-based firm

City-based IT services firm CSS Corp plans to acquire a US company to expand customer base, CSS Corp’s CEO Manish Tandon told Express on Tuesday, adding that the deal would be closed in about six months.

We have been looking to acquire assets, especially engineering services, and now we are working on a fairly large acquisition of a US-based firm,” said Tandon. The firm has added 20 new clients taking up its base to 140 this year.

Emphasising the company is looking for talent, Tandon said it will focus on with telecom, media and technology sectors and digital business of traditional brick-and-mortar companies.

At a time when the BPO industry has reported the alarming impact of automation on jobs, Tandon claimed attrition at his company is “significantly less” thanks to its innovation-led strategy, which has “never put employees at risk due to the change in technology”. The company has a head-count of 5,600 technology professionals in 16 of its global centers across the world.

We have created a programme of virtual University for our employees, which aims to deliver internet-based training and we have also placed huge bets in newer technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning to support our customers,” Tandon said.

The IT company recently launched an artificial intelligence platform, Cognitive CX Platform, to support customers.

 “The strategy has been to stick to profitable growth through active discussions with customers regarding their requirements and provide end-to-end services,” he noted.

The firm has clocked a topline growth rate of three per cent in the past three quarters and it eyes 4 per cent sequential growth in the next quarter. “With this pace, we are expecting a 15 per cent revenue growth year-on-year,” Tandon added.

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Rethinking Cloud Security in the New Normal

The sudden shift towards remote working, as a result of worldwide lockdowns, has prompted businesses to change their IT models almost overnight. As more businesses flock to the cloud environments like never before to ensure business continuity, rethinking cloud security becomes extremely critical in this ‘new normal’.
The irony is, the basics of cloud security are still not understood by many organizations with a recent research by consulting firm KPMG and software giant Oracle shedding light that though business leaders digitally transform their operations and shift to the cloud, adequate security controls are all too often an afterthought. Another research report by Ermetic, suggests that nearly 80% of companies experienced at least one cloud data breach in the last one year. These researches suggest that cloud security poses a challenge for most business leaders, especially in the face of business uncertainty.
“Businesses have always been leaning towards cloud services to accelerate digital transformation and deliver a seamless customer experience, with the pandemic only fast-tracking this dependency. Cloud technology has given organizations the impetus to reimagine the scope of providing agile, flexible and scalable solutions with greater ease,” said Sanket Atal, MD, Intuit India.
As the public cloud infrastructure enables more streamlined and unified access to data streams, the advent of security breaches become more pronounced, thus predisposing risks and threats to data security. In such a scenario, he believes that developing a cloud security strategy can help organizations clarify their security and compliance posture, and help them stay up to date on emerging threats. A strong security strategy in place can also help businesses prevent overspending or misspending on clouds security controls.
Phanikishore Burre, SVP & Delivery Head – Infrastructure, Network, Cloud & Security (INCS) Services, CSS Corp. agreed that a clear defined vision with accountability establishes a sustainable security lifecycle management process that safeguards digital assets and eliminates business risks.
“Organizations must define a complete lifecycle strategy to prepare, detect, mitigate, recover, and improve by using AI/ML-based advancements for increased accuracy and protection,” he said.
Kishore P. Durg, Senior Managing Director, Lead – Intelligent Cloud & Infrastructure, Accenture Technology added that misconfigurations rank among the leading security challenges in the cloud. But there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to configuring the cloud securely.
He said that organizations should take a risk-based approach to define controls that allow the cloud to serve as an enabler of digital transformation, while operating within acceptable tolerance levels. These controls can be leveraged to continuously monitor for, auto-remediate, and even prevent such misconfigurations for IaaS and PaaS, which is particularly important in multi-cloud estates.
“Investing in firewall controls is extremely important to monitor network traffic and protect the infrastructure and operating system. Apart from this, cloud security posture management (CSPM) solutions can help to avoid misconfigurations that can lead to data leakage and identity and access management plays a unique role to manage risk and enable the business,” added Durg on how organizations can safeguard their confidential data.
Experts also believe that hosting an endpoint security solution will help to detect and protect against malware and other threats. As Durg explained, “With cloud blurring an organization’s network boundary, establishing a “Zero Trust” framework will allow companies to more intelligently focus on implementing relevant technology controls to protect their business.”
Burre further emphasized on integrating the right technologies like CSPM and zero trust network access to secure the enterprise IT environment.
Worldwide, Cloud Security is set to grow at a 33% between 2019 and 2024 according to Gartner. This demonstrates that organisations are investing more in cloud security practices, by ensuring that solutions and platforms are integrated with the right tools to inoculate themselves from attacks and breaches.
Another challenge experts often observe is that cloud security requires a different employee skillset than on-premise security and the skill gap continue to widen. As Atal believes, “With multiple players in the industry, it will also become imperative for organizations to multi-skill their employees to support these vastly different cloud platforms.
Needless to mention, as cloud adoption grows, organizations’ cloud strategy must go hand-in-hand with a security strategy. Given that remote working or work from anywhere is here to stay, and businesses will continue to shift to cloud infrastructure, it has never been more vital for them to a strong, reliable and robust strategy to protect against the ongoing threat of cyber attack.

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Conversational AI: Driving The Next Generation Customer Experience

Artificial Intelligence or AI is driving organizations across industries to reimagine their customer engagement strategies for better business success and outcomes. Sunil Mittal, EVP & Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, CSS Corp, explains to CXOToday how we are moving towards a conversational economy where a few spoken words can accomplish a business transaction.

CXOToday: Artificial Intelligence is a huge topic. What are some of the areas that you find are most exciting and have an immense opportunity in the near term?

Sunil Mittal: Demand for personalized consumer experiences across different industries is fueling the explosion of AI. Just as electricity transformed almost everything 100 years ago, today we have a hard time thinking of an industry that I don’t think AI will transform in the next several years. 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 matures, forward-thinking businesses are plugging in conversational AI in their strategic investment roadmaps to leverage it for their customer service function.

Today, voice assistants and social messaging have given birth to the intelligent experience economy and made the customer experience more conversational than transactional. For example, 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. Amazon’s Alexa can help you perform several tasks for you like booking a doctor’s appointment; sports scores and game times; important event dates, hear the latest news; tracking traffic; manage calendars, to-do list and shopping list, set alarms and timers; read Kindle books and play audio books; make purchases; control smart home devices, etc.

Also, the new trend has given rise to Conversational commerce that refers to real-time customer communication through different messaging applications and chatbots. These platforms empower businesses to generate a sense of need for their products to potential customers, they also act as personal shopping assistants to customers. 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 help get more real-time access to resolutions. This boosts overall business efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

At CSS Corp, we have embarked on a new journey in AI to disrupt the customer experience ecosystem with a new model called “Conversational” that 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 help move from traditional models to new age service models that help them identify new revenue streams.

CXOToday: Gartner Says AI Technologies will be in almost every new software product by 2020. How are businesses using AI? What are some of the transformational benefits from AI?

Sunil Mittal: The human and AI relationship is evolving fast and making forecasts in today’s dynamic world. AI-fueled automation and predictive models have augmented human intelligence and helped many businesses drive revenue through predictability capabilities. Regardless of their customer base and business model, organizations in B2B and B2C are adopting AI capabilities that help to predict customer/system behavior, drive revenue and bring businesses closer to their customers and also streamline the operations thereby ramping up the productivity and flexibility through its adoption.

From a B2B environment, AI boosts predictive maintenance that allows for better prediction and avoidance of machine failure in industrial sectors. This, in turn, increases asset productivity and cuts down maintenance costs considerably. For instance, for a railroad and locomotive company, CSS Corp has deployed our AI based solution for predictive intelligence capabilities to pre-empt equipment failures, optimize daily operations and field resources. We constantly monitor customer’s sensor-based IoT devices and enable ideal failure prediction analysis with the use of real-time intelligence, image data analysis, acoustics data analysis, and operational intelligence.

From a B2C environment, AI is transforming the customer service space today with Virtual Customer Assistant (VCA). As per Gartner, VCAs yield phenomenal results like a 70% reduction in call and/or email inquiries, increased customer satisfaction, and a 33% saving per voice engagement. Organizations are positioning AI-powered VCAs at the center of their customer engagement strategy. CSS Corp has built Cognitive CX Platform an intelligent Virtual Assistant platform that aims at bringing together various technologies like AI, automation, and analytics with pre-built vertical assets, 360-degree customer context, intelligent process guidance, and actionable insights that enhance customer interactions.

CXOToday: What suggestions do you have for CEOs, CIOs, and other CXOs who have just started exploring the implications of AI for their business?

Sunil Mittal: Today’s digitally empowered, adventurous and experimental customer is the fundamental driver of all the business and technological changes. CEOs, CIOs and CXOs are facing some basic but tough questions and to what extent they need to go to:

(a)   Get closer to the customer

(b)   Deliver the simplest customer experiences to diverse customer segments across multiple products

In 2017, many new CIOs and CXOs have been facing a “deer in the headlights” moment since the subject of AI is so vast that they feel clueless as to where and how to start with AI. That it is a powerful and disruptive technology is a no-brainer but CIOs and CXOs need to collaborate with CEOs closely to make them understand the clear business case for AI and not take an immediate headlong plunge into the AI stream immediately.

Eventually, AI will be ubiquitous. The technology landscape is inundated with choices – from machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to Chatbots and recommendation engines. But the moot question is, are all businesses yet ready to adopt it? The CIOs and CXOs new to AI revolution must work out the business strategy part first and how it would get augmented if blended with AI. They must evaluate on how a good investment in machine learning will add a competitive edge to their product/service and whether adding AI to the business strategy will help in inching closer towards the customer with good service.  They must try to understand if it will boost employees’ productivity, simplify customer experience and help them make better purchase decisions and monetize the business.

CXOToday: Given how quickly AI is rising, and skills shortage becoming a big issue, what suggestions do you have for filling in this gap?

Sunil Mittal: The benefits of the new age technology like AI are irresistible; however, this is hemmed in by lack of qualified talent to exploit it to its full potential.  According to a survey by Tech Pro Research, only 28% of companies have some experience with AI or machine learning, and over 40% said their enterprise lack the skills required to implement and support AI and machine learning. In our opinion, it’s been a long time now that the industry has been fretting over the topics of “skill gap”. It becomes more pertinent in the age of AI. Though AI is increasingly acing the number of roles and tasks, we’re still a long time away from human jobs completely fading away from the scene. We can bridge this yawning skill gap by helping our workforce adapt to the jobs of the future through education. And, both the corporate and the governments need to participate and invest equally in imparting technical learning.

AI can also be used to fix this skill gap as it can provide personalized help to learners and identify successful teaching patterns. We, at CSS Corp, have developed a Digital Career Progression Framework called “Reimagine” which has been specifically built to fast-track employee reskilling initiatives within the organization. Our framework facilitates an innovative approach to employee up-skilling and cross-skilling in new age digital technologies. Nearly 30%- 40% of mid-level managers at CSS Corp are engaged in reskilling through this initiative, in niche digital technologies including AI, autonomics, augmented reality (AR), cloud, IoT, deep learning, and cognitive computing. The framework brings in greater personalization in employee learning, wherein employees can learn anytime, anywhere, and on any device through Virtual University, Massive open online course (MOOCs) and JAM (a collaborative tool). It has also created more career and growth opportunities for employees while seeing an overall drop in attrition. We recently won the NASSCOM Digital Skills 2017 award for having one of the best digital reskilling platforms in the Indian IT industry.

CXOToday: What are the top capabilities that are important in an AI solution that drives customer adoption?

Sunil Mittal: AI is proving to be one of the fastest-growing technology segments in 2017, and is being rapidly adopted by organizations, big or small. However, the top three capabilities in an AI solution that drive customer adoption are 1. Does the AI solution have good predictive capabilities? AI solutions are self-learning systems. Banks and financial institutions are widely using AI solutions based on machine learning models to detect credit frauds by analyzing customer’s past spending patterns and predict the transactions that the customer is likely to make and flag unusual activity if any. If we talk at the consumer level, Google Now is a great example of a self-learning application. This personal assistant tracks its user’s activities and interactions to collate and put together relevant information for the user on the smartphone. This application constantly improves based on the feedback it keeps getting from the user and its own learning algorithm.

2.  Is it enterprise class? AI solution must fit in seamlessly, non-intrusively into the technology environment of the business. It must be a traceable solution that can undergo complete auditability. The AI solution must be fast, flexible, extensible and responsive. It should be able to adapt quickly to the changes. The AI solution under consideration must be able to address all the concerns of an enterprise such as growth, cost, compliance, and responsiveness. It should be able to bring in automation of high variability processes and legacy modernization into the business and tech environment, and trigger operational efficiency, which in turn will boost productivity and consequently drive revenue.

3. Does it offer a smooth customer experience? A good AI solution acts like a great customer service channel that provides a customer experience in which customers feel the same comfort interacting with a machine as they feel with a human. The solution must understand the content as well as the context of the customer’s feedback, questions or requests. Never-sleeping chatbots offer cost-effective, powerful customer support and never make the customers wait to get their problems resolved. The AI solution must be able to collect customer data from support interactions and analyze the same to offer personalized customer experience.

CXOToday: According to you what are the top three barriers of AI Adoption in an enterprise set up in India?

Sunil Mittal: As AI accelerates up the hype cycle, its adoption in an enterprise set up in India is still relatively low. We see the following top 3 barriers of AI adoption in India:

1.  Lack of differentiation: With an increasing number of startups entering the AI space, enterprises are finding it tough to differentiate between one AI solution and another. With hundreds of AI vendors in the industry today claiming to be providing best-in-class AI solutions, enterprises are immensely confused about the true and clear AI capabilities of these vendors and what business problems these solutions will solve for them.

2. The disconnect between the current curriculum and the work skills in demand: Success of an AI engagement depends on the people that program the systems and the data being fed. Identifying and sourcing the right people and skill set from the market for AI engagements is key to any AI engagement. AI projects require people with specialized skill-sets who can apply AI techniques across business processes in real time. The synergy between the current sequential education system and the work demands in the enterprise set seems to be missing. For India to maximally benefit from the AI revolution, the challenge of talent shortage looming large on the industry needs to be addressed faster. Many Indian firms are grappling to scale resources for the new AI challenge. The lack of adequate AI talent to meet the growing demands is a matter of huge concern in India.

3. Unpredictability and uncertainty of resources required: AI systems can behave unpredictably. A badly implemented AI system can lead to objectionable consequences, including a privacy breach. Companies must carefully evaluate the business processes and system for AI adoption and take into consideration legal, regulatory and ethical implications.

Understanding the cost, time and effort involved to get an AI-powered system up and running is one of the most important factors that enterprises should think while building or evaluating AI solutions. Based on the maturity level of processes, the accuracy of data sets and knowledge base, the success of AI engagements varies between months to several years

Enterprises face challenges during AI adoption in identifying the right use cases, data sets, and business processes and while mapping it with customer benefits in terms of revenue, convenience and experience

CXOToday:  What’s CSS Corp ’s future roadmap on AI?

Sunil Mittal: CSS Corp has built two AI Platforms in the last 12 months: 1) Cognitive CX Platform to manage customer support engagements and 2) Contelli to simplify and modernize IT Operations. Our AI platforms understand behavioral aspects and relationships between customer, business processes and systems. Our solutions provide end-to-end customer clustering and deeper insights into customer sentiments, buying behavior and satisfaction-levels, to drive business success.

Despite the hype, adoption, and investments in newer technologies like AI, enterprises are finding it challenging to manage IT operations and customer support operations as they mostly carry baggage of legacy systems, infrastructure and software stacks that are aging. This significantly contributes to the complex support landscape, making life extremely painful for customers. We understood, perfecting customer support operations requires rigorous planning, focused technology investments, strategic roadmap, and execution, as it is linked to the overall productivity and efficiency of an organization.

Our AI solution enables enterprises in managing their complex IT and Customer support operations and introduces relevant frameworks, providing enterprises agility, speed and flexibility. AI is at the epicenter of all our customer engagement programs. Today as we speak we are integrating AI as a part of all our new age platforms and we will continue to encourage our customers to embrace AI solutions. We’re committed to our mission of embedding intelligence across different functions of the enterprises and help each of them innovate, grow and compete.

In this context, CSS Corp has invested significantly in AI and has plans to scale up our solutions that can help companies understand their customer’s next best action and drive additional revenue. We will continue to focus on customer support engagements and as well build AI solutions to solve unique business challenges in TMT, Healthcare, and Manufacturing.

Forrester recently recognized our AI capabilities in their Forrester Wave for Customer Analytics, we recently won the Stevie Silver Award for our AI Platform, Cognitive CX Platform. Most importantly our existing customers and prospects have shown utmost interest and enthusiasm to implement our AI solutions. Our customers feel that our technology is far superior as compared to any AI solution offered by other leading players in the IT Industry.

All of us at CSS Corp is excited to explore new frontiers with AI that harnesses the power of customer centricity and build an ecosystem that fuels unprecedented growth and innovation for our customers.

Growth for past three quarters is more than that in past 3 years: CSS Corp CEO

The Partners group entered CSS Corp, a mid-tier software and testing company in June 2013. After sailing along with the existing management, the investors pressed for change and brought in Manish Tandon from Infosys in August 2016. Occupying the corner office since, Tandon has sewn up a new CSS Corp which is growing faster than ever before. In a free wheeling chat, Tandon tells TOI that by March 2018, the company will cross $150 million in revenues. Excerpts:

What was the mandate given to you by The Partners Group?
With the evolution happening in the environment, the company had to transform in sync with the needs of tomorrow. Partners Group was keen to align the company with the market expectations and drive growth. They were looking for some fresh thinking to bring the organization back on the growth track. We have started turning around and I am expecting better quarters ahead. I think that Partners group would like to give it 3 to 5 years to maximize their ROI.

What has been the progress?
The new management has been aggressively working towards creating an impact in the market. There were some underinvested areas which have been strengthened. We have expanded our service line focus to be able to deliver a broader range to our customers. We have invested heavily in our Innovation Labs to produce solutions of the future, and to enable us to drive solution-led differentiation. We have boosted our sales and marketing machinery for better engagement with our clients and prospects.

These measures are beginning to bear fruit. Our service propositions are resonating strongly in the market. For the past two quarters we have been growing sequentially at 3% q-o-q and we expect this to further improve in the next couple of quarters. That would put us at a run rate of 15% yearly growth. At the existing growth rate we plan to close at around $155 million for fiscal ending March 2018.

The amount of growth witnessed in the past three quarters is more than what happened in the past three years.

When do you think you have crossed the hump?
After I joined, the first two quarters went significantly on fire fighting and setting things in order. We have really taken off in the last two quarters and expect this trend to continue. I think the hump of inertia is behind us.

What is the realistic estimate for a CSS Corp IPO?
All PE-owned firms need to have an exit path. Some PE invested companies go through an IPO or are acquired by strategic buyers or bought over by other PE firms. When CSS Corp’s organic revenue crosses $200 million, we could potentially do an IPO. All depends on the valuation we get. We estimate to reach this point in 3 to 4 years of time.

What changes have been brought about by you in terms of customers approach?
In terms of customers, we have been constantly reorienting our service lines with new offerings that are closer to our customer ecosystem and that will add value to our customer success. In 2017, a significant portion of CSS Corp’s investments were focused on building technology solutions around AI led solutions, analytics, automation, cloud and digital.

How A Right Cloud Security Strategy Can Help You Vaccinate Your Business Against the Cyber Pandemic

It’s a no brainer – cyber security is a critical issue.

But top leadership teams at many organizations had been overestimating their strategic cyber security capabilities until the COVID-19 crisis hit the world.

The global pandemic, exacting a terrible economic toll worldwide, caught most businesses off guard and has had a downstream effect on security teams of most organizations.

It exposed that only a few companies worldwide had strong cyber security preparedness to combat the increasing number of cyber attacks, triggered by the rapid shift in work patterns on an extremely abbreviated timeline and operating model. Companies are today exposed to an exponentially higher number of threat surfaces and vectors resulting from remote delivery of work.

According to Atlas VPN, the number of breached records in the first quarter of 2020 hit an all-time high of 8.4 billion, a 273% surge from the same period in 2019.

Just Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) or Current Reality?

COVID-19 has accelerated businesses’ transition to a digital future with data moving to cloud. Many global business leaders at World Economic Forum, held in July this year, warned looming of a potentially dangerous cyber pandemic that is likely to result due to rapid and unplanned move.

Dave Bartoletti, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester says: “In general, we expect companies to expand their use of public cloud, contract their spending on building private clouds and shift their hybrid balance to be greater on the public cloud side. This shift was already underway; the pandemic will accelerate it.”

Where Should Businesses Prioritize?

The COVID-19 crisis has refocused strategic priorities of businesses towards the value of cloud delivered security and operational tools.

A solid cloud security plan is central in protecting an organization’s assets and reputation. Security and risk management leaders must now commit to new, emerging cloud security trends to optimize business value and eliminate risks.

• Review the Security Needs of Your Remote Workforce: It is recommended that you evaluate your unique business needs and the data and applications usage of your workforce to assess if any security measures need to be prioritized.

• Eliminate Mundane Tasks with Security Process Automation: It automates security operations tasks based on predefined rules and templates and performs tasks faster and at scale. It saves significant time for businesses to focus on more critical security projects.

• AI to Augment Human Decision Making for Driving Digital Business Initiatives: As more companies adopt cloud computing, many struggle to handle the increasingly complex environment – constituted by the sheer volume of devices, users, and applications.

AI/ML technologies can be integrated into cloud access and application security and network and gateway security to protect digital business systems, improve security defense, and enable automated investigations and accelerated reactions. These technologies build an air-tight system that can take businesses’ cloud security game to the next level.

• Risk-based vulnerability management: It’s recommended that businesses focus on automating infrastructure build out first to significantly reduce the scope of security errors, continually checking instances across the environment and leveraging threat intelligence and asset criticality to prepare a 360-degree view of risks organizations are vulnerable to and a mitigation plan.

The Borderless Enterprise is Here to Stay

We are over 9 months into the COVID-era now. Many businesses are still playing catch up to optimize their remote work experience, according to Infoblox.

Over 90% of decision-makers consider digital transformation and cloud-managed services a priority. Organizations can deploy cloud in multiple ways for communications, brand building, reducing costs and increasing customer acquisition.

A trusted cloud services advisor has the expertise to enable enterprises to take a proactive step towards ensuring safe and secure cloud computing environments while maximizing their ROI and brand image through a managed services model.

Top cloud services organizations today are shepherding many Fortune 500 companies through the process of cloud consulting or cloud migration, and building IaaS and PaaS solutions which can co-exist, on-premise or on the cloud enabling greater operational flexibility.

It is critical to choose a DevSecOps partner, that can help organizations go-to-market faster, improve team productivity and efficiency, detect defects in early stages and build highly stable and secure products.

AI-driven, multi-spoke cloud operations can have businesses covered from provisioning through disaster recovery, giving them lowered TCO, higher ROI, agility, real-time scale, and availability.

In these times, it is important for organizations to have a Zero Trust framework that moves each of their perimeters to every network, user, and device within and outside their company to prevent leaks of their protected data and reducing the risk of increasing cyber attacks.

It is important to act now than regret later.

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