Digital transformation is not new. We are constantly moving towards an increasingly digital world. But the pace of business transformation had been lagging. Until 2020 happened.
When Dell surveyed more than 4,000 business leaders from 18 countries for its Digital Transformation Index 2020, it found that 80% of the businesses had fast-tracked their digital transformation programs. The uncertainty of Covid-19 disrupted the sluggish pace of business transformation. It ushered in seismic changes, accelerating processes that were supposed to take years into a span of months. Let’s look at some of the most transformative industry trends and the growing focus on ‘digital infrastructure’ as a result.
The pandemic allowed businesses to reap the rewards of a digital-first strategy. Buying online was the only way for consumers when lockdowns worldwide forced the closure of brick-and-mortar stores. This meant that many businesses, to stay competitive, had to shift from B2B to B2C/D2C. Companies that were earlier focused only on product creation and then the distribution channel to reach customers now realize the value of creating unique customer experiences in the D2C space
Cloud has emerged as the single most important enabler of transformation. To capture the real value of embracing a digital-first approach, companies realize they need to focus on building a cloud-ready business model right from the beginning. And establishing the proper governance to manage this new digital infrastructure, including cloud financial management, architecture/configuration consistency, and security compliance, is critical to staying in control.
Notably, we are seeing a shift to a hybrid cloud ecosystem for high-data growth enterprises looking to achieve digital success.
We have seen that as more AI-driven data insights come into play, the technical complexity of transformation has also increased.
Businesses are becoming more SaaS-oriented because of this complexity. This is the future of digital infrastructure, and the AI-powered applications ecosystem will only evolve even more over the next few months.
As with the shift to D2C, we are seeing a shift toward building more customer-facing infrastructure. Previously, digital infrastructure was never linked to business outcomes. But what we are seeing now is that businesses understand the importance of how this infrastructure enabled by cloud can and does influence business outcomes. With devices becoming smarter, enterprises are adopting edge computing to bring computing services closer to consumers or data sources.
Today, most businesses realize the necessity of becoming digital-first and modernizing their business profile. Technology is no longer an option but a fundamental imperative that must be built into business strategies. The era of technology infrastructure being utilized behind the scenes for cost leverage is behind us.
The success of the digital-native business model and the opportunities created by the ongoing disruption has pushed infrastructure to the front-line influencing business outcomes, revenue impact, and customer experience transformation. This is where ‘digital infrastructure’ comes in. It is not just about migrating to the cloud here and there. It is all-encompassing, transforming every aspect of infrastructure from connectivity, servers, data, cybersecurity, applications, and platforms to become more agile, intelligent, and scalable. It embodies cloud-based transformation across the infrastructure ecosystem powered by AI-driven data analytics.
While businesses must go digital, it is important to understand the challenges before charting the infrastructure transformation roadmap.
It’s well known that legacy systems are a barrier to seamless digital transformation. And yes, legacy systems can be unwieldy, cumbersome, and resistant to change. But that’s not all.
What we are also seeing is that culture is also one of the biggest challenges to digital transformation. Technology transformation is tough, but people transformation can be tougher! People change management scaling can often be left out when considering an overhaul of legacy technology debt.
Technology readiness, therefore, becomes so important: you may adopt digital, but if your dependent technology stack is not ready in terms of people, processes, and automation, you may not get the results you were looking for.
When you are on the sea, sometimes inclement weather can put wind in the sails and propel the boat at its top speed. In a somewhat similar perspective, the phase of the coronavirus pandemic has created a scenario that has led to fast-pacing the need to address the gender gap concerns—a long-standing issue in the tech industry. The low representation of women, particularly in leadership roles, has been a much-talked-about matter for years now. Genuine efforts can go a long way toward introducing gender diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech sector.
In the tech industry, the pandemic has been instrumental in introducing some of the most significant transformations in our ways of working. And this has had particular implications for women and other diverse representatives. For example, in women’s case, the opportunity to work in a hybrid manner across geographies and from the comfort of their homes has created a sea of options for them. The 2021 Women in Tech Report states that 53% of women in engineering and IT mentioned that remote work has been a positive and supportive factor.
But despite that, factors such as stereotyping and sub-conscious bias across some roles and challenges in balancing personal and professional life continue to account for the under-representation of women in the tech industry. Gender bias has been identified as the top barrier preventing women in technology roles from moving into leadership positions. This was closely followed by work-life integration and a lack of mentorship.
As per the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), women represented 26% of all positions in the tech industry and only about 16% at the executive level. Women now occupy less than one-fifth of spots on the boards of directors at tech companies, and the share is lower for women executives, as per the S&P Global findings.
Women cannot take up technical or fieldwork—this has been the general mindset that has prevailed in the industry over the years. And this needs to change.
Another challenge in the form of the lack of a strong pipeline of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields ensures that you’re choosing from a smaller pool.
So, what can we do to improve diversity in tech?
While tech companies are making efforts, however, there is scope for more when it comes to creating equal opportunities and establishing the right support system.
Mentoring and employee resource groups (ERGs): These are groups in which employees and their allies gather regularly to exchange their experiences and offer one another support that can go a long way in creating a welcoming, inclusive environment.
Recruiting more women personnel: Especially at the shopfloor and the leadership level can help overcome the stereotypical mindset.
Adopting a three-pronged approach: Solving for more women in STEM is a long-term plan, but corporate mentoring, campus engagement and lateral hiring can positively change the equation.
A study from the Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI), which was conducted almost a decade ago, has long established that ensuring more women in leadership can have numerous benefits. Gender diversity in the workplace leads to a thriving economy and is a valuable asset. It also makes good business sense considering that the variety of perspectives allows better decision-making. Organizations with more women in the IT department tend to be further along in digital transformation.
Some solace can be gained from the Deloitte Global report, however. On average, large global technology firms will touch nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforces in 2022, the report states. This number is up slightly more than 2 percentage points from 2019. The proportion of women in technical roles will also spur up, though it has tended to lag the overall proportion of women by about 8 percentage points.
While walking the talk at CSS Corp, we believe in celebrating diversity. We recently introduced the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN), a mentorship program that promotes diversity and equality in the workplace. Take, for instance, our program named ‘WIN Charter,’ which conducts events for women employees to share learnings and create a supportive environment to overcome challenges and provide guidance—at an individual and personal level.
Lastly, I would like to mention that learning, mentoring, and upskilling remain crucial to equipping oneself while adapting to the changing needs of any tech organisation. This will go a long way in staying ahead of the curve.
Gender biases can affect all aspects of working life for women, including disparities in pay and promotions.
Every year, on March 8th, organizations worldwide burst into a frenzy as they celebrate International Women’s Day. Despite the fervour, a lot of this day’s activity can become mere token activism without actual policy interventions or changes. When I read that this year’s theme was #BreakTheBias, I was compelled to sit back and think about what bias means to me, Gender Bias to be more specific.
My POV – Gender bias at its simplest, is about having prejudice towards one gender over another. This prejudice can result in differences and discrimination in the way employees are treated. Reality is a lot more complex than that, of course. Interestingly and unfortunately, not all bias is conscious and unconscious biases are deeply ingrained. Factors and influences such as our upbringing, experiences, society, and the environment play a role in shaping the choices and decisions we take in life.
And where bias is common, organizations suffer. The impact of bias is so evident even at the level – this creates a gap in having genuinely diverse teams. Also, workplace inclusivity suffers, and no one wins in this situation.
How can we reduce gender biases?
Gender biases can affect all aspects of working life for women, including disparities in pay and promotions. In many instances, women also do not give due credit to their skills and knowledge and underplay which is a bigger problem to solve for. But as I wrote earlier, hiring is often the first place where biases creep in. Take the classic study by InSync that showed even when interviewers were giving identical resumes with only differences in the names (Simon and Susan), Simon received more interviews and was more likely to be hired than Susan.
Artificial intelligence, the next frontier of automation, will be a business imperative for channel pros who want to become more agile, innovative, and competitive. By Esther Shein
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE is cutting a wide swath across nearly every industry, and managed services is no different. AI-embedded tools are being touted for their ability to help MSPs automate repetitive functions and boost productivity. For many MSPs, though, AI is still a nascent and abstract concept. Nevertheless, it is a business imperative if they want to become more agile, innovative, and competitive.
While MSPs broadly understand the value of AI, “there is still a good amount of unknown and probably some more hype than reality,” says David Tan, CTO of Syosset, N.Y.-based CrushBank, which developed an AI-based IT help desk application. There needs to be more education on how to harness and leverage the tools, he says.
Some MSPs have dipped their toes in to take advantage of automation. Georg Dauterman, president of New York-based Valiant Technology, is partnering with an MSSP that has built some AI technology “to allow us to offer more powerful security services to our clients.”
The MSSP is helping Valiant build a SOC SIEM and integrate it with the firm’s PSA tools to provide a single view of the network. That way, when alerts come in that the system indicates should be investigated, they can be remediated more quickly, Dauterman says.
Advanced cybersecurity is an area where AI can be very beneficial to MSPs by proactively identifying and neutralizing threats, agrees Rahul Joshi, CTO of CSS Corp, a customer experience and technology services provider with U.S. headquarters in San Jose, Calif.
The emerging category of AIOps uses AI and automation to enhance IT operations. For instance, AIOps can help MSPs with alert and incident correlation by combing through large amounts of data to determine what alerts are false and which ones need attention, Tan says.
And in the case of one CSS customer, “we have achieved a 60% reduction in TCO … [and] 99.999% availability across web-hosting platforms through enhanced observability and controllability” enabled by their AIOps platform, Joshi says.
As India’s new financial year begins, CIOs are now sorting out their priorities and concerns. CIO India talks to IT leaders to understand what they are.
With the accelerated pace of digital transformation, coupled with the unprecedented arrival of the pandemic pushing enterprises towards a hybrid work culture, IT leaders have played a key part in keeping business afloat these last two years. The resulting redefinition of their role is influencing their priorities as they prepare for the 2023 financial year.
One of the biggest changes has been to bring them closer to business units.
“We are on a digital transformation journey that will transform our customer, partner, and employee experience by focusing on inclusion, innovation, operational excellence, and agile methodologies,” says Dharmendra Rangain, CIO for India and neighbouring countries at Cisco Systems.
At engineering and technology services company Cyient, CIO Pallavi Katiyar says that CIOs are closely integrated with business and are more like partners today, making the framework for deciding priorities relatively easier. “We (CIOs) are working very closely with the business to understand their priorities, focus, and requirements. That helps CIOs to identify and work on solutions that need to be enabled for business to meet their objectives.”
CIO’s top concern: cybersecurity
Cybersecurity will continue to be a top priority for Indian CIOs in the year ahead, according to a recent survey of technology executives by Gartner: 64% of Indian CIOs surveyed said they will increase their spending on security-related technologies in 2022, higher than the global average of 57%.
The IT leaders CIO India spoke with told a similar story.
For Cyient’s Katiyar, cybersecurity is the topmost concern: “The threat is real. It’s something that has been keeping me awake for the last couple of years.” She says it’s foolhardy for anyone to assume they are safe even if they have the world’s leading cyber security solutions.
She is currently focusing on improving overall cybersecurity by working very closely with her team. “We ensure that we build cybersecurity and data security into every aspect of the application infrastructure solution that we are delivering,” she says.
Her colleague, CTO Rajaneesh R Kini, agrees. “Our priorities for the year are to enhance our cybersecurity architecture using data access patterns to better understand security threats for IT and OT systems.” Kini is working to make the company more agile and build a system that would enable the organization to leverage data to create insights that drive real business value. He is also exploring AI tools with the goal of providing workers with a self-service platform for supporting decision making.
This financial year, Katiyar plans to invest significantly in building cybersecurity capabilities in-house but realises that alone won’t be enough: “It is going to be an impossible task to have the entire knowledge, capability, and skill set in-house, so it’s also important to have the right vendor and partner ecosystem in place to help bridge the gap.”
Cisco’s Rangain says now is the time to make bolder decisions, assume newer responsibilities that will boost customer and employee experience, and guard against evolving cyberattacks. However, Rangain is well aware that the hurdles and gaps for IT leaders will only widen: “From continuously bolstering security architecture to finding and retaining the right talent, the complexities and opportunities are plenty, as we live in a time of innovation and disruption.”
Indian IT firms today are seeing the highest attrition rates — and the resulting demand for skilled IT workers has led to increased payroll costs.
At technology consultancy Thoughtworks, Chief Digital Officer Swapnil Deshpande says that after compliance, cybersecurity, and data privacy, one of his top concerns for the year ahead is being able to respond to changes faster. “With business evolving fast and technology evolving faster, one of my concerns is being able to build an IT department that can match or surpass the current rate of change. Running an operationally efficient organization with the help of data will enable key leaders to use actionable insights and foresight for better decision making.”
Deshpande says that to help solve this issue, talent acquisition and retention will continue to be a priority. He also plans to work towards digital transformation with platforms and data to significantly improve the internal IT effectiveness and productivity, thus helping key business leaders make better decisions to run and grow the company.
Talent development and retention have emerged as key concerns for Kiran Marri, vice president and chief scientist at IT services provider CSS Corp. “My top priorities include enablement and use of technology to empower employees by equipping them with the required skills to solve client problems. My goal is to prepare employees for a technology-based future and help them hone and acquire needed skills now and moving forward.”
Natarajan Radhakrishnan, president and global chief innovation officer at Hinduja Global Solutions, says lack of digitally skilled talent has been a major concern for IT leaders, and hiring talent exclusively from external sources has become extremely difficult. “CIOs encourage employees within the organization to upskill themselves in necessary technologies. This method future-proofs the careers of employees by equipping them with relevant skills. It is also cost-effective for the organization,” he says.
Technology adoption is accelerating across industries, and newer technologies are always emerging, so how can CIOs keep track of the necessary skills and ensure staff are up to speed? the same grit every day.”
With competition for skilled IT workers getting tighter, it’s more important than ever for enterprises to be sure they’re spending on recruiting and retaining the right talent.
IT executives see talent shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to 64% of emerging technologies, ahead of implementation cost (29%) or security risk (7%), according to a September 2021 Gartner survey.
Identifying which emerging technologies will prove most useful is a challenge, though. The pace of technology has evolved so rapidly over the last few years, multiplied by the pandemic, that it’s hard to keep track — and what’s most in demand today may be obsolete tomorrow. With the accelerated pace of technology adoption, how are CIOs to identify the skillsets they need in their team?
CIO.com India asked IT leaders from different industries about the strategies they use to forecast which skills they will need.
For Giridhar Yasa, chief technology officer at Indian online financing company Lendingkart, it starts with reading. “We follow industry developments quite closely and do our own research. This happens through reports like those published by the Reserve Bank of India, industry consulting majors, and technology papers among others,” he told CIO.com.
Rohit Kaila, vice president of Walmart Global Tech India, develops IT systems for the US supermarket chain. He identifies current skill needs by evaluating his IT inventory. “There might be 10 or 20 or 100 systems out there. What are the key technologies in those systems? That is what drives the people that I’m going to hire.”
Let’s take a look at where the reasoning of some of these CIOs leads them.
CSS Corp’s Marri says the technical skills that will continue to drive the IT industry are AI, analytics, ML, open-source, languages such as Python, full-stack development, and niche areas such as augmented reality and virtual reality.
The IT leader at the renewable energy company says there will be most demand for data scientists who can translate data into more meaningful business language, cybersecurity experts, cloud architects and business analysts who can bridge between the business and the technology team.
Intuits’ Saxena highlights the steadily increasing jobs in cloud computing as enterprises in India and globally are moving workloads and applications from traditional data centres to the cloud. The most in-demand and highest-paying talents in this group, he says, are experience with AWS, AI/ML, cloud-native technologies such as Kubernetes and containers, open telemetry, Kafka, GraphQL, and React. “Developers are in massive demand, thanks to rising demand for software and apps as the globe gets more digitally linked. Knowledge of Python, Java, R, and natural language processing tops the list of the in-demanded skills… Other than these, we’re also on the lookout for top talent skilled in big data; data scientists; development managers; product managers, and designers.”
Cisco’s Patil says it’s all about ‘superskilling’ as we go deeper into the digital-first world: “Organizations should implement a culture of continuous learning and upskill existing teams on critical IT skills such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, devops, AI/machine learning, data analytics, blockchain, and software/mobile development.”
As you can see, while the core forecasting methods (looking at the constants, at the business environment, at customer needs) can lead CIOs to different, yet equally valid, conclusions about the skills their enterprise needs, there are still some overlaps. Short-term competition for candidates with these skills will continue to drive up costs, making it all the more important that CIOs look at the business, analytical and soft skills that will remain relevant when the current technology fads have passed.
If you think women don’t belong to the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, think again.
While women have traditionally been underrepresented in the STEM [Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] field, their contribution to research and development at leading companies is increasing significantly, according to many executives interviewed by DH on International Women’s Day.
The proof is in the pudding: The number of women in tech is rising and so are the patents filed by them and their inventions that won a patent.
Volvo Group India said women accounted for 38 per cent of the patents filed in 2021, versus 10 per cent in the year-ago period. German software firm SAP said about 630 patents were filed between FY16 and FY21 where at least one of the co-innovators was from its Indian arm. Uber said women now account for 42.2 per cent of its workforce, out of which 23.2 per cent are engaged in technology.
“Multiple organisations have introduced flexible working policies, anti-harassment policies, women mentorship programmes, and leadership support to establish an equitable workforce culture,” said Punitha Anthony, Senior Director–HR at technology services provider CSS Corp India.
The executives interviewed by DH said they were optimistic about more women joining the workforce, especially due to the recent initiatives at their firms.
That said, there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to tackling issues ranging from unconscious bias to pay parity.
For instance, an unconscious bias might stop someone from calling a woman by her name in a group conversation while constantly calling out her male peer’s name, pointed out Vanya Seth, head of technology at Thoughtworks, a tech consultancy firm. “This kind of behaviour can make people feel invisible. Yet, most passionate technologists who are women are showing up to work with the same grit every day.”
As organisations recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion in talent management, many are increasing their efforts to support and empower women to succeed in the workplace. There are positive changes taking place within the tech industry, as more women are taking on roles within it. Women bring with them diverse perspectives, unique problem-solving techniques, attention to detail, and a multi-faceted approach to any project.
Despite several measures aimed at expanding women’s involvement in the tech workforce, India’s ratio of women in tech management and CXO positions remains low. However, as India Inc. recognises the value of women tech leaders in decision-making, the tendency appears to be shifting.
There are positive changes taking place within the tech industry, as more women are taking on roles within it. Women bring with them diverse perspectives, unique problem-solving techniques, attention to detail, and a multi-faceted approach to any project.
As organisations recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion in talent management, many are increasing their efforts to support and empower women to succeed in the workplace.
Organisations encouraging more women in technology
Vanya Seth, Head of Technology, Thoughtworks, said that at Thoughtworks, they run a STEP program that seeks to work with students from Tier 2 and 3 cities. STEP is a twenty-four month-long intensive entry-level programme that follows a unique “work while you study” methodology that offers the chance to learn theory and apply it at work.
To ensure that more women are part of the technical community, Thoughtworks runs a couple of initiatives:
Thoughtworks runs Vapasi – a certified and free technical training program designed for women who are on a career break and are keen to get back to tech. The program is tailored to both Quality Analysts (QA) and Developers (Dev).
Speaking about the initiatives, Rachel Scheel, Senior Vice President of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Criteo, said that her organisation is focusing on targeting hiring programs that will naturally attract more females into technology careers. Recently, the company launched a career Returnship Program which aimed to attract women talent who had left their careers for family and parenting responsibilities.
Scheel further said, this program provides a tailored hiring process, and six-month supportive onboarding with flexible working options, focusing on making that re-entry more appealing. This program itself will hopefully encourage many women back to the workforce, providing a great pipeline for future leaders – as many of these women have left at the midpoint of their careers.
“We are working with schools and colleges that primarily support women and women from underprivileged backgrounds. We will be creating intern and early careers programs to attract young talent graduating in a technology course,” Scheel added.
On her part, Sindhu Gangadharan, SVP & MD, SAP Labs India; Head, SAP User Enablement, said, “The company has targeted intervention amongst women youth towards building employable and future IT skills and workforce readiness.”
Gangadharan further said, while building the enabling ecosystem for young women is to equip them with advanced career training in topics viz., data science, cloud computing, AI, Machine Learning and programming languages; provide them mentorship on how to build a career with the IT industry and prepare them for future skills.
While emphasising on the initiatives, Sumedha Pal Parmer, Country HR Leader – Honeywell India, stated, “At Honeywell, we believe that Diversity and Inclusion facilitates a level playing field. Moreover, it creates an ecosystem where ideas, creativity and work are valued irrespective of gender. Our Honeywell Reconnect program ensures that women are seamlessly integrated within the system upon their return from maternity leave.”
According to Gayatri Mohanakrishnan, AVP, CSS Corp, “We are committed to promoting diversity and equality at CSS Corp. We have the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) to encourage and promote diversity in the workplace by inspiring, motivating, and empowering women and supporting them in pursuing growth and learning in their careers and life.”
“Additionally, through our WIN Charter, we aim to establish mentorship programs and events for women employees at all levels to share learnings and create a supportive environment to overcome challenges and provide guidance for individual and collective growth,” Mohanakrishnan added.
This is how women in tech are growing and organisations are trying their best to provide facilities and guidance to increase women in tech more.