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AI is amplifying human potential: Manish Tandon, CEO, CSS Corp

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The Indian IT services sector is in the midst of a huge transformation, and automation is completely changing the way IT services are delivered and consumed. Manish Tandon, CEO, CSS Corp, tells Express Computer, how his firm is preparing itself for a new world where automation is the norm
How do you see the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on the IT services industry?
While Automation has been around in some shape or form for ages, Artificial Intelligence is pushing the envelope on what machines are capable of doing and bringing in an entirely new wave of automation.Till yesterday automation was focused more on reducing “manual labour”. Today, with the advent of AI, it is focused more on reducing “intellectual labour”. Therein lies the crux of the fear, anxiety, angst that this combination is causing in the society today. It is changing the way we live in fundamental ways.

I believe AI and automation is unlocking and amplifying human potential, not replacing it. People will be able to focus much more on value added work and less on tedious and repeatable work. They will be able to unleash their creative potential better. The challenge for businesses is not to ignore or deny the impact of this technology but to provide a more robust, customized and engaging way in dealing with their customers.AI and automation have created the path for companies to increase productivity (which has been stagnant in the developed world for some time) and enhance end user experience.

AI is rapidly becoming a global economic engine for new experiences, business models and jobs. Companies that embrace AI will be able to create the modern experiences their customers expect, connect with them on all their devices and be able to anticipate and predict in order to better serve them. With AI and automation, there will be nothing called as “mass market”, there will essentially be micro markets with N->1. AI also plays a key role in enabling productivity, improving customer service and enabling businesses to become more agile. This will trigger a new wave of growth in generating newer jobs. The key for individuals is their ability to be flexible and re-skill to develop and succeed.

According to MIT Sloan Management Review study, 72% of respondents in the technology, media, and telecommunications industry expect AI to have a significant impact on product offerings in the next five years. In addition, Financial Services, Retail and CPG industries are expected to benefit from AI-based improvements in Business Process Management (BPM).

In sync with the above trends, the IT services industry is leveraging AI and automation in a big way and will be able to deliver better value and solutions to their customers, which will in turn lead to a better customer experience for their end consumers.

How has CSS Corp aligned itself to this new world where automation is the norm (Some details on internal platforms being created, the type of people being recruited would help)
Our vision is to build a new age services company and we have started moving aggressively on that path by adoption and investments in customer-centric technologies like AI, analytics, and digital. We are trying to break the stereotypes in services industry through adoption and implementation of new engagement models that would help our clients build better customer intimacy and more revenues.

In this context, we have built automation platforms like Contelli for IT Operations and Yodaa for customer engagement. Our platforms promote symbiotic convergence between AI, analytics and automation at different junctures to drive effortless engagements. These are not generic platforms but contextual platforms built around solving specific problems in customer engagement and productivity.
We are investing heavily in new age technologiesto simplify customer technology ecosystems and bring clarity to chaos. These solutions are helping enterprises to move from traditional models to new age service models that helps them identify new revenue streams. We continue to see good traction for these solutions amongst customers and prospects across various industries.

On the talent front, we recently recruited 30+ Data Scientists and Data Engineers to augment our platform capabilities. This team is instrumental in building AI, machine learning and automation solutions.

Our Digital Career Progression Framework, “Reimagine” has been specifically built to fast-track employee reskilling initiatives within the organization. We recently won the NASSCOM Digital Skills 2017 award for having one of the best digital reskilling platforms in the Indian IT industry. The framework facilitates an innovative approach to employee up-skilling and cross-skilling in new age digital technologies.

Can you give us specific examples where automation has made a big impact?
One of the successful use cases is the customer support industry where AI enables convergence of human and machine intelligence. This results in improved business agility, operational excellence, and resilience, and brings about better customer experience. AI offers personalized and context-driven support, with a human-like interaction. The ability to respond instantaneously and accurately to customers’ questions and helping them in the decision making processes, has made AI an integral part of the brands’ customer experience ecosystem.

To fuel the growing needs of our customers, CSS Corp has built an AI platform Yodaa 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 enhances customer interactions. Yodaa integrates with all customer channels like voice, email, chat and website, and provides a seamless and consistent omni-channel experience. It offers predictive intelligence, automated queuing, routing and channel allocation. Yodaa can offer personalized recommendations based on customer analytics. It can indicate customer emotions, intentions, and other signals during real-time conversations, thus improving customer satisfaction levels.

The other use case that we have implemented using AI and automation is to simplify hybrid IT ecosystems. Early in 2017, we launched Contelli, an intelligent automation platform that combines advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities to prevent problems before they affect the customer. Contelli helps enterprises mitigate hybrid IT challenges with intelligent automation. The solution hyper-charges the enterprise IT operations ecosystem, predicts incidents, threats and business opportunities and assists in faster decisions. This platform, provided with a single-view dashboard, is powered with capabilities that eliminates problems before the environment is impacted.

Every year CSS Corp invests a significant portion of its revenue in building its innovation and research capabilities through our Innovation Labs. We continue to invest in building modular and niche solutions to simplify clients’ complex technology ecosystems.

How has this focus on automation helped CSS? Can you give us some measurable statistics (For example, productivity improvement of x% due to automation?)

During Contelli’s evolution in the last 9 months from a basic automation engine to its use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for automation, we have been able to help enterprises mitigate their IT Infrastructure challenges effectively through context driven solutions.

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

For a railroad and locomotive company, CSS Corp deployed predictive intelligence capabilities to pre-empt equipment failures, optimize daily operations and field resources. We constantly monitor the customer’s sensor based IoT devices and enable ideal failure prediction analysis with the use of real-time intelligence, image data analysis, acoustic data analysis and operational intelligence. The company observed reduction in operational cost by 30%, improved technician productivity by 18% and increase in Mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) by 35%.

How do you see the opportunities for your firm in emerging areas such as Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain?
The rapid evolution of AI, machine learning, neural networks and computational power has ensured that a wide array of activities is in the scope for automation today.
However, we often see organizations struggle to effectively leverage and implement AI capabilities to drive customer experience, efficiency and productivity improvements. It is about finding the right use-case and reimagining IT with AI support.

Having implemented AI in customer engagements, we have identified the key to the success of any AI program is context. Recently, we engaged with a large networking company to simplifying their network ecosystem through Contelli. We performed in-depth assessment of the client’s network infrastructure ecosystem and developed an early warning system by integrating NLP and advanced machine learning capabilities. The solution promotes fusion of real-time log data with historical data, identifies recurring patterns and provides automated resolution to resolve complex network related issues.

We at CSS Corp strongly believe that AI is the new electricity for enterprises. We are sitting on a huge amount of data from our customers where we can find patterns in that data, apply those patterns into real-time work, in terms of either benefiting the business process or helping in terms of creating the hyper-personalized experiences for their customers. Use of AI technologies has certainly helped us to predict customer behaviors, transform support operations, while reducing costs and meeting customer expectations.

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