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CIOs should not waste the COVID-19 crisis, Sanjay Srivastava, Chief Digital Officer, Genpact

The digital transformation choices that organizations make today as they move from offline to online will help them prepare for a future in which they will need to demonstrate a more holistic outlook, act more transparently and ethically, and deliver hyperpersonalized experiences. Digital transformation is an imperative.

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In a WFH working model, how do you make the agile methodology work as efficiently as when the multi-functional teams are operating from the same room? How does it happen at Genpact?
The three critical aspects are around implementing the right tools, changing and innovating the ways of working and building a strong, cohesive culture. 

Tools: The right tools, such as videoconferencing and online brainstorming can help remote teams continue collaborating effectively. As you look back over the last 2-3 months, the speed and agility with which we have transitioned to a new virtual work from home model for all of our services can be attributed to our early adoption of virtual collaboration and communication tools to deliver global solutions. 

Ways of working: Companies must redesign processes and ways of working in order to capture knowledge, encapsulate it and distribute it to teams. 

Culture: By finding ways to empower employees, and not just cope with remote work, it is essential to move beyond just virtual collaboration to ignite long-term virtual community building. At Genpact, we have launched an internal engagement program ‘Adapt and Rise’,  to highlight positive sentiment, generate a sense of pride and community for the work we do at Genpact, and celebrate our culture, while also providing links to useful material that helps employees work from home or provide fun ways to keep up with remote teams.

In the times of COVID-19, what is your advice to CIOs in India?
Never waste a crisis. One of the things the pandemic has shown us is that digital transformation is no longer a “nice to have” it’s a “must have”. The digital transformation choices that organizations make today as they move from offline to online will help them prepare for a future in which they will need to demonstrate a more holistic outlook, act more transparently and ethically, and deliver hyperpersonalized experiences. Digital transformation is an imperative. 

Furthermore, we are on a journey from automation to autonomy. We have seen cars go from manual to automated with lane change warning or cruise control and we are now looking at auto park or auto steer with autonomous driving.  Much in the same way, enterprise processes are moving from automated to autonomous – and the difference is in automating some components of a process to automating the entire process end to end.  We are seeing autonomous systems in so many areas now, from data center operations to online commerce, from IoT enabled edge applications, to fully autonomous enterprise processes like finance and accounting. But to get to autonomous we need to automate more of the complex decisioning, and edge use cases – and this requires more AI, data, and intelligent automation

What are your thoughts in having the right AI strategy for CIOs?

AI – as Augmented Intelligence
We don’t think of AI as artificial intelligence, we think of AI as augmented intelligence. Genpact believes that the future of decision-making involves a creative mix of data, analytics, and augmented intelligence (AI), with just the right dash of human judgment. As processes get automated with the changing economic environment, and digital takes on more of the repetitive, rule-based tasks, we expect more value addition from humans than ever. And if we talk about having the right strategy then if you think about it, AI and data analytics can bring possible solutions at an amazing speed, but “the last mile,” the actual decision, still belongs to humans. This is the concept of “humans in the loop” and in the end, ensures the proper use of augmented intelligence that will give an edge to companies.  

Need for modularization:
The top barriers to AI adoption are the lack of skills to design, implement, and maintain AI solutions, and no clarity on where to use AI effectively. And so, we need to think about AI in modules – in small components that can re-aggregate into larger business processes. Genpact is using AI in multiple ways, most notable being its digital business platform called Genpact Cora, which collects and analyses the available data and makes recommendations to clients. Genpact Cora’s Pretrained AI Accelerators are designed to address the critical barriers to AI adoption in the enterprise. These prebuilt engines combine AI technology, deep data sets, and pretrained, contextually relevant industry domain expertise, drawing on Genpact’s experience running operations for hundreds of large companies across multiple industries.

Ethical governance:
AI is intrinsic and influential. As a result, there have been concerns regarding how organizations use it to make decisions. Concerns over bias in AI systems and lack of skills to design AI solutions are not new, but there seems to be an increase in board-level recognition of the pitfalls of this and the need for ethical frameworks.

Our most recent study shows that while 67% of consumers worry about AI discriminating against them, and 64% fear that AI will make decisions that affect them without their knowledge, companies that understand these issues and act accordingly can succeed. There is a need to establish ethical AI frameworks for effective decision-making without misuse of data as AI continues to increase its influence in business decision making.  

With these frameworks, businesses can build trust with consumers, which supports AI adoption, but also brand reputation. As part of ethical AI frameworks, business leaders must encourage diversity. The goal is to have complete and comprehensive data samples that can cover all scenarios and users to eliminate bias. Enterprises could see more positions like digital ethics officers with multiple responsibilities: implementing ethical frameworks to make appropriate decisions about new technologies; addressing considerations like data security and bias; looking ahead to future technology challenges; building new standards of technology governance; and establishing new check-and-balance systems to ensure preventative measures remain effective. Just like we have audit subcommittees and compensation subcommittees, the world is going to have digital ethics subcommittees as a board-level subcommittee, and we already are starting to see the emergence of digital ethics officers.  

In terms of collaborating with other functions, how can Indian CIOs build a startup-like culture in their respective organizations
We’re seeing CIOs work closely with the CEO armed with data to change business operations. At Genpact, we foster a startup culture. We’ve been around for 21 years and have a deep well of experienced talent, domain expertise, and real-world success in driving digital business transformation for scores of global Fortune 500 companies. Fresh, quick, and adaptable thinking is what we seek and what we value at Genpact. 

We believe that success belongs to those who exhibit or learn to hone “bilingual” talent – the combination of domain and digital. Our years of process and operational experience – our domain expertise – combined with a deep bench of talent around digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, is what sets us apart. It’s what enables us to work with clients to effectively reimagine their every process, system, and even business model.

Much like a start-up, people with ideas should be valued and given a voice in company’s strategy. At Genpact, we believe in challenging rule-breakers and risk-takers to join us because we’re a company that’s all about reinventing how business gets done.  

Why do digital transformation initiatives fail?
Digital transformation requires the intersection of three vectors. When all three don’t come together, initiatives fail. These comprise of deep understanding of domain, digital tools and capabilities and competencies to architect the new business framework, and large scale program management to orchestrate people, process, technology and data in a way that you can drive change and deliver business outcomes in a predictable managed fashion.

CIOs are renegotiating contracts with vendors/partners – because of the exigencies from COVID-19. What are your thoughts on the usual friction points during these negotiations and how can they be settled in a way that works favorably for both parties?
We’re going through a time of deep transformation in the industry. Indeed, there will be some friction during the negotiations between CIOs and vendors and partners. Vendors and partners that will build trust with CIOs are those that can focus on value, not cost. They need to focus on business outcomes and come up with pricing models that share the risk and the gain – those that do this, will be better off than those with fixed pricing models.

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