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March 20, 2017

TCS is gearing up for its annual thought leadership event – TCS Innovation Forum – in New York, London, Sao Paulo and Medellin in the coming months. I was ideating, with my research and innovation teams, on the appropriate theme for these events. So why did I choose ‘Being Digital’ as the overarching conversation piece with my peers and colleagues in the business world?

I see an enterprise’s move to ‘Being Digital’ as an inflexion point in its evolution. This is especially true of enterprises that were ready to innovate early and began their computing journey decades ago, like we did. Companies that began with mainframes and siloed systems of record; companies that grew their business in many parts of the world, whose workforce expanded, who began to offer goods and services in diverse demographies. How should these companies respond to the digital consumer’s demand for always-on, combinatorial and seamless services?
You cannot offer to others what you don’t have in abundance in yourself! To me, any enterprise that wants to meet the demands of its digital native consumers, should start ‘thinking’ digitally, not just ‘adopt’ digital. What does a ‘thinking’ digital enterprise look like? It should have a digital spine, a ‘cognitive’ brain like structure to make smart decisions and nimble extensions to reach out to customers and make their experiences worthwhile.
Digital has changed many things about technology: you get more for less; form has shrunk, function has grown exponentially; ‘data entry’ is no longer a dedicated operation; data can be drawn from several sources: web, social, physical and living things from ground-up bespoke applications we can move to shared and serviced models; business functions from customer touchpoints to delivery of business results can be digitized. As for processes, paper can give way to app-based workflows, emails can be replaced by social interactions. Compliance can be automated. In terms of people, every associate can have a digital footprint, often from ‘cradle to grave’. Some approaches that can help the building of the digital spine are:
• Agile as an enterprise philosophy (and associated technology practices, people practices)
• Legacy Modernization (for example, building an Adaptive Core)
• An API framework (used internally for Hackathons, externally for connecting to the world)
• Security, Privacy, Compliance (going beyond the regulatory minimum, to drive strategic advantage)
• Enterprise Collaboration Platforms (to drive the future workplace)
The year 2016, if anything, has seen rejuvenation of AI. Now we have increasing intelligence to use the data derived from digital systems in a useful way. An insights layer on top of the digital spine can lead business to a new era of computing. Insights, based on a mash up of different types of data can throw up new ideas for the business, and the basis for intelligent augmentation of human capability, or automation. This layer will leverage components including:
• The IoT and domain specific advancements: For Example, genomics and metagenomics, behavioral sciences, often across industry boundaries, in data markets
• Advanced analytics, predictive and prescriptive
• AI, robotics and automation
With a strong digital base and the ability to generate insights predictive and prescriptive, the enterprise must focus on an experience rich outside-in perspective and make its products and services delight the customer. Expertise and technologies in the following areas are useful:
• Design of next generation customer experience
• Digital-physical interfaces using wearables and sensors
• Workplace of the future
The transformation to being digital requires investment and persistence, but it is an exciting one. And it is not just about technology either. It is also about the endless possibilities of combinatorial business model innovation within and across industries digital enables.
The fact that industry boundaries have begun to blur and bundling across industries is the new normal, makes TCS Innovation Forum extremely relevant.
I look forward to brainstorming and cross-industry sharing, with TCS Research and Innovation teams, our customers, and our COIN partners.

Ananth directs Research and Innovation in TCS, India’s largest IT Company. Under his leadership, TCS has created a significant portfolio of patents, papers and IP.

Ananth has served on several Governing Councils of Academia, Industry Advisory boards, and Government committees. He has been a regular invitee to the Board of TCS since 1999.

He was elected a Fellow of INAE in 2013. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of IIT Delhi in 2009. He has been listed in Computerworld’s Premier 100 IT Leaders (2007), and in Infoworld’s Top 25 CTOs (2007). 

Ananth is an M. Tech. in Computer Science and an M. Sc in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.


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