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September 22, 2017

Companies in every industry are up against an unprecedented combination of threats. Banks are facing fintechs, retailers are battling born-on-the-web giants and telcos are searching for new paths to value.

But its a windfall for consumers, who have more choices than ever before, making them feel in control. Technologies like artificial intelligence, the internet of things and the cloud keep raising consumer expectations with personalized services, leaving them feeling empowered like never before.

The end result is that with customers firmly in the driver’s seat, customer experience has become the new competitive battlefield.

Across all sectors and demographic categories, instead of pushing products, companies now compete for consumer loyalty and revenue by selling superior experiences.

Thanks to disruptions from digital technologies, companies are being put on notice in every industry. With nearly 60% of businesses stuck in the early stages of digital transformation, according to IDC, the threats are at a survival level, certainly higher than market share losses or angry shareholders.

Fortunately, most well-established companies are sitting on a gold mine of data that can be turned into dollars if they can use it to unlock their customers’ consumption patterns to deliver better experiences. But with the quickening pace of business, they’re in a race against rivals to uncover the hidden gems that can give them a profound understanding of the myriad desires and choices consumers face, and use them to design and deliver winning customer experiences.

This faster pace requires companies especially firms weighed down by legacy platforms like banks, retailers and telcos to embrace a new, more flexible approach to IT. Not exactly techs early adopters, these established players are now competing on customer experience against online firms that grew up in a walled garden strewn with millions of digital footprints to follow.

They face three daunting hurdles.

1.They must capture and connect huge amounts of information from a vast variety of sources across both the digital world and their more familiar physical world, which to the consumer are already converged. And they need to capture and connect not only from their branches, but also from cities where they do business, and to sensors and other IoT devices embedded in today’s instrumented landscape.

There is an endless list of other potential sources at their disposal — from weather reports, tweets and Facebook posts, to consumer sentiment analyses and breaking news. Its all potential revenue if the data can be monetized.

2. They need to analyze this information all in real time to take advantage of the slim windows of opportunity that make the difference between a rewarding customer experience, a missed opportunity, and an irrelevant, unwelcomed intrusion.

Since few consumer interactions occur in a vacuum, the best customer experiences require sharing insights across company silos and with companies in other industries. A bank that understands they’re selling customer experience instead of mortgages can provide timely offers for moving, interior design, landscaping or home security services. That requires IT systems that can easily communicate because of open source technology.

3. Probably the most important hurdle to clear is in creating a system that can continuously learn from their customers consumption patterns, so that customer experiences will keep getting better.

Many born-on-the-web firms have a head start, but theres no monopoly on selling superior customer experience. With online firms now expanding into brick-and-mortar locations and advanced digital technologies more accessible than ever, the customer experience battle is just getting started.

To succeed, companies must become obsessed with selling the best, most personalized and welcomed customer experiences possible. That means accelerating slow or stalled digital transformation initiatives. That’s why four years ago Tata Consultancy Services formed TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group. I have been fortunate to be a part of that effort.

As a global IT services leader, TCS has been building solutions for the world’s top companies across major sectors and markets for decades. In fact, our partnerships with clients are so close that thousands of TCS employees work at client locations around the globe. Thats given us a unique and intimate understanding of the industry-specific strategies, challenges and priorities they and other firms in their spaces face today and going forward.

With companies under extreme pressure to pick up the pace of digital transformation, we realized we were sitting on a wealth of intellectual property, industry knowledge, and skilled programmers. If we could leverage these assets more broadly by making them scale in the form of out-of-the-box software programs that solved very specific industry problems, it could help a potentially much greater number of companies accelerate their digital transformation journeys.

To learn more about how a services company like TCS got into the software business, watch this video with IDC Chief Analyst Frank Gens.

Seeta Hariharan is an ex TCSer and was the General Manager and Group Head of Digital Software & Solutions (DS&S), a subsidiary of Tata Consultancy Services. Launched in 2014, DS&S Group offers fully integrated and industry specific software and solutions designed to help clients thrive in a radically changing digital environment. Seeta was responsible for all aspects of the business including strategic vision, product research and development and sales and marketing. During her tenure as Group Head, she had uniquely positioned the emerging company for fast growth by creating a culture of cooperation focused on solving specific business problems. Previously, Seeta held leadership roles in IBMs software, services, hardware and microelectronics division. In her last role, she had worldwide responsibility for sales, channels and strategy for Information Management and Business Analytics software. She also held worldwide responsibility for marketing of IBMs communication sector, representing 10 billion in annual revenues. Before IBM, Seeta spearheaded an entrepreneurial venture that offered solutions to an underserved technology market.


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