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Digital Transformation Means Simplifying Complexity

 

Akhilesh Tiwari
Vice President, Global Head, Enterprise Application Services
30 June 2019

“The source of your success could be the source of your downfall.”

That was a key message for CIOs, CDOs and other digital leaders at a recent Forbes and TCS executive event in New York City. 

Peter High, digital transformation strategist and Forbes contributor who led the session, used that quote to underscore his point: For modern enterprises to evolve, grow and innovate in these data-intensive times, they must engage in digital transformations that are cloud-first and based on technologies that can simplify complexity.

It was a message, in other words, that resonates with TCS’ own Business 4.0 philosophy of digital transformation. 

Mr. High, who offered a series of case-studies to illustrate his points,  attributed the “source of your downfall” quote to Rob Carter, the CIO of FedEx.

A few years ago, Mr. Carter recognized that FedEx in the decades since its founding in 1971, through many generations of IT, had continued to leverage the key insight of FedEx founder Fred Smith – namely, that the information about a delivery package is more important than the package itself. By approaching the logistics of transportation and delivery as one big data-processing challenge, FedEx had become a global colossus. 

But rather than be satisfied with FedEx’s digital dominance, FedEx’s CIO adopted an attitude of creative paranoia. Hence his transformative quote: “The source of your success could be the source of your downfall.”

That realization, Mr. High told the audience, prompted Mr. Carter around 2015 to embark on a transformation to the cloud with an emphasis on simplification. 

When asked about what it was that the FedEx CIO was most worried about, Mr. High explained, it was the layers of legacy IT that Mr. Carter feared. So many different processes were interconnected in unplanned fashion that if FedEx made any changes to one part of the data system, it could potentially trigger disruptions or other unintended consequences elsewhere in the network. Worse yet, the bird’s nest of interwoven complexity made it too difficult to pursue new data-driven business opportunities with agility.

The FedEx CIO realized that the only way for the company to continue building on its success was to use contemporary, cloud-based technology and techniques to achieve data simplification. 

 “Simplification becomes a key mantra for those of us as technology leaders” Mr. High said.

That message pulled through the other digital-transformation case studies Mr. High presented. He told, for example, of how the pizza chain Domino’s, encumbered by a fading brand and an inferior product that had become the butt of social media jokes, began to focus on the customer experience. 

For one thing, Domino’s started making better pizza. But it also began adopting web and mobile apps that made it easy for consumers to place orders from a variety of platforms and have it delivered to wherever they might be – including using drop pins on GPS maps for deliveries to beaches or city parks. Today, nearly two-thirds of Domino’s revenues come from online sales, and the company has become one of this decade’s best-performing digital enterprises.

“It’s all about engaging your customers as they want to be engaged,” Mr. High said. 

There were five key digital transformation insights that leaders walked away with:

  • Lesson #1: Meet your customers wherever they wish to be met. 

  • Lesson #2: The digital natives are your competition.

  • Lesson #3: The technology that led to your success can be your downfall. 

  • Lesson #4: That which gets measured gets done.

  • Lesson #5: Plans are for amateurs. Implementation of those plans is for experts. 

These insights also resonate strongly with our latest research about what CIOs are thinking, planning, and doing to transform their businesses.

The TCS 2020 CIO Study asked more than a 1,000 CIOs from major enterprises across 11 industries in North America and Europe where they spend their time, how successful they’ve been, what technologies they’re keeping an eye on, which data matters most to them, and how they’re facing competitive threats. We’ll be releasing reports from this data and our interviews throughout the coming months, and here’s a first glimpse of our initial Key Findings Report. 

Undeniably, across industries, this digital economy offers the perfect opportunity for technology leaders to make the shift to strategic business advisers, and in the process, help their enterprise drive purposeful innovation, outstanding performance and a culture of inclusion and empowerment.

About the author(s)
Akhilesh Tiwari
Vice President, Global Head, Enterprise Application Services

Akhilesh Tiwari is Vice President & Global Head, Enterprise Application Services (EAS) at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). In this role, Akhilesh oversees strategy, growth, and customer success, lending direction to a portfolio of cross-industry and pan-enterprise business applications.

Akhilesh and his team of technology experts and business consultants help global enterprises build on their foundational enterprise applications to integrate new and emerging technologies such as analytics, automation and artificial intelligence. By bridging IT and business together, he helps companies create new business models and fuel opportunities with customer experience, finance and HR transformations and strategic IT initiatives.

With over 25 years of international and multi-faceted leadership experience, Akhilesh focuses on identifying strategic opportunities to truly build and grow businesses. He has forged and deepened partnerships with many of the world’s leading software companies, including SAP, Oracle, Salesforce and Adobe. Under his leadership, the practice was awarded a variety of SAP Pinnacle Awards including SAP Partner of the Year and Run SAP Partner of the Year.

As the technology landscape evolves, he identifies and creates partnerships with future-leading companies that address his customers’ business needs with emerging technologies.

Akhilesh has a Master’s in Business Administration from MIT Sloan School of Management, as well as a Master’s in Materials Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology. He currently resides in the Greater New York City area with his wife and two children.

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