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We are living in difficult times. Businesses of all industries have faced unimaginable adversity over the past few months, and now are looking for ways they can turn their experiences into long-term strategic growth opportunities. Digital transformation has been at the forefront of discussions across all sectors—from the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into marketing strategies, to the use of automation and robotics in manufacturing.

Throughout the pandemic, the high-tech industry has remained integral in helping enterprises establish these overnight digital infrastructures that have set them up for short-term survival and long-term success.

As Raman Venkatraman, Vice President & Global Head of the HiTech & Professional Services Industry Unit at TCS explains, “The technology and services industry is very diverse, in the sense that we are at the forefront to bring in new innovations in products and services. We are disrupting every other industry with our products and services, and traditionally we have seen this for a long period of time…But one significant aspect of our industry has been that we ourselves get disrupted by the consumption patterns of the industries that we serve, and in turn we get impacted by every situation that develops across multiple industries.”

Raman moderated a panel discussion with six influential business leaders from diverse backgrounds within the technology and services industry. The virtual event, titled ‘Crucible of Growth and Innovation for New Beginnings’, explored how business leaders across different segments within the technology and services sector drove innovation to help their organizations and customers quickly adapt to the next normal—whether it be remote working technologies, cybersecurity investment, SaaSification, and more.

Responding to the initial impact

When the pandemic hit, supply chains were turned upside down—enterprises were faced with massive surges in demand in some areas and massive dips in others. There were logistical hurdles that needed to be overcome immediately, as well as safety standards that needed to be prioritized to ensure a safe workplace.

Sudhakar Varshney, Vice President, Supply Chain & Global Operations, Hach, explained how the pandemic affected all businesses, observing, “During this pandemic crisis, we as businesses had to respond on multiple fronts very promptly, first and foremost, to ensure [the] safety of our workers, and then to ensure operational viability, which had come under significant strain from the supply chain shock.”

He also touched on the rapid acceleration of SaaSification and the challenges that refrain organizations from finding SaaSification-driven success, as the longevity of the pandemic has put the necessary solutions and priorities for enterprise resiliency into perspective.

Prioritizing the employees

Beyond the impact on the supply chain, René Steenvoorden, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) & Executive Board Member, Randstad discussed the pandemic’s effect on the employees within his organization and the overall job market across regions. “We were all used to a world where talent was very scarce and we have this war for talent going on, but COVID-19 changed all of that. It was a big shock into the whole world of work, and it hurts where it hits the most. On the other hand, there are some areas where talent remains scarce. We see from areas, like in the US—healthcare, retail trade, and logistics are basically back to normal levels.”

René additionally discussed the steps organizations need to take in order to help their existing employees thrive in this new environment.

“Companies are actively redesigning their talent pools to become more flexed and less fixed. They need to retrain people how to work in a far more digital way. Working from home is truly a massive topic, and we see a lot of effort in retraining people towards new skills or investment in outplacement if we have to let them go.”

Steve George, Global Chief Information Officer (CIO), EY, on the other hand shared a different experience within his company, where travel and remote work was already a mainstay.

“Probably 90% of our employees traveled at one point in time or another, so you really only had to train the other 10% on what it meant to be remote. Now the hard part, of course, was that when those people weren’t working at the client site they weren't at home—they were in our offices. And so, there were some learnings about where and how you manage things like support. I think that's probably been the biggest learning for us. Working with our partners we were able to change some of the ways that we support our staff in terms of help desks, hardware and how we're able to get things to them when needed.”

Rashmi Kumar, Senior Vice President (SVP) & CIO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise shared details regarding the company’s experiences during the start of the pandemic and how they were forced to pivot, while employees stayed committed and resilient as they navigated through the situation.

“When the lockdown happened, we were right in the middle of a major global rollout with thousands of people involved across our employees, business partners, inside business operations team, etc. We were also in the middle of a major company pivot, following a promise from our CEO centered around making our offerings available as a service by the year 2022.”

According to Marianne Röling, General Manager, Digital Technology GSI Partners, Microsoft Corporation, employees working from home were actually more productive than when they were in the office.

“But managers are also seeing burnout—seeing people work too long, too many hours.”

Going forward, Marianne believes that investment in digital skills is the key to long-term success and mentioned the company’s partnership with LinkedIn, which includes providing free training and low-cost certification.

Data is key for SaaSification

The importance and value of data was a theme thoroughly discussed throughout the session—specifically by Josh Langley, Vice President, Enterprise Architecture & Platforms, Iron Mountain—who shares his team’s plan to incorporate more data internally to streamline efficiency, while highlighting the importance of security.

“I think that security and information governance, writ large, are really non-negotiable. They're part of our brand values, and they're really built into our company DNA. Building the cybersecurity muscle into all of our product engineering and reliability engineering teams is really a core discipline—and it's something that I feel like has to be a first-class citizen.”

Raman shared how commitment to investment in cybersecurity often serves as a key driver for bringing enterprises to the cloud. He then discussed the rise of SaaSification as a result. “There are various aspects of products and services that are being converted to various forms of SaaS platforms that companies want to offer on a consumption-based model”, he shared.

SaaSification was a hot topic during the panel discussion. Each panelist shared a unique perspective on the applications and roadblocks for widespread SaaSification adoption.

For example, Sudhakar explained how there are hundreds of use cases in the industry, but “we are focusing on the use cases that are adding the most value to our customer… whether it’s optimizing their processes, giving them a better experience, or generating cost savings for them.” He then went on to explain that this should not deter businesses within his industry to adopt a SaaSified approach going forward.

Navigating forward

The panelists covered a wide range of topics, with one key theme at the forefront—a reliance on technology and services. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how organizations continue to pivot, evolve their employees’ digital skills learning, and adopt new cloud-based business models.

The webinar can be accessed at the link below: