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Technology Enabled: Enterprises increasingly adopt ICT solutions for business growth

February 25, 2016
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With the rapid proliferation of smart devices and increased broadband access, enterprises have accelerated their adoption of mobility solutions. During 2015, the enterprise segment made significant investments in cloud technologies, big data analytics and virtualisation, with the aim of increasing customer engagement, tapping emerging opportunities and enhancing productivity. However, the lack of a robust support infrastructure in terms of network bandwidth remains a key challenge for enterprises in the information and communication technology (ICT) space. Select enterprise customers comment on the key technology trends in the enterprise space during 2015 and the mobility applications adopted by them, the challenges associated with the introduction of new applications, and the technology roadmap for 2016...

Aakash_Chaudhry_Aakash_instituteAshu_Gupta_PNB_MetLifeShabir_Momin_Zenga_TVNilesh_Kumar_Purey_GIft_CityAshish_Kumar_Sahay_CTO_GATE_ACADEMY

What were the key technology trends in the enterprise space during 2015?

Ashu Gupta

In 2015, the key technology trends that ruled the enterprise space were big data analytics, internet of things, digital technologies, non-negotiable security, easier payments, embedded communication and real-time connected wearable devices.

Shabir Momin

In the past two to three years, technology seems to have touched all aspects of businesses. This has helped solve a lot of complex problems. Many companies are now adopting technology-driven innovations to improve productivity, analyse growth and identify complex issues. In fact, some enterprises are now deploying artificial intelligence to enable them to automatically adapt to the changing scenario.

Nilesh Kumar Purey

The technology trends of 2014 continued in 2015, with social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) governing a major part of the technology landscape. However, in 2015, another dimension called the internet of things (IoT) was added. Today, technology leaders across various industry verticals including utility companies, banks and financial institutes are trying to harness the potential of IoT. Although the technology was being used earlier by many industry verticals like manufacturing and process industries in the form of machine to machine for managing process automation, IoT has now been made usable for other functions like sales and marketing, with the addition of analytics. The concept is still at a nascent stage and requires a lot of cooperation from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), regulators and industry bodies to make it cost-effective and widely accepted.

Ashish Sahay

One of the key technology trends in the enterprise space during 2015 was the aggressive adoption of cloud services as a business enabler. Before 2010, companies were dependent on traditional applications for in-house IT infrastructure. The adoption of cloud technology has become extremely important, not just for established enterprises but also for start-ups that require flexibility to scale up while keeping their costs low.

What is the current level of adoption of mobility solutions by Indian enterprises? What are the key challenges faced by them in adopting new technologies?

Aakash Chaudhry

Parents are important stakeholders in the market that we serve, and they have to be convinced that computers, mobiles and tablets are not just a means of entertainment, but also powerful new mediums for education. Parental concerns regarding online education impact the acceptance of this medium. Inadequate availability of internet connectivity is also a key challenge. To overcome this, we have introduced SD cards that contain offline content. This also saves internet costs for students since viewing an online lecture often entails huge data consumption.

Ashu Gupta

Industry is in the midst of a transition that occurs once every 100 years. To stay ahead of the unfolding trends and disruptions, leaders across industries will need to challenge their assumptions and pressure-test their strategies. Mobility solutions often lower entry barriers, causing long-established boundaries between sectors to crumble. At the same time, the plug-and-play nature of digital assets causes value chains to disaggregate, creating openings for focused, fast moving competitors.

Some of the challenges faced while adopting new technologies are: scarcity of talent with the right technical skills, relentlessly evolving business requirements at higher velocity due to market competition, and integrating state-of-the-art digital technology with legacy back-end applications.

Shabir Momin

The world is gradually transitioning into a mobile-first phase for accessing broadband. India is leading this transition as there is a significant difference between desktop and mobile phone penetration in the country. Today, mobile phones have become as powerful as desktops and laptops. Most of the productivity tools and immediate response management solutions are being built on a mobile-first basis.

Nilesh Kumar Purey

Today, mobility has become key for any business, and almost all businesses have mobile applications. Information consumption and creation has increased multi-fold on mobile platforms. In addition, e-commerce platforms and start-ups are effectively leveraging mobility as the only method of growth. On the enterprise front, mobility is playing a greater role in businesses like retail, pharmaceuticals, mobile handsets and telecom, where distribution is the key to success. It is not just enterprises that are taking up mobility solutions, even the government is laying a greater emphasis on their adoption for various citizen services. For instance, under the Digital India programme, all departments and citizen services will be made available through mobile applications. This brings in credibility and transparency and is in line with the government’s objective of “maximum governance and minimum government”.

There are three major challenges that every IT manager faces while adopting a new technology. First, he has to ascertain for how long the new technology will remain relevant to his or her business. This is because the technology landscape is rapidly changing as support systems quickly become obsolete. There is also peer pressure on IT managers to adopt new technologies without waiting for them to stabilise. This can lead to the selection of a wrong solution and ultimately a failed roll-out with a massive impact on costs. The second big challenge is support from OEMs. It is very difficult to ensure that OEMs will remain operational for a longer duration with the same management. This badly affects the decision-making process. Finally, the costs associated with technological solutions like storage are not coming down, leading to the delayed adoption of new technologies.

Ashish Sahay

Mobility solutions are changing the way in which companies do business. We are graduating from using business email applications to more advanced applications for field force productivity, enterprises and consumers. One of our products, homeGATE, is a good example of how THE GATE ACADEMY is combining mobility solutions with offline strengths (field force productivity) in delivering value to our customers. However, software integration remains one of the key challenges in using mobility solutions. Unless the applications are well integrated, it is difficult to extract the optimal business value from them. More often, the integration points turn out to be the failure points and impact new product launches, customer engagement, etc.

How have telecom operators performed with regard to addressing the needs of enterprise customers? What are your expectations from service providers?

Aakash Chaudhry

Telecom operators have not been able to provide robust internet connectivity. To overcome this, we have engaged with multiple operators in order to switch to other broadband networks in case a particular network is unavailable or has poor network strength. Moreover, there are issues related to last mile connectivity. We have been unable to give a pan-Indian contract for the provision of broadband services to a single operator and some of our centres are still dependent on local internet service providers.

 

Shabir Momin

Telecom operators have performed fairly well in terms of service delivery. However, they have lacked in providing their core services, which are bandwidth and connectivity. Instead of focusing on improving connectivity and bandwidth, they have given importance to expanding their value-added services. As the enterprise space evolves with the introduction of more specialised services, it is imperative that operators create an enabling environment to support the growth of these services.

Nilesh Kumar Purey

Services from telecom operators have gone from bad to worse, and even the government and regulator have expressed their concern over their deteriorating quality. Earlier, customers used to be at the centre of all telecom operator activity, but now internal processes have taken centre stage. This has drastically brought down service levels and increased service delivery periods. Stringent penalties need to be imposed on poor service delivery.

Ashish Sahay

Cloud solutions are being mainly deployed by non-telecom players such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google. At present, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the market leader in cloud services, also validated by Gartner Magic Quadrant. AWS products are of higher quality and are more mature. Of late, Microsoft’s Azure services and Google’s cloud platform have picked up in their niche areas in cloud computing and are getting good reviews. IBM’s Bluemix cloud services (PaaS, IaaS, SaaS) have also started gaining traction. THE GATE ACADEMY is currently using the AWS cloud platform.

What were some of the technology-related initiatives that your company adopted during the past year? What new initiatives are you planning to take in the near future?

Aakash Chaudhry

Last year, we rolled out some key technology initiatives, both enterprise centric and consumer centric.

Enterprise initiatives: In order to facilitate consumer interaction, we have moved some of our enterprise software, such as customer relationship management and lead management, onto the cloud platform. We have also introduced new versions of the various technology-related solutions that we adopted in the past. Multiprotocol label switching is another technology that we have implemented in order to integrate our different centres.

Moreover, we have implemented an enterprise resource planning software (Oracle’s PeopleSoft Student Campus) and have become the first in our industry to do so in India. PeopleSoft is being used for providing classroom schedules and timetable management, access to marks statements and other exam-related notifications. We have provided online access to most of our services, including fee payment.

Consumer initiatives: In 2015, we further strengthened our e-learning platform, Aakash iTutor. Through this, students are able to access complete digital courses (video lectures, e-books and assessments) from their homes and learn at their own pace. Internet access is not essential for this and it can be availed of through SD cards inserted in a tablet. Last year, we upgraded the software so that it could be used on a laptop/desktop as well with SD cards. It is also available as a mobile application to enable learning on the go.

We have recently launched a live online tutoring programme, Aakash Live, through which students can attend live online lectures delivered by our faculty at the head office. This enables students to avail of the best instructor-led coaching from the comfort of their homes. Earlier, this kind of solution did not take off in India because of the unavailability of the internet and requisite hardware with students. But now, with improved internet penetration and increased availability of smartphones and tablets, the programme is expected to gain traction among students. Aakash Live also works at a low bandwidth of 100 kbps, which makes it a viable option even in remote corners of the country.

Apart from the above e-learning initiatives, we are planning to leverage technology in our traditional classroom programmes. We are setting up digital boards on which teachers can play videos or show rich graphical illustrations, which will take in-class learning to the next level. Lectures can also be recorded and made available to students, enabling them to revisit a class any time later.

Ashu Gupta

The year 2015 was one of mobility for PNB Metlife. We piloted the eBranch mobile solution that greatly helped our agents engage customers in a convenient, interactive and friendly manner. eBranch is integrated with all back-end applications, allowing straight-through processing of applications. Gone are the days where our agents needed to carry reams of documentation and forms; now all they need is a tablet. It also allows the agents to be rapidly supported by the back office team as we extend access securely via the mobile device. This will be launched shortly.

In addition, we launched our revamped mobile responsive website with a state-of-the-art content management system. Through our website, we are attracting our Gen Y customers by launching products that they can buy directly from the website. This allows them to do their needs analysis, compare our products with other insurance products in the market and make an informed decision. We launched two online products for customers – MetLife Mera Term Plan and MetLife Major Illness Premium Back Cover (Critical Illness Return of Premium).

Shabir Momin

We have taken a few technology-related initiatives for process management, growth tracking, productivity tracking, delivery management, auto scaling and cost management. Some of these solutions were customised and built by us in-house as per our requirements. We will keep developing and adopting new technological solutions as and when the need arises.

Nilesh Kumar Purey

As the country’s first greenfield smart city, Gujarat International Finance Tec-City should lead in the adoption of new technologies for public services. This year, we will enhance our capabilities in the IoT domain. We are also adopting enterprise resource planning solutions for utility billing. We have already developed a mobile application and will be enhancing its features during the year.

On the telecom side, we are planning to roll out a state-of-the-art carrier class meet-me-room (MMR) facility. We will host telecom connectivity from all operators at this MMR and distribute it across the city through a passive optical fibre network.

Ashish Sahay

THE GATE ACADEMY has taken the lead in terms of providing visual learning to students. Visual learning is going to be a game changer as far as the GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) examination is concerned. This is because GATE is a highly technical examination and visual learning helps students in grasping concepts, such as a stroke engine explained through animation, in a better way. Our company is also taking the initiative to provide capsule courses to students who do not wish to purchase the entire course material, thereby helping them save money. These capsule courses are also being made available online. Moreover, we have started using “smart boards”, which give a real-life view of the concepts being taught to students. This is a step ahead of other organisations in the e-learning space, which use simple PowerPoint presentations to explain concepts.

Which technologies are likely to gain traction among enterprises in 2016?

Aakash Chaudhry

In the education space, digital education, particularly the use of mobiles and tablets for e-learning, is likely to gain traction in the near future.

Ashu Gupta

In 2016, cloud computing will gain the most traction. Cloud solutions are very suitable for low-risk investments like a company’s website, which, in today’s technology, can be rapidly deployed and, if needed, failed over to another cloud provider. The rapid scalability also allows us to periodically scale up capacity during campaign periods where we receive higher web hits as compared to off periods. So that’s definitely a key advantage with cloud solutions and a business like insurance which thrives on marketing activities that undergo peaks and troughs in engagement. In technology-speak, we see cloud as the fast side of “two-speed IT”, where agility and speed are required. Systems that are more consistent (requirements evolve slowly) and require a high level of security and regulatory as well as governance controls will likely continue to be deployed in traditional on-premises solutions.

Shabir Momin

Technologies for productivity management, process management and growth tracking will gain significant traction amongst enterprises in 2016.

Nilesh Kumar Purey

The year 2016 will feature the amalgamation of all previous technological solutions. The emphasis will still be on SMAC and IoT. Analytics is going to play an important role as well as it will extract higher value from all investments made in newer technologies. With government initiatives like the Smart Cities Mission, Digital India and Make in India, technologies supporting e–governance and all associated technologies like intelligent transport, intelligent metering, mobile applications, security and surveillance are going to gain traction. In addition, due to the growing concerns about climatic changes, I also expect technological solutions with green aspects to get preference over others.

Ashish Sahay

Cloud technologies will continue to dominate the enterprise space in 2016. At the same time, big data analytics will gain significant traction. For example, the use of machine learning in Google Analytics and Adwords has already been announced by Google. Even in the e-learning space, particularly in massive online open courses, big data analytics will come in handy for evaluating the zillions of data points pertaining to customer engagement models, marketing efficacy and learning efficiency.

 

 
 
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