If you ask me: Is technology changing our landscape, I would say it’s not technology but how we use it, that is what is changing. There are multiple technologies which we have used. Many of them are digital, some of them are traditional technologies and how it is being used in the business landscape. But if I have to pick one or two, I would say Mobility. Since we are a logistics company and most of our field staff is on the move, so mobility is what has the way we work. You start right from the Delivery, previously E-commerce Delivery, we use to do it through papers, now we do it through tablets.
We can see the moment it is delivered, we come to know about its delivery, you know the location, you know how accurately it is getting delivered, what is the performance measurement you get to know everything, right away. Then there are other things like, operations managers -they are in the warehouse, can they know status of the shipment, truck status like which trucks would depart at what time? Now using tablets all these things can be known in the warehouse, itself. That’s another use of it. And then IOT of course. It has changed the way we work and it will change it further as well. This entire conversation on technology would never end.
Coming to Analytics, I fundamentally believe that if we start using it in comprehensive manner, it will change the way we take decisions. So these are the major technologies that are changing the face of the industry.
As you see, the Digital Transformation is the Buzz word. I have been its strong advocate while I was in IBM and I’m still heading it here as a CIO.
But I don’t think that SMAC and IOT is Digital Transformation. They are subset of Digital Transformation and there is more to it. What it exactly means is: What is done today on paper manually, how can you convert it in an automated way using technology and that’s what I call as true digital transformation. For example, let’s say you are doing billing, everywhere billing gets done on paper, but now you convert it to E-bill, that is a digital transformation. By using E-billing you can collect a lot of data which was not possible with the paper billing and how you use that to further refine the process of the billing is what has changed over the years. You were doing delivery using papers, now you are doing it using tablets. So now you are collecting a lot of data, how do you use that, how do you refine the processes and that is digital transformation.
Third one is GPS. Previously We didn’t know about the truck’s performance, I mean we only had few data points, but now we have lot of data points because we have GPS on all the trucks. You can find out the route performance, vendor performance, you can find out the number of vehicles lying between the routes and these are things which are being done using digital transformation.
So digital transformation and digital channel could fundamentally change the way one is doing business where you can already see tones of examples which I won’t repeat because you get to hear about those examples everywhere in conferences, in articles which you read.
Logistics is not an untouched industry. Here also, if you look at last two years about what we are doing and thanks to e-commerce companies because they are so high in technology already, we are their service providers. They expect the same level of technology, be It real-time player transfer, be it real-time order taking, context based solutions, so they expect us to be same and that is changing the logistics industry as a whole for good.
Industrial Adoption of IOT
I think it was getting done M2M which used to be there in manufacturing and aviation industry a lot. Now IOT, I would say is more glamourized name for the same process and also what has happened is when the IOT framework has come, lot of companies are actually making it more formal, making it API driven and which is facilitating we CIOs do things in much smarter and much better way. If you ask me which industry is most touched by IOT, the answer is healthcare actually. But second industry I would pick would be logistics, so in logistics as I said lot of things are moving and it’s very important to integrate everything together in which IOT helps you a lot. Like what we did is GPS is being used for years and almost every logistics company has it, now.
But how would you use GPS effectively? What we did was, that we connected the GPS in the real time through our ERP, through our mobility solutions and what is happening is as I was saying, my warehouse manager sitting in the warehouse floor can see in real time how many trucks are coming. In some of the warehouses we have put airport style arrival terminals, where no one feeds it manually, it is right through the system integrated GPS, you can see which truck is coming at what time and then you can also see the gate numbers and you could see exactly what is coming at what time. You can also see what is delayed, what is lying on the warehouse floor for more than 24 or 48 hours because ERP is also connected with the mobility app.
Second example I would say is Weighbridge. It has been used in the industry for decades. Now what we are doing is we have connected this with our ERP and in real time you could know how effective was our loading, do we need to improve the process. You can have the information about all of these right away. Because Weighbridge is connected in real time, the truck is loaded, it goes in and before it is loaded, it already goes to Weighbridge, so you can see in real time that this is how much was loaded and you can see the difference between weights.
Third we are working on is Low Energy RF Devices using which you can not only track the truck, but you can also track each shipment. And some of the shipments like ATM is very important for us, some of the Government related shipments are very time-sensitive, and there are tons of sensors, vendors that are coming up with various sensors like fuel sensor, brake sensor, thermostats, they are already in the market. We have to do POC, door sensors, how many doors are opening in the warehouse. So those are the areas where we are already working. And out of all the most important is with IOT we will do is Context- Aware Solutions, using IOT you can create a lot of Context-Aware Solutions.
What’s trending in Data and Business Analytics
As I said, almost all companies have tones of data and as we are adopting to mobile interfaces, IOT, more devices, the data is increasing multifold. The biggest question is, are you using the data in the right way. The answer is be it India, be it anywhere in the world, data is not being used to the extent it can be used because lot of people are not using insight we they could do.
Example could be like - what would be frequency of trucks between Ambala and Chennai. One is based on the experience you could take out the frequency and the other is you can look at the data, how effectively it has been utilized, with the season how are my loads coming from Ambala towards Chennai and then you can come up with a solid number and that would be much accurate and that is what we are trying to do. So we call them Data Driven Decisions, we have implemented couple of tools in the organization, we have created teams, we have hired staff from MNCs who are good in analytics, and when we look at our data driven decisions, we see that percentage has increased and we want to increase it further and our business leaders are pretty equipped to take it which is the most important part.
Once that happens, we strongly feel that you could not only take the data driven decisions but you could actually embed the analytics engine in your ERP, in your CRM which actually gives you recommendation like the truck has to be loaded, so you don’t want each individual to load based on their perception. Rather you have all the data, you give them recommendation these are things need to be loaded, these are delayed, these are escalated and etc.
How would Technology unfold itself in future?
As I said, Mobility is helping us a lot and you will see mobility getting further attraction. One reason is because of the usage; people are so comfortable. I mean each of us, we have been using computers for years, but from the time mobile and smart devices have come, we spend much more time on mobile devices and slowly that’s increasing. I would say the mobility would continue to lead. So in many companies, five years down the line, 60 to 100 % staff would be working on mobiles instead of computers.
Second, IOT is going to go bigger.
Third one, since mobility and IOT is increasing, Security is a big concern. Security would be a big research area and big investment area for all the companies, not only for BFSI companies but all the companies irrespective of whatever area you are in. And when IOT and mobility is increasing, data will increase and you will have more insights, so Analytics would be the next area.
Another area based on all these three is Context Aware Solutions and what is it exactly? Let’s say for an example, a help desk person is on the third floor of the office to solve a problem and at the same time there is a sensor indicating two of the computers’ temperatures are going up, so this guy automatically receives a ticket that this person has a temperature problem in their system, go check proactively. That’s one. Another context aware solution example is I would talk about a guy present in sector 30 - Gurgaon to pick up an order, at the same time Flipkart receives an order and we are the vendor for Flipkart, we’ll receive in real time that this person has placed an order and I have a guy who is in the same sector, so he can go and pick up. What does it do? Saves the time, reduces the transit time and three it increases the customer satisfaction. So these are the areas from the technology perspective I think would lead in the next 2-3 years.
See I won’t call it a 4 pillar thing; I will call it a 5-pillar thing as I have already added IOT with that. But all of them are important, all of them are important in their own segment. If you look at three of them, they are very tightly integrated. Analytics, Mobility and Cloud are very tightly integrated. What we use most is Mobility, as I said initially, but the moment you go more for mobility you have to enable yourself for cloud, because the development time for mobility activity is not much plus the availability expectations are so high that you want to go to the cloud and that’s what happened with us. Most of our mobility applications are going to the cloud. Since mobility applications generates lots of data be it behavioral analytics, be it transactional analytics. So these three are closely integrated.
Now social media is also important these days, be it announcement, be it customer expectation, be it customer interaction, social media is an important channel and we use it for our announcements and customer interactions. So If you would look at our contact center, we have already added this as a strong channel, so be it twitter, be it Facebook or anything we have been receiving lot of customers’ concerns using these channels even though we have given phone, e-mail, chat and SMS to the customers, customers complain to us using any of these or customer portals. Most of our B2B customers have these portals where they can raise a concern. Still we seen a lot of people doing these things on social media and I am a proponent of the customer being free to use any of the channel. So social media is important in that aspect and it’s going to be important in future.
Changing role of the CIOs
A lot has been said so I would not say too much about it, it keeps coming from all the way. If you look 6-7 years back, the role of CIO was to keep the lines clean and when I say keep the lines clean that means keep the systems running. There should not be much outage. That was 7 years back. Now what has happened is, people take it for granted, like employees, management take it for granted. So now it is, there should be no outage. So it is not even specified in the job description of CIOS to keep the lines clean. Now what is expected is that using technology what innovations you could bring and when business is suggesting the innovation, technology should be fast enabler. You can’t take years and years for the innovations.
Like now people take 2 or 3 months to roll out the initiative. So few things which have changed are:
Business expects CIOs to be agile. Second, management thinks that CIO should have constant interaction with the business leader and customers because they want CIO to know what customers expects and come up with a technology innovation which could change it and third one is CIOs are expected to understand the business and come up with the innovation. If you look at board room meetings, tons of CIOs are now a part of board room meetings and most CIOs are not a part of business initiative meetings and which did not use to happen four years back. CIOs have moved from the backend to the front end and it’s the time for CIOs to show even more value. So that’s what I think fundamentally has changed.