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A partnering approach is key and would go beyond technology.

When Nasscom decided to announce and conduct its first ever customer summit in the US, not in Silicon Valley but in the heart of the financial sector in New York City, many naysayers would have thought it foolhardy. At a time when the conversation largely revolves around industry slowdowns, lay-offs, visa issues and protectionism, did it make sense to launch a customer-oriented campaign in the heartland of American commerce? Not to be denied, some of us practiced what we preached in the era of digital transformation, did some design thinking with our customers and decided that the Nasscom summit would be the beginning of new customer journeys. The summit titled “Collaborating for a Digital Tomorrow” took place and has been a resounding success.

Featuring close to 200 senior participants from the who’s who of the corporate world and some visionary leaders on digital transformation, the summit offered six key takeaways, eloquently summarized by Nasscom President R Chandraskehar at the conclusion of the proceedings. These takeaways point the way to future industry partnerships, which can be expected to grow and flourish and enable both customers and service providers to collaborate for a better future. At the heart of it all lies the reality that digital transformation can and will have a positive impact on individuals, corporations and countries. New platforms and technologies that enable this transformation will create more opportunities than threats to jobs and corporate success. In this situation, there is no value in incremental plays and, with Fortune 500 firms falling off the charts because of their unwillingness to take a leap of faith, successful firms must have a proactive and comprehensive digital strategy that enables them to move to the next level.

The second point, which has significant implications for customer-vendor relationships in the future, is that digital transformation will need a partnering approach, with collaboration being the core value that ensures success. Since this transformation would go beyond technology to process re-engineering, culture and skills building and business model innovation, the precise role of each partner in a large collaborative framework would need to be defined based on the customer domain, the competitive landscape and the context in which the transformation is undertaken. This leads to the third point — that developing top quality digital talent is essential. This talent would need to demonstrate “learnability” as a key virtue and investments would have to be made in all geographies and also by all partners to build and deploy new thought leaders — user experience specialists, data scientists and digital storytellers — as part of the collaboration to succeed in new digital spaces.

The fourth point has ramifications for India and society as a whole: It is the impact of digital on jobs. Job losses in traditional areas will be a natural consequence of skills obsolescence and technology changes; developments in artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation and machine learning can clearly destroy incumbent roles at a rapid pace. However, as the industry grows, more jobs would be added and made available to those who have re-skilled and up-skilled themselves for the emerging opportunities. It is heartening to note that training majors such as GTT and NIIT have launched significant initiatives to help more than two million industry employees become digitally ready. This is one area where AI and deep learning can be put to use to help employees rather than dent their job prospects. Platforms such as Skills Alpha and VideoKen are showing the way to skilling in this area globally.

The fifth point, which cannot be emphasized enough, is the reality for all businesses that the bottom line of digital transformation has to be demonstrated business value, not a few mobile apps here and there with some customer-oriented interfaces better designed than in the past legacy systems. Customers should be spending more time on every possible touch point and channel and consuming more; employees should genuinely behave like digital natives through adequate sensitization and skilling and be able to engage when required at the pace expected from digital companies. Clunky processes, high latency information systems and reluctant responsiveness are anachronisms in the digital era and have to go. Relationships with technology service providers have to change, too, with service-level agreements replaced by business outcome measures, and collaborative centers of excellence becoming the true hallmark of partnership excellence.

This leads to the final point that many thought leaders emphasized at the NASSCOM summit: Technology advancement and consequent changes in lifestyles and businesses will continue to happen at a breathtaking pace and it is collaborative creativity, which harnesses and integrates the ideas of all participants in the digital journey, that will finally bring success in digital transformation.

At the end of the collaboration summit, 30 of us — the Nasscom team, key customers and speakers — were invited to Nasdaq and the idea of digital collaboration was welcomed by the bourse. As the Nasscom team rang the closing bell with the US stock markets at record highs, the image of our team on the Nasdaq tower at the busy Times Square in New York seemed to proclaim to the world that the information technology sector and Nasscom are open for business and customer support and collaboration will be the driver for a new era of growth.

Photo credits : Hycmlab.