Manoj Karanth, Vice-President and Global Head of Data and Intelligence, Mindtree

The year 2020 was no ordinary one for the enterprise segment. Covid-19 completely altered the way organisations conducted business operations. The pandemic led to a dramatic uptick in the use of digital technologies across enterprise segments and accelerated the shift towards automation. Going forward, technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and big data will see higher rates of adoption as enterprises adjust to the new normal. Manoj Karanth, Vice-President and Global, Head of Data and Intelligence, Mindtree, discuss the key technology trends and challenges in embracing digitalisation, and the way forward….

What were some of the key information and communications technology (ICT) trends that shaped the enterprise segment during 2020?

The pandemic has posed several challenges and accelerated numerous changes that have led to immense learning during 2020. The digitisation of customer services and technology adoption have become a crucial need and a core demand across industries to overcome the challenges brought in by the pandemic.

Collaboration tools helped organisations maintain productivity and efficiency in operations even while working from remote locations. Both internal and external communication with employees and other stakeholders became easier with platforms such as Microsoft Teams.

This has led to a clear adoption of cloud computing, whether the contributing reasons were efficiency or new markets. A clear consequence of this rapid digitisation is its impact on data. For one, digitisation created more data across the enterprise. As organisations faced different business disruptions, an emphasis on data-driven decision-making has rapidly accelerated.

The powerful combination of IoT, machine learning (ML) and cloud has played a large role in creating transformative technology solutions and has brought disruptive advancements across industries.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the digitalisation journey of enterprises? Which are the key technologies among cloud, AI, IoT and AR/VR that have seen higher adoption amidst the pandemic?

The disruption caused by Covid-19 has accelerated the digitisation efforts across organisations.

One of the immediate consequences, therefore, has been an accelerated adoption of cloud computing. Improving productivity for remote workers has been a priority for customers. This has led to an increase in office collaboration systems on the cloud, followed by increase in remote connectivity and visibility, boosting IoT and augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR).

As businesses thought through their customer reach, it brought in more investment into digital marketing and e-commerce initiatives. This further increased the adoption of cloud SaaS solutions focusing on the customer engagement.

Increasing operational efficiency and focus on costs has forced organisations to relook at their IT estate. This has resulted in the modernisation of legacy systems on cloud. Besides the running cost, making data trapped in these systems available for self-service decision-making has been a key driver of modernisation, covering applications, application programming interfaces and data.

This drive towards efficiency has increased the organisations’ appetite to remodel their entire processes through intelligent automation and AI. We are no longer looking at AI as being applied for limited use cases, but as remodelling entire processes.

How did your organisation leverage new-age technologies to respond to challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis?

In order to ensure that the quality of services to customers is not affected due to Covid-19, Mindtree created a remote delivery structure, wherein we adjusted our delivery model to ensure that Mindtree Minds continues to be highly productive even while working virtually. While a few companies face challenges with employees working from home because of inadequate infrastructure, we successfully managed to achieve a seamless and collaborative work environment as most of the employees were given laptops instead of desktops. The extensive use of collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams helped in easy communication between employees and other stakeholders across the world.

While we have always been at the digital forefront, we leveraged AI technology to power our chatbots (MACI – Mindtree’s Advanced Conversational Intelligence), which is trained to continuously answer queries of our employees and carry out frequently used tasks such as applying leaves, approving travel and expenses and so on.

During the pandemic, hiring and onboarding of Mindtree Minds was done virtually. “Yorbit” became the go-to platform for Mindtree Minds for all kinds of training and development needs during the pandemic.

What are some of the key risks and challenges in transitioning to new-age technologies?

Adapting to new technologies is the need of the hour. Advancing to these technologies enables us to make everything on the internet and digitise our world further. At the same time, threats such as hacking and other cyber risks can become the usual side effects of the digitisation drive. In order to eliminate these challenges, organisations are currently focusing on cybersecurity, for which new and improved technologies are rapidly evolving. Organisations have already started investing in preparing for the future and will continue to do so in the long run.

However, the biggest challenge is organisation change management. While the Covid-19 pandemic has provided a fillip to digitisation, change adoption is not uniform. Hence, this area of change adoption needs constant improvement.

Going forward, what will be some of the key digital trends that enterprises would embrace as the new normal unfolds?

Remote working is here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future. Satellite offices will also spring up, giving an opportunity to go to work, network, attend in-person meetings, and much more. Skills in AI, ML, customer experience, data and intelligence, and cloud-tech are going to be in high demand and hence, hiring in these areas will be observed. Technologies such as 5G and AR/VR are expected to completely transform the e-commerce industry as well, taking our shopping experience to a whole new level through omnichannel retailing. Cybersecurity is going to be the core focus, with technologies being adopted to mitigate any existing or potential risks.