Mukul Singhal, Head – Digital and IT, Birlasoft

Of late, there has been an increased uptake of ICT solutions across the IT/ITeS and BPM/BPO sectors. This trend has received a further boost during the Covid-19 pandemic with companies taking the digital route to keep their operations afloat. Companies in this sector are betting big on technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), blockchain, cloud, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to streamline and enhance business operations. With a growing work-from-home (WFH) culture, automation has emerged as a key tool. However, the increased technology adoption has come with a host of challenges, such as the need for workforce reskilling and upskilling. Mukul Singhal, Head – Digital and IT, Birlasoft, shares his views on the uptake of ICT solutions across their organisations and the way forward…

What are the key ICT trends dominating the IT/ITeS and BPM/BPO sector at present?

Technology has played a crucial role across sectors for enabling an ecosystem for the continuity of business operations. The key theme for this year has been resilience. For any enterprise-based technology, the important strategy will be to revisit how digitally integrated platforms using cloud and low-code tech can allow transformation and modernisation journeys to spark rapid disruption along the way. As technology and businesses become increasingly intertwined, business strategy drives the technology strategy, and vice versa. Leading organisations are engineering their strategic function to be more cloud enabled, more secured, stable and cost effective by using hyper-automation; giving them an array of strategic options for whatever the future holds.

Highlight some of the use cases of emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, blockchain, cloud and AR/VR in the Indian IT/ITeS and BPM/BPO sector?

There are business shifts in industry dynamics, customer expectations, competitor moves and stakeholder behaviours. Today, organisations are industrialising their AI initiatives with MLOps and consequently, developing new approaches to managing data for machines rather than humans. Strategic platforms equipped with advanced analytics, automation and AI, including natural language processing (NLP) and ML, can help leaders think more precisely about the wide range of futuristic possibilities. Organisations have accelerated their efforts on IT/OT convergence, particularly in manufacturing operations. Even cybersecurity is an increasing concern and industry is leveraging AI, ML and NLP to simplify and automate processes. Threats are mitigated using blockchain with advanced security on a decentralised platform, allowing businesses to improve efficiency and minimise risk, while building trust across all business transactions.

What are some of the ICT solutions deployed by your organisation?

We have adopted new techniques, making efforts to lift-and-shift to the cloud, becoming more cost-neutral and operationally efficient. Also, looking beyond lift-and-shift, we have upgraded our enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems by reducing technical debt and leveraging non-ERP platform capabilities in a more manageable, cost-effective way. Using low-code offerings, our teams have carried out complex tasks and integrations through point-and-click rather than having to write the code. We looked at end-to-end automation solutions, where customers can fundamentally improve a business sub-process by leveraging from a process perspective, using robotic process automation (RPA). Birlasoft’s cloud-based platform has a suite of solutions that aim to deliver connected experiences with real-time insights across physical and digital worlds; bringing machines and humans together. It combines the power of digital technologies such as IoT, edge computing, AI, ML, cognitive automation and advanced analytics for a holistic enterprise transformation. Today, all technologies are interdependent and organisations are devising innovative ways of finding coherent solutions.

How has Covid-19 impacted your business and operations? What were some of the key ICT solutions deployed by you to tackle the situation?

Covid-19 has disrupted the global economy, making organisations adopt pragmatism, which has enforced a growing focus on business cases for core modernisation and transformation decisions. Unprecedented times called for smarter digital measures, and digital workplace adoption has been the need of the hour, but by ensuring that it is measurable and manageable. At a time when more information exchange happens via the internet, implemented solutions should encourage real-time customer engagement, or else distractions and poor supervision could impede collaboration and derail productivity. To enable safe and compliant back-to-office measures and make our working environment more secure, we have implemented Birlasoft’s intelliOpen™ – an intelligent system for contactless screening of people, social distancing monitoring and contact tracing. Changes were made to our infrastructure, policies and practices to provide a seamless and scalable digital experience for employees, and other business stakeholders.

What are some of the key challenges faced by your organisation and the sector at large while deploying ICT solutions? How can these be addressed?

Industry-wide, there has been burdening of technical debt, outdated applications and necessary workarounds. As an organisation, we embarked on the transformation journey, but the requirement for capital and intensive effort was inevitable. We explored creative ways of operate-to-transform agreements with original equipment manufacturers and partners for migrating and/or upgrading systems and utilising powerful tools that will generate positive returns. Apart from running ideation workshops, we regularly ran hackathons with some of our key clients and partners. Knowledge sharing and strong collaboration being one of many concerns has been addressed by organising continuous productivity forums, including leadership talks and case study sessions, covering a wide array of business continuity and tech-enablement topics.