The year 2021 saw enterprises pushing the pedal on digital initiatives and deploying new-age technology solutions to enhance their productivity as well as business. Going forward, technologies such as the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and big data will see higher adoption as enterprises across verticals adjust to the new normal. Technology heads from leading enterprises discuss the key technology trends, challenges in embracing digitalisation and the way forward…
What were the key information and communications technology (ICT) trends that shaped the enterprise segment during 2021?
In 2021, enterprises focused on adopting new-age technologies as part of their digital transformation effort. They focused on improving the cloud infrastructure, enhancing data and analytics competencies, improving cybersecurity and transforming business models. The demand for cloud-driven-as-a-service offerings accelerated during 2021. This segment is expected to cross $345 billion over the next couple of years supported by other in-demand models such as AI-as-a-service, IoT-as-a-service and content-as-a-service. With organisations still operating on the remote working model, the focus was on retraining and reskilling the workforce so that they could benefit from modern technologies such as AI. Another trend was the increased focus on improving transparency, resilience and flexibility. As companies restructured their workforces, they experimented with ways to harness advanced technologies to realign activities and augment competencies. Companies focused on creating more support for employees including reskilling key areas of their workforce. Cloud security was a major area of concern for enterprises and remains a key challenge to be overcome as part of digital transformation. Remote workplaces increased the challenge of data security and privacy.
Since the pandemic hit global organisations, the world moved online and accelerated a digital transformation that has been under way for decades. While the current transformation demonstrated the tremendous potential of leveraging technology, the pandemic has also underscored the gaps that remain. Additionally, the increased dependency on tech solutions has added significance to privacy and digital security concerns. In this scenario, technologies that have gathered most momentum are automation and virtualization, electric vehicle (EV), digital twin, IIoT, robotic process automation, 5G, telehealth, cybersecurity, nex-gen computing, applied AI, clean and sustainable technology, blockchain, virtual reality (AR) and augmented reality (VR).
The pandemic has forced all industries to move away from operative functions that involved physical touch. Wherever possible, sanitised or touchless operations are taking over. Other than pandemic-related innovations, the travel and hospitality sector has embraced ICT in a big way to bring in efficiency in its operations and provide superior services to customers. A few examples of this adoption are:
- Most hotels now have websites for marketing and may also offer e-commerce facility for bookings. These systems are linked directly with the internet and other general distribution systems (for example, Sabre, Amadeus, Gailileo and Worldspan) to receive and publish bookings.
- Airlines are now offering service of locating baggage via a link on the traveller’s boarding pass.
- Enabled by IoT, customers can now control all sorts of things in their hotel rooms through a mobile apps such as ambience, lighting and temperature. Robotic devices are also deployed to provide services such as cleaning, luggage handling and greeting guests on arrival.
- Chatbots are used to handle customer queries or offer tailored deals to suit customer needs. Contactless payments at most points of sale are welcomed more, with customers reluctant to handle cash.
How has the pandemic ushered in a digital age for enterprises? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of this trend?
The pandemic changed the way humans lived, worked, studied, shopped or transacted. With workplaces moving to the home and remote working becoming the order of the day, digital transformation became a necessary survival tool. Digital transformation has helped businesses to improve operational efficiencies, eliminate repetitive manual work and offer customers an online experience. Businesses have been able to automate several repetitive processes, freeing up resources to handle other critical tasks. Enterprises are using big data and data analytics along with AI to analyse data points for making accurate predictions about customer behaviour and designing bespoke experiences for them.
There would be an initial investment to implement new technology and train personnel or hire competent talent to manage the IT requirements. One drawback about being dependent on systems is cybersecurity. Any breach of cybersecurity can put the entire client data at risk. Broadly speaking, digital transformation is a game-changer for enterprises.
Companies around the world responded to the impact of Covid-19 with rapid digital transformation, supported by technology-driven initiatives, new customer experiences, enabling remote work for employees and online skill development programmes. Organisations that adopted the power of innovation, digitalisation and automation have been able to successfully tide over the wave. For better customer experience, organisations are now leveraging automated, data-driven, virtual and AI- and ML-based technologies. Armed with automation, ML, AR/VR capabilities, employees can achieve efficiency in routine tasks. It is important to understand that a successful digital transformation effort makes any company much more competitive and helps it in staying ahead of the curve along with providing better delight to keep both customers and employees happy.
What are some of the emerging use cases of new-age technologies such as cloud, AI, IoT, blockchain and big data? How are you leveraging these solutions?
Industries are constantly discovering new use cases for emerging technologies. Some examples are:
- IoT and blockchain: If an IoT sensor is attached, it can track a food palate, for example, from the farm to the warehouse and onwards to the retail store from where it is purchased by the customer, thus tracing the entire farm-to-fork cycle. It records every piece of information along the route in a secure blockchain. This ensures the authenticity of the product being delivered to the customer.
- AI: AI and NLP are used for text and audio recognition to extract meaningful information from customer calls and chats, analyse them and arrive at actionable outcomes. Content analysis using AI helps to understand customer sentiment, decipher behaviour patterns and make intelligent forecasts.
- Cloud: Use cases for cloud computing include software-as-a-service, big data analytics, infrastructure-as-a-service, private, public and hybrid cloud, virtual desktops, email, disaster recovery and back-up-as-a-service.
- Big data: Big data offers a 360-degree view of the customer and improved opportunities for customer acquisition and retention. It is used by the healthcare industry to improve patient outcomes. Big data is used by the insurance industry to manage and measure risk.
- AI: AI has already created a lot of buzz around us in the past decade. AI is used for image and voice recognition, navigation apps, smartphone personal assistants, ride-sharing apps and for so much more. Having expertise in the field, LTTS supports Amazon Alexa Voice Service (AVS) integration in various connected devices spanning multiple domains and industries. Our AI-based Chest X-Ray Radiology suite, Chest rAITM, has the potential to detect around 34 of the most common lung-related abnormalities.
- IoT: IoT is fuelling the ever-growing number of “smart” devices and objects that are now connected to the internet. UBIQWeise 2.0, LTTS’s proprietary cloud IoT platform has been developed to empower customers to rapidly customise and seamlessly deploy IoT products.
- 5G: 5G is expected to further revolutionise our lives by supporting services that rely on technologies such as AR/VR along with superior gaming experience. In this area, LTTS partnered with network software provider Mavenir to deliver end-to-end 5G automation services.
- EACV: The electric autonomous connected vehicle trend plays a crucial role in driving mobility innovation by making future solutions safe, efficient and durable. We established an EV Lab on our Bengaluru campus to enable faster EV-related product development. We also developed in-house the e-VOLTTS platform – a scalable and modular high efficiency reference platform – that can be easily customised for use in a wide range of vehicle segments such as off-highway vehicles, passenger cars, and two- and three-wheelers.
- AR/VR: Immersive, interactive and imaginative experiences are the new game changers in today’s connected world. Although AR/VR were merely science fiction in the past, these technologies are rapidly becoming mainstream for a host of business applications. We have customised solutions and services for multiple industries with strong focus on medical, transport and entertainment, such as simulators and haptics integration, XR CPE, gaming consoles and head set engineering solutions, and game testing and automation solutions.
The onset of Covid-19 forced almost all sectors to adopt digitalisation, but this has happened faster than ever before. We did several enhancements to our web portal such as introducing a new feature of dynamic packaging. Customers can now make their own packages, with flights, hotel bookings, sightseeing and transfers, in real time instead of purchasing predefined packages. Inventory is sourced and packaged dynamically from various travel partners for the travel components in real time. The platform is integrated with various travel partners to fetch real-time rates of travel components by direct contracts and API integrations to bundle travel components into one and provide a complete package with options for users to add/ delete the components on the fly, bundle them into one package and do end-to-end booking and get confirmation of services, in a single transaction. This feature gives the customer an edge to select the services of their choice from an array of components available as compared to the traditional pre-defined packages. We also swiftly adopted cloud technologies for our CRM function, enabling staff to serve customers remotely. This helped the organisation deal with geographic uncertainties due to varying lockdown rules across states as well as ensured that staff was always available to service the customers. Several forex (remittance) customers were serviced through this process in critical times. In addition, we were able to cater to the rising domestic travel demand once restrictions were eased as customers were happy to connect with us virtually.
We also introduced a new B2C VISA workflow to help customers book standalone VISAs (including submitting documents) on our website. New-age technologies such as AI, cloud and big data have played a big role. All the new approaches adopted above were driven on the back of these new technologies.
What are the risks and challenges associated with the deployment of these new-age technologies?
Finding dedicated IT skills to implement the new technology is a huge challenge. Enterprises often find that the resources lack expertise in cybersecurity, technical architecture, enterprise architecture and advanced data analytics. Enterprises often find it necessary to hire external consultants for the job which is both limiting and expensive. An outdated organisational structure and poor leadership can derail the digital transformation process. Change resistance is natural and it takes strong leadership and effective communication skills to manage the process successfully. Migrating the legacy system comes with its own set of challenges can be quite time-consuming. Managing dynamic consumer needs and expectations is fast becoming a challenge that businesses need to overcome. They need to stay ahead of the curve to meet the rising demands of customers. Before an enterprise decides to go digital, it needs to have a proper business strategy in place. A digital transformation plan should be clearly defined failing which the scope will keep expanding leading to overshooting the budget.
I believe that a significant barrier to the deployment and adoption of emerging technology in the current world is talent shortage. Talent shortage indicates the critical skill gap existing in most industries across the globe. Within a company, not many employees have the skills necessary for bu-siness growth. Additional strategies to improve the technology talent pool that companies are now adopting to align with broader talent initiatives include upskilling and reskilling existing employees and improving the hiring process.
Going forward, what will be the key digital trends driving the enterprise segment?
The pandemic has made remote work a new normal. It is highly likely that in the future, enterprises will continue to have hybrid workplaces with a combination of office and remote workplaces.
AI and ML will continue to be popular as they find new use cases in every industry. Robotic process automation will be used to perform repetitive tasks and free up human resources for other critical activities. Edge computing will ensure that data insights are acted on in real time and this could find new uses in the coming year in several areas such as the insurance industry. VR and AR may be used by retailers to create new customer experiences. Blockchain technology may be used to securely manage large volumes of data without disturbing the chain.
IoT devices could pick up valuable information, which could be converted into actionable outcomes. To top it all, 5G will offer unbelievable speed of communication and transmission of data. Overall, it appears that exciting times are ahead for emerging technologies.
I believe that the coming decade will bring many exciting technological advances. Some of the trends that I believe will drive digital transformation in the future are:
- Smart campuses and spaces: Based on IoT, physical spaces such as homes, offices or even whole cities will become smarter and increasingly connected.
- Immersive technology: AR, VR and mixed reality will help in creating greater immersive digital experiences.
- Wider reach of autonomous vehicles: The next decade will see wider developments and technological advancements in autonomous vehicles and they will become more commercially viable.
- New 5nm chips: The upcoming 5nm designs promise faster performance with better power efficiency and will push the CPU technology further ahead.
- Technology-driven personalisation: With the help of technologies such as AI and big data analytics, organisations will be able to offer highly personalised products and services on a mass scale.
- Innovation for sustainable development: With the increasing need to meet global sustainability goals, organisations are adopting innovative technologies.
The above trends will act as the catalyst for digital business and innovation in the next few years.
It is all about adding value to the experience. Travelling has always been favoured by people of all ages. Of late, travelling has evolved to its newest and the most satisfying phase of experiential travel. It is fast resonating with travellers of allkinds – passionate globetrotters, family vacationers, adventure seekers and couples looking to reconnect.
Also, going forward, the industry will be dominated by players that are able to offer to customers the best booking experience, preferably through an evolved mobile app that efficiently leverages data science, AI, predictive analytics, automated personalisation and AR/VR.