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Event/CIO Round table: Software Intelligence Is Quintessential To Digital Transformation

Thought leaders discussed the increasing advantages of software intelligence in facilitating the necessary digital transformation.

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CIOs find a lot of answers in making the continuous process of digital transformation through software intelligence.

Digital transformation has been aptly coined - it is a journey from past to present in terms of digital capabilities and competencies, which keeps on revising as time travels. There are two dimensions to digital transformation – evolutionary and revolutionary. In the evolutionary journey, there is a digital legacy that is redesigned, repurposed, recoded – in essence, reworked to better the customer experience while meeting the organisational goals. As regards to the revolutionary form of digital transformation, the entire business and other processes are converted digitally so that the inherent advantages of digital technologies could be leveraged. Organised by BW Businessworld, in a roundtable discussion CIOs and CTOs discussed on the digital transformation enabled by the software intelligence. 

In both the forms of digital transformation, there is a rethinking of entire resources to be done of an organisation undergoing the transformation. In the Indian context, there is hardly any sector or domain that does not have a flavour of digitisation. The levels of digitisation could vary, but almost every organisation including the SMEs has digital assets. At the same time, these digital assets, especially software, have been acquired organically, built natively over a period of time. These are predominantly run on a company-owned on-prem infrastructure. This makes the entire software ‘bank’ a complex and complicated ‘jungle’ of lines of code. What complicates it further is that there is very poor documentation, in many cases non-existent.

This poses a lot of challenges to CIOs and CDOs. Without an examination of the resources, the CIO/CDO has to advise a prognosis. The CIO has to look into several aspects before deciding on how to transform the organisation. Some of the main concerns include:

a) What is the architecture of applications that the organisation has?

b) Which version, certification, and compliances are the applications running on?

c) How much of the applications are COTs, Open Source, On-Cloud, On-Prem, etc.?

d) Which security levels and scenarios do the applications comply with?

e) What is the cloud readiness of the applications and what measures are required to make them ready for the cloud?

The above are just some of the issues that a CIO seeks answers for before designing the digital transformation strategy. This means a lot of intelligence and analysis are required for the software applications that an organisation has. For this purpose, the digital leaders of organisations are currently not optimally equipped with deep-dive views. Digital transformation is an optimal orchestration of so many assets, and in some instances, liabilities. This entails a need for a single view on the entire software assets of an organisation that allows for deep analysis to deliver insights and intelligence about them for digital leaders to make strategic as well as tactical decisions. The entire physics, chemistry, and biology of the software applications need deep analysis, which cannot be done with solutions that are limited in scope and functions. 

The journey of digitisation in India so far in the BFSI domain has been very proprietary. While the overall objectives might have been the same, the approaches adopted by different banks and other financial institutions in achieving them have been very subjective. Of course, intelligence has been put forth before deciding what to and how to achieve the goals, essentially how to transform leveraging digital technologies. However, which applications to prioritise, how to systematically increase the digital quotient of an enterprise, how to measure the cost-benefit analysis of digital transformation activity, and other such critical decisions have been taken on inadequate insights, something which was beyond the control of the digital leaders. They have always found a gap in the level of intelligence they would desire and what was available to them for taking such a strategic transformative journey.

In business operations, we have witnessed how the data analytics, especially after the advent of Big Data analytics, organisations are being data empowered to take disruptive decisions enabled by powerful data mining and analysis engines. The same has not been taken up yet at the desired levels when analysing the software applications that are available with an organisation. 

The need for software intelligence driving digital transformation follows from the following main characteristics.

It Is An Ongoing Journey

An organisation has to continuously leverage digital technologies to bring the organisation to the next level. In the words of Aruna Rao, former CTO, Kotak Mahindra Bank, who is now the technology advisor with the bank, ‘Digital transformation implies a one-time endeavour. However, an organisation has to continuously identify the next opportunity to leverage digital technologies to deliver the next ‘wow’ that will result in customer delight and growth.” The journey can be continuously improved if there is a regular and structured mechanism to measure and offer insights on the elements of the innovation.

Large Software Repository  

BFSI organisations have a lot many software applications. This is because of the complex nature of operations, regulatory obligations, the scale of customers, data privacy, secrecy, and many such factors. Similar to the huge volumes of data that organisations have acquired after the inception of IT systems, which are being leveraged through Big Data analytics, there is an equally important requirement to structurally organise, analyse and interpret the software bank that an organisation owns. 

Pratap G, former CIO for Bajaj Electricals sharing views on the magnitude of software applications that an organisation has informed, “There are layers of software which any organisation has with the elements of network, database, UI/UX, etc. This is a mammoth and complex repository that an organisation owns today.”  Similar to Big Data analytics, a huge software analytics can only provide ease as well as throw unusual insights on the applications run by an organisation, giving a detailed view about the health, composition, capabilities, vulnerabilities and other important dimensions affecting the digital transformation process.

Digital Transformation Is An Intelligent Process

Even in the absence of any software intelligence solution, the digital transformation undertaken by various organisations has been based on process-driven intelligence and decision-making. Though there might not have been trends and data to suggest digital transformation, along with its path and the challenges thereof, CIOs have been taking up transformation like any other strategic decision where a lot of logical thinking is applied. Highlighting the process, Kirti Patil, CIO Kotak Life Insurance said, “Digital transformation has always been done intelligently. A solution giving more view could be of utility but we would not want to be forced to decide our course of action. There needs to be a governance mechanism on the process, without which any intelligence is of no use.” Organisations have used every intelligence available; however, the depth and the scale of intelligence available have been different in different organisations. 

Digital Transformation Has Several Facets

There are primarily two aspects of any digital transformation. There is an internal as well as external dimension. Internal dimension deals with employees and the operations while the external transformation is instituted for customer centricity as well as for enhanced partner collaboration. In the BFSI domain, there is a lot of business that comes through partners and enabling them digitally would mean increased business for an organisation. Shoby Jose, Digital SME lead at Maersk opines, “Our main driver for digital transformation was to get closer to the customers and discover them. Being in a B2B domain, the process was not as easy as its very challenging to devise strategies to get customers on to the digital medium.” Dealing with so many stakeholders – internal as well as external – need software robustness and interdependencies that can be built only after looking at them from a single view. In the digital medium, every customer’s journey is linked back-to-back and cuts across these stakeholders of customers, partners and employees. So, the digital transformation enabling this smooth end to end journey can only be achieved by looking at the entire application set and analysing their interplay and interdependencies. That is effectively and realistically possible only through a software intelligence solution.

The role of software intelligence is only going to increase in the digital transformation as the process gets complicated and the scale of operations becomes too huge to manage. The awareness about the solutions is also increasing. Rightly put by Niel Iyer, Country Head, Cast Software, “Software intelligence today is what RPA (Robotic Process Automation) was a couple of years back. As it gets discovered more by the digital leaders, its roles and applications will only increase.” The other factors include balancing between the cloud versus on-prem infrastructure and applications, standardisation of digital systems by specific sectors which also includes regulatory compliances, growing concerns around data security, privacy and the overall aspiration of delighting stakeholders including customers, partners and the employees. 

Areas, where software intelligence helps organisations are: 

a,) creating robust transformation after doing a ‘SWOT’ of applications an organisation has;

b) identification and prioritisation of use cases in the short term to result in the quick achievement of tactical objectives; 

c) create a blueprint of the digital transformation process d) single view of the applications and a matrix measuring their efficacy and resilience;

e) deciding the cloud strategy. Should it be a PaaS or a simple lift and shift approach? 

f) managing a large number of vendors and deciding KPIs for payments and the level of service;

g) understanding the software inheritance in case of M&As. Measuring the technical debt to factor in deal negotiations;

h) scanning for the status of compliances of applications. For instance, GDPR compliance as part of due diligence of a vendor, etc. 

i) evaluating the open-source software, its licenses and the limitations attached.  

“You cannot digitise everything in one go. There has to be prioritisation as per the business needs and reinvent accordingly for a purposeful digital transformation.”

- Shiv Kumar Bhasin, CTO, National Stock Exchange of India Limited (NSE)

“Digital transformation is triggered by several objectives. While profitability is the paramount objective, others could range from regulatory compliances to a corporate social cause.”

- Bhavesh Lakhani, SVP & Head, IT at SBI Mutual Fund

“The impact of digital transformation is sometimes challenging to measure objectively through conventional methods of evaluation of investment such as ROI, NPV etc. A better approach is understanding which KPIs are impacted by digital transformation initiative. ”

- Bishwanath Ghosh, CIO, Enterprise & Corp Functions, Mahindra and Mahindra

“IT solutions have seen phenomenal change over the years and the present digital transformation wave is much more exciting and impactful compared to the earlier one which was more about presence than performance.”

- Sanjay Karnatak, Chief Technology & Digital Officer, Star Union Dai-ichi Life Insurance

“In our nature of business security risks are driving digital transformation. We want very sensitive data and IP to be protected in the digital environments.”

- Shashank Bajpai, CISO, ECGC Limited

“Digital transformation is a continuous journey of ‘Test & Learn’ and we are moving more towards cloud architecture to achieve it.”

- Sandip Chakraborty, CTO, Edelweiss General Insurance Company

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Faisal Kawoosa

The author is Founder & Chief Analyst, Techarch

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