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BW Businessworld

“At Publicis Sapient, our people thrive in a learning environment. We help them upskill to the next. That’s how they stay relevant in their career.”

In an interview with BW Businessworld, Rakesh Ravuri, CTO, SVP Engineering and Global Retail Engineering Lead, Publicis Sapient, talks about learnings during COVID and more

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These are turbulent times we are living in. The emergence of new technologies is constantly redefining not just the ways businesses operate, but also how we live. With winds of change sweeping the business landscape, there can’t be a better time for organizations to accelerate their digital transformation efforts.

We’ve been through an unprecedented year of disruption. What lessons can the IT industry learn from COVID-19?
One of the key lessons to be learnt from the pandemic is, companies that are nimble and agile are able to quickly pivot and adapt to the disruptive times. They realize that investment in digital business transformation is no longer just a nice-to-have, but an imperative. These companies are able to come up with new propositions to their customers and thrive.

The other key takeaway is, companies that embraced remote working and kept their businesses going remotely, experienced only moderate-level disruption. In fact, a majority of them thrived during COVID-19. With their workforce structured on globally distributed models, organizations like Publicis Sapient were already operating across different geographies. So their transition to this new style of working has largely been smooth and seamless.

Being global, most players in the IT industry work in a semi-remote environment. The biggest change observed is the hyper-localization of employees, now working from their individual homes. The industry has adopted this effectively. IT companies are now exploring the long-term sustainability of this new paradigm and how new entrants in the workforce can adapt to this new normal.

Digital acceleration is causing big shifts in how companies think about their business models. What are some of these shifts?
Every business faces four connected forces of change: evolution of customer behavior, technological advancement, new business models and societal shifts. All four are moving at the same time, and the movement of one affects the others. Combined, these are fundamentally changing the business landscape at an exponential pace, driving businesses to shift their models. Digital has emerged as a key differentiator, and not just a commodity, that contributes to the four forces of change. It underpins the capabilities required to adapt to change and execute on it at speed and at scale.

Our clients are asking not, "do we need to change?” but "how do we change?" There are two main motivators for this need to change: tapping into new opportunity or defending against existential threat. Right now, existential threat is the most pressing for our clients, since they risk falling short of customer expectations and losing out to competitors and new entrants.

What role does Publicis Sapient play in helping clients transform?
We believe that transformation is not an end state but a continuous process that brings business value. It’s an ever-evolving process, and businesses need to develop the muscle for continuous improvement – by striving to hold the pulse of their customers. We partner with our clients to reinvent their own applied processes that not only boost their efficiency, but also bring in incremental change. The framework of this service rests on three key pillars: Speed, Quality, and Value. This has enabled us to develop the muscle for continuous improvement.

Our ability to turn issues into opportunities and create sustainable value is our key differentiator, particularly in volatile markets, where speed and quality are paramount. For instance, one of our proven acceleration methods is to ensure that our clients deliver the same set of features at a faster rate vis-à-vis their competitors, at even better quality. This helps us maintain an upward trajectory of improvement and co-create the future with them. Our integrated capabilities create a distinctive transformational impact that our clients need to not just survive but to thrive.

What’s the profile of talent you are hiring?
To be able to drive transformational journeys for our clients, our people need to continuously evolve themselves. We hire people with a learning mindset and help them evolve into full-stack developers. They can go through the full lifecycle of code production to deployment with minimum handoffs between teams. This contributes significantly to maximizing their productivity and bringing in incremental changes faster to the customer. We bring in talent with an agile mindset and groom them to be multi-skilled. Our ecosystem of full-stack developers contribute at each layer. This enables smaller teams with increased ownership, which ultimately makes the cycle tighter and faster.

How’s Publicis Sapient ensuring that its people can keep up with the fast pace of change required in technologies and skills?
Not only is our business purpose-built for enabling digital transformation for clients, we also focus on enabling our people to stay relevant in their careers. Our core values speak of enabling a learning mindset. Here, they get a first-hand experience of solving real-world Engineering problems and not just theoretical knowledge. Our training modules help them stay upskilled and multi-skilled. Top Gun Academy, our cohort-based learning program, aims at transforming talent into front-end full cycle developers. We offer end-to-end learning experiences for beginners who join us from college and boot camps that are aligned to both industry and domain skills.

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