The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged and transformed so many business models—from telehealth in medicine to curbside pickups in retail to connected supply chains in consumer goods—that we are experiencing years of digital transformation in months. But as clear and vivid as that pace of change has been, the reality is that it’s the slowest it is ever going to be.
History shows us that earlier industrial revolutions intersected with calamities and set up foundational changes that transformed societies. In the mid-19th century, London’s cholera epidemic led to the development of a sewer system that ultimately helped the city scale to a megapolis, and an outbreak of yellow fever prompted urban planners to create Paris’s network of open spaces that resulted in its beautiful cityscape.
For us, the pandemic ushered in a platform for tremendous, expedited change—change built on three converging technology trends. As we collaborate closely with digital and technology officers across the large corporations we serve, these three foundational trends are as easy to spot as they are challenging to deploy.
Cloud computing, along with the various components of automation and artificial intelligence collectively referred to as composable services, are coming together to address the last mile. The use of the cloud has evolved from cost optimization to tech simplification and application modernization. The pandemic has driven tremendous focus and attention on resilience, new offerings, stronger capabilities, and better user experience. All this now requires a better architecture upon which to modernize the application stack, build new capability at speed, and draw upon the collective innovation in the ecosystem to achieve leverage. And that better architecture is now the cloud, along with the composable services that run on it.
At the same time, in many fields of application that are at or above-human grade predictability, A.I. is finding applications we never thought possible before.
The data economy
The one thing about data that stands out across the corporate world is that it has transitioned from being a collateral asset to becoming a first-class citizen. Data insights are driving fundamental changes in business models. And data strategy—the work of cataloging and structuring the data; managing its lineage and architecture; and cyber-securing, governing, and regulating its use—is now high on the agendas of corporate boards around the globe. Alongside the advances we have seen, from instrumenting telemetry across connected ecosystems to the neural net models that help us identify weak links and build accurate prediction machines, data-led innovations are further accelerating the large and real benefits of moving data to the center of strategic planning and new product and service development efforts.
The future of work
The clearest view we have of the future of work is that it’s here today. Remote working has had us rethink the very blueprint of work—what we automate, how we distribute and collaborate, and how we innovate. Experience has become the true North Star for transformation efforts as we use digital stickiness to drive resilience and growth in business models.
The advancing man-machine frontier has also brought a new focus on skilling and digital ethics. The former allows us to cross-skill ourselves in a manner that allows us to leverage the automation to higher use and output; the latter starts the journey on responsible and ethical use of digital—so critical to the rapid adoption and accelerated results we want to see from data and A.I.
Increasingly, businesses in all industries are becoming technology companies, and more and more enterprises are well on their way to becoming truly data-enabled. In that journey, moving to the cloud will be the transformation catalyst, and new operating models will be the bridge to get there. But it is important to approach cloud transformation starting from underlying business processes and redesigning value chains and operating models to prepare for and succeed in the new normal.
Converting that business roadmap into a cloud journey ultimately will empower organizations to bridge capability gaps, modernize the application stack, deliver the right experience, and lay the tech foundation for responding with agility and speed. This approach is less about lifting and shifting anything, and more about redesigning for and with cloud-enabled new capabilities.
At the same time, the accelerating evolution of job functions and requirements creates a vital need for reskilling, upskilling, and virtual training talent across every enterprise. Historical estimates say that about 50% of tech skills become redundant every two years, but in the new normal, that time period will shrink even further. Employers must enable employees to discover their skills, identify their gaps, and hone their potential through customized knowledge paths and plans.
These trends are inextricably linked, creating still more fuel for innovation and strategic evolution. Combined, these trends give organizations the tools and insights needed to build a foundation for the future of business and the future of work.
When a new confidence in driving change borne out of handling the urgent demands created by the pandemic is added to the mix, the trends become an accelerant for the transformations ahead—into the next decade of incredible metamorphosis, amazing innovations, and a solid, ethical framework for our digital future. And, as blisteringly fast as change is already occurring, the pace of change is the slowest it is ever going to be.
Sanjay Srivastava is the chief digital officer at Genpact.