Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A Summit to Cherish- The Jyothi Summit 2015

On 5th October 2015 when I visited the Jyothi Nivas College, a premier Womens’college in Bangalore for a guest lecture on “The Law of Attraction”, Dr Rose Kavitha, Dean of the MBA department told me about the summit. The college organizes a summit annually on different focus areas. This year it was to be on the theme “Quantum Leap in IT-2020 - Beyond digital shift”.

Later the Director, Dr.Sr Lalitha Thomas and the Dean invited me to attend the prestigious summit. Although I said “Yes”I was apprehensive that not being an IT professional, most of the proceedings would go above my head. Dr Kavitha , however assured me that the discussion would be general in nature with focus on the trends in IT and the practical challenges for the future. It turned out that attending this summit on October 10th was one of my most rewarding experiences.

During the welcome address, the Director Dr.Sr Lalitha Thomas underscored the importance of the subject and the additional significance of it being organized in the Golden jubilee year (50 Years) of the college. After the customary lighting of lamp the key note address of Dr Joseph shields, Managing Partner, Leadership Matters inc on the topic “Trends driving the future of information technology” set the tone for a robust discussion on the present and future trends in IT and the challenges ahead.

Dr Shields started his talk with some advice for the students telling them to always acknowledge and remember with gratitude all the people who invested in them and their wellbeing, be it parents, teachers or a distant relative. He said that one of the key shift in the general trend is that on account of technology, there are higher expectations from customers in terms of look, feel and usability of the product which need to be consistently met.

He gave the example of Tesla, the fastest car in the world. This high end luxury car provides customers an opportunity to design their own car, play around with colour combinations and the interiors of the car. Similarly, in the accommodation space, AIRBNB, Oyo Rooms & Zo rooms have revolutionised the   manner of booking accommodation wherein the customer can see in detail the interiors of the rooms and decide on the suitability. Similarly, technology has removed the long wait to meet a doctor which can be ‘just in time’ with prior appointment.                

Dr Shields stated that one of the most revolutionary changes that has happened is cloud computing in which “My data is stored somewhere else and not on my PC”. Data is becoming the world’s new natural resource with 500 million GBs of data being generated daily, 1 trillion connected objects and devices and 85% of new software being built for the cloud.

In the changed scenario while the traditional players  in IT had a 4% increase in growth, the new players like Amazon and Google grew by 28%.The key today has become big data analytics; in its absence the data is just wild data. It is expected that there would be a 57% increase in the data analytics market by 2019 and the maximum share in this connection would be Asia Pacific market with 39.1 %( next highest Europe by 14.4%).

The analytics would be done in different languages and for different demographics. Data analytics can contribute to both predictive and prescriptive analysis. Based on the data it becomes possible to predict when a person is likely to get a heart attack or when a disease is likely to show up. Weather forecasts can be predicted with better accuracy with analytics. Similarly in the area of finance; ROI, return on stock, when the next market crash is likely etc. can be predicted and enable discussions on the required reforms.

Based on the data analytics, the consumer pattern of customers can be analysed; as for example whether he tends to use more of late night calls or is a compulsive chatter’ Once the pattern is known suitable schemes can be prescribed or suggested to the customer that best meets his unique needs. Flipkart is taking advantage of this technology to find out what products consumers have searched on the net and then send quotes for the same. Google and other companies are bound to adopt this strategy in the near future. App town markets with ‘pay for use’ concept is on the rise.

The speaker pointed out that another area in which considerable changes have happened is with respect to the use of devices and the use of smart wearable devices. It is expected that between 2014 and 2019 there would be 40% CAGR (Compound annual growth rate) and the wearable smart devices would increase from 31% to 59% in 2019. The popularity and convenience of the IPad has been leveraged by the Andhra Pradesh Government in the form of Akash tablets.

Another impact of technology, according to Dr Shields is the reduction in distance between people with the availability of video streaming, audio streaming & mobile videos with 80% of data being available in cloud. Netflix has provided a fresh new experience of movies. There has been considerable growth in the global machine to machine growth and mobile to mobile connections with LPWA (Low power wide area network) evolving in a big way. With these advancement, smarter cities like Masdar in UAE (Abhudhabi) have evolved. Water recycling has been possible and provision for automatic switch off of street lights on the arrival of sun light. With technology, you can operate the washing machine from your office.

Dr Shields said that today, we have the IBM Watson, a computer that speaks back to you when you talk to it. It plays an important role in health care. It not only reduces big data to useful manageable levels but also helps in other areas such as oncology treatment and clinical trial matching. He concluded his excellent key note address laced with humour, with the observation that one needs to take up IT only if passionate and not merely as a profession. 

“Do you love technology? “Is the key question. If not, there are other ways to make money. Possession of knowledge does not necessarily mean progression. He cited the example of AT&T, the American telecommunication multinational which was one of the first to acquire knowledge of mobile technology but have allowed other more enterprising players to leave it behind. The speaker therefore advised the students to look beyond the obvious and focus on the application of technology and its possibilities in new areas.

The next session was a panel discussion on the subject “Leveraging the digital transformation to enhance work place productivity”. The session was moderated by Mr Patrick Pitchappa, VP technology Division, Goldman Sachs and the members were Mr K.B.Unni, VP, Business model Redesign, Wipro Technologies, Mr Samson Selwyn, Practice Lead-Volvo IT and Mr Beniston Joel, Program Manager-CISCO

Kick starting the session the moderator Mr Pitchappa underscored the fact that work place has changed forever with the advent of technology. He said the truck drivers in the west who drive 18 wheelers, now have on their dashboard android touch screen. They  can go to Facebook, skype, check weather, do the diagnostics of the vehicle and be warned of state borders. The technological transformation has made insignificant the disability of a physically challenged person to contribute at work.

The first question posed to the panel was “What matters most in a digital economy?” The question was answered by Mr Samson who declared categorically that business result was what mattered the most- increased revenue and more satisfied customers. IT is in the process of moving from a supporting, enabling role to a results role. The results discussed here includes those from the customers ’point of view of which speed is a minimum expectation. Mr Samson stated that the difference between IT and business is going away.

I found this part of the discussion very interesting; normally, it is in HR forums that member’s breast beat and say “we are not sufficiently business oriented. We need to improve considerably in this regard.” The fact is all the functions, whether production, IT or HR had been focusing for a long time on their own area of specialisation, ignoring the basic purpose of the business. In fact in a country like India which started out with the Nehruvian Socialism, ‘profit‘ was believed, though not openly stated to be a dirty word and public sectors used to pride themselves  that their primary purpose was to provide employment. Time has come for all functions to look at the holistic picture and connect whatever they do with the business objectives of the organization.

Mr Samson who is working for Volvo gave practical examples of what it means to be business results oriented- The IT professional working in Volvo should concern himself with the following questions: - How many Volvo vehicles are being sold? How safe are they? How can IT support the said goals of the company? If presently a new application takes two weeks to roll out; can IT do it in just one day in future with the help of latest technology?

The next question viz what are the 4 big changes that has happened in the field of IT in the last decade? was taken by Mr Beniston who said that the (1) Growth of the internet (2) the changes in the quality and reach of devices (3) Changes in the way we share information and (4) Influence of Social media are the 4 big changes. He related stories of the earliest computers that were huge in size and difficult to carry. In sharp contrast are today’s lap top.Benistion said that in the future we may not have a specific work place with employees working from the lawn, cafeteria or any other place. IPad and high end devices may replace laptop and employees working across the globe.

The changes in the way information is shared can be traced to the times of the highly unreliable floppy disks to the requirement of burning CDs to the present USB devices with high storability. There has been a transition from legacy systems (that could be applied only in one area)  to a scenario where are all are automated and large scale network migrations are  possible.

The question “What are the big hurdles in implementing DT in work place was put to Mr K.B.Unni. He replied that India is not a country that is same in every way; there are multiple India within India with varying aspirations, exposure and understanding of technology. Therefore technology cannot answer fully all the needs of the people.

 However personal life is much more enabled today whether it is with regard to railway ticketing or ordering things on the net. The metric has shifted from looking at everything from the point of view of the cost to the ease and need of the user. He said that enterprises need to be even more customer centric and from B to B; the focus has to move towards B to B to C. (Business to business to consumer).

 To another question as to whether “Digital India would be a reality?” Mr Unni answered in the affirmative and he said the initiative of  leading banks in AP was encouraging. Trust and the gradual change in the mind-set of people would yield results.He answered in a similar vein the question as to "what extent technology would touch lives of an uneducated man on the street?". The common man will also start using technology when he starts seeing the advantages in terms of saved time, money and energy. The fisherman and the vegetable vendor has started using it and this will increase in the days to come

The question “What are the expectations from the new knowledge worker was answered by Mr Samson. He said that IT is becoming a business skill. He advised students to look at it as more than a technology and look at ways and places of its application. There is a need to develop skills of people to people interaction .The focus needs to shift from “Look at me world “or “What’s in it for me?” to the real purpose of unleashing the technology. He also advised the students  connect with the network of providers-“Scan the environment to know latest needs” The question to oneself should be “How do I innovate every day?”

The panel discussion was very impressive and there was a natural flow in the proceedings. In one of my earlier blogs on “Business Agility”, I had shared as to how a discussion organized by the Madras School of Social Work in 2014  in which I also happened to participate as member of the panel was very effective .( ) On that occasion, the success was more by chance than design as we the panel members were meeting for the first time on the morning of the program. I was told that the Jyothi summits leave nothing to chance and that the panel members had met previously to ensure that the discussion flowed purposefully and each member complimented what the other was speaking.

The last session in the forenoon before lunch was by the scientist, Dr Krishna Chandra Gouda of C-MMACS who spoke about the impact of technology in analysing data and improving predictions. There was a loud cheer from the audience normally reserved for rock stars when this speaker took the mike. I was told that he had on occasions previously addressed them. However, the secret to such applause became evident soon after he started speaking for every other line was loaded with humour.

Dr Gouda started off by stating that innovation should help the common man whether it is the farmer ( predictions on monsoon, hybrid seeds etc) or the consumer on medical matters. He said that handling big data is the key and shared with the audience research done by him and his organization on weather and other trends including that of the connection between pollution and population.

 Another aspect for leveraging the benefits of technology is networking so that connection is made with the person who has the need and his needs addressed. In this connection Dr Gouda explained the theory of “Six degrees of separation” which postulates that “everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. By applying this concept we would be able to connect the person who has a need with the one who can give the solution.

Post lunch we had an inspiring presentation by Mr Resington, Industrial Automation Consultant under the caption “Meet the Trend setter”. The speaker explained about an App he has developed to warn Indian fishermen when crossing over to Srilankan territory. We frequently hear of our fisherman being intercepted and jailed in Srilanka for unauthorised crossing over the border.

 SOR (Save Our Race) App, enables Indian Fishermen to know the direction in which he is sailing, the speed and position where he is at a particular point of time.SOR has a graphical representation of India- SriLanka Boundary (As per UNO agreement signed on 1976) and the current distance (in Nautical Miles) between the user's boat and the Indo - Sri Lanka Maritime boundary.

SOR will give warning in the form of Coloured Text in Tamil ( Green if inside Indian territory, Yellow for a warning and Red if vessel goes  outside our territory) and also a Siren Sound, if and when the fishermen gets close to the India-SriLanka Maritime boundary.

SOR has a data logger through which the user can store 5000 Logs in every 5 minutes of Interval. In an emergency, if the user receives mobile signal, the fishermen can send a SOS (Save our Souls- an emergency message) to the pre-stored mobile phone in the shore. This message contains, Date, Time, Latitude, Longitude and the IMEI Code, which information will be very useful to rescue them as soon as possible. 

Mr Resington informed that except for the SOS message for which internet connection was required, all other features work in flight mode without internet. The App introduced from Dec 6, 2014 is free and available in play store. I joined the audience in passionately and  spontaneously  applauding this noble initiative. Coming from a coastal area in Tamilnadu, himself, Mr Resington  could understand the needs, trials and tribulations faced by the fishermen in this belt and come out with a solution.

Yes, here was a summit to cherish with its immense knowledge sharing, excellent ambience and quality of speakers. The icing on the cake was a Bharatanatyam and Peacock dance performance by the students of the College. As I thanked the organizers and bid farewell, I knew for sure that this was one experience that I would long cherish!