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Imagine if your ‘smart’ washing machine could automatically detect a part failure and pass on this information to a pre-set service centre for repair. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, which can go a long way in helping deliver the hyper personalised product of the future, are fast becoming a reality in our homes and workplaces.

This switch to digital has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, powering a new world of innovation. The latest episode of Mint CXO Dialogues, a virtual panel discussion powered by Microsoft and Livemint, titled ‘The ITes Innovation: Future-ready Solutions for a Robust Digital Infrastructure’, looks at the role of AI and automation in accelerating growth so as to help organisations unlock new revenue streams through continued innovations.

“AI is getting infused into products. Today, we have products which have voice recognition, gesture control. So, it is very important to adopt some of these features in order to be competitive and to grow," said Saji Thoppil, Chief Technologist, Wipro Ltd.

One of the biggest used cases for AI are customer experience and customer acquisition, which can have an impact on organisational growth and productivity of the company.

“The entire customer experience across industries has completely been transformed using AI, especially during Covid times using chatbots and digital assistants. Secondly, based on AI, you can churn out a predictive model to acquire new customers which would have been very tough using traditional means. Finally, from a service provider point of view, AI based engines can be used to do the mundane tasks and the workforce can be used to focus on other things," said Suhrid Brahma, Chief Technology Officer, World Network Services Pvt Ltd.

Post March 24, customers suddenly had to switch to contactless selling and diversify their range of products to include things like sanitizers and masks, that formed the flavor of the day post Covid. Customer care call centres are moving away from hiring people to bots who can respond to the initial queries of people and offer relevant information.

“There was a mass shift in business models. Decisions that used to take months were being taken in weeks. Customers wanted the flexibility to scale up when necessary and also scale down when necessary and make the buying experience more relevant for the customer," said Swapna Bapat, Senior Director - Data Analytics and AI, Microsoft.

Consumers today are looking for increased personalization in their experience and AI is one of the technologies that is helping drive that change. They are tools which help us achieve our end goal of satisfying the customer and helping them to serve their customer better.

“The main thing is data. When IT service companies like ours work with customers for extended periods of time, how do we make use of the data. We understand it, analyse it and use AI to personalize the experience not just for our customers but mainly for their end users," said Dinesh Ganesan, Vice President and Delivery Head, IT Infrastructure Management Services, Hexaware Technologies Limited.

The role of the CIO is changing in every business and the role is gaining importance as it is the only person who works across businesses to look for technological solutions for the business.

“The CIO is the proxy COO these days, because it is only the CIO in the C-suite that takes a look into every corner of the organisation. A digital process means that technology has been applied over there. This can be used to drive change across the organization as a whole as opposed to siloed responsibilities," said Vikram Dhanda, Senior Vice President and CISO, Virtusa.

A year back, this process may not have taken priority at the CEO’s table a year back. But, today, using technology to unlock new value and productivity has become a common discussion.

“The people who latch on to these new technologies and carve out a niche for themselves with these are going to be the ones to benefit in the long term. There will be newer threads from these which will emerge in the future," he further added.

Building a secure virtual workspace has emerged as a major area of challenge, especially in a work from home environment and must come with a set of key priorities.

“Security, confidentiality and integrity are a challenge when people are working virtually and connectivity is also a real-time challenge," said PS Reddy, Global CTO, Startek (Aegis).

Added Brahma: “When we moved to a work from home model, one of the biggest questions from the clients was – is my data secure. The other two aspects of virtual workforce is the role of the government and to keep teams motivated. This needs to be done without any compromise in security."

Security is one of the important aspects, especially with all the cyber security crimes on the rise. But, companies also need to ensure a proper set-up is there for employees at the homes. A large part of the workforce is facing a lot of difficulty because our homes are not engineered to be workspaces.

“It’s not just security. We need to help employees create a workspace through secure VPN connectivity to enable work form home. Ensure secure connectivity through technology and proper laptops or desktops and also ensure ergonomics and good mental health of employees," said Ganeshan.

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