On the 15th episode of Enterprise Software Innovators, hosts Evan Reiser (Abnormal Security) and Saam Motamedi (Greylock Partners) talk with Sanjay Srivastava, Chief Digital Officer at Genpact. Genpact is a global professional services company with over 100,000 employees that enables the world's largest companies to digitally transform. Today, Sanjay shares how companies should approach driving true digital transformation and his perspective on the tremendous potential of AI.
Sanjay believes that properly defining digital transformation provides a needed framework for approaching the process. While it's the phrase every IT leader knows, it is routinely used interchangeably with digitization. Sanjay explains the differences: “When we talk about digitization, it's about taking an end-to-end process, breaking it down into its components, and automating every single piece. You've got an end-to-end process that is faster, scalable, more efficient, and more reliable; but the work remains the same. With digital transformation, you're redesigning the value chain, rethinking the experience, and delivering a much more sticky endpoint to a client. You are using emerging technologies and get a redesigned end-to-end value proposition. The work that’s left behind is now different and new. Digital transformation is about orchestrating change in the dimensions of people, processes, data, and technology." By recognizing true digital transformation, teams can accurately focus on their north star when embarking on ways to optimize a wide range of business processes.
Long a believer in new and emerging technologies, Sanjay is excited about artificial intelligence and its potential to change our world. Like many other technologists, Sanjay is clear that in the short term, the focus of AI should be specific use cases and utilities: “You think about these big massive AI things like autonomous driving, but the reality is you have to put all that aside. You have to think about small AI, and by small, I don't mean small [in impact]. I mean utilities and tool kits, things like NLP and computer vision.” Furthermore, it’s imperative to deploy AI around actual use cases to minimize the risk of chasing shiny objects. As Sanjay puts it, “...you can have the best AI utility in the world, but if it doesn't integrate into existing, ‘old’ infrastructure and you don't change your operating model to take advantage of all of this new stuff and don't redesign the process to be able to accommodate that, it's good for nothing.” It’s an insight we’ve heard from several past CIOs and CDOs; deploying technology for the sake of technology rarely pays dividends; the best deployments are always connected to real business outcomes. To that end, Sanjay describes two areas where AI is making a sizable impact on existing infrastructure.
The first is around clinical trials in medicine, where a foundation of data on the back of AI is enabling clinical trials to expand beyond local geographic footprints: “Now, these clinical trials become available across the United States. And so you have a more inclusive methodology which makes for more equitable care when you think about people that have access to it.” For a mission-critical industry like medicine, this has the potential to completely reshape how data from clinical trials is harnessed to create better outcomes: “For the pharmaceutical companies, [the data] allows them to design therapies better and deliver more comprehensive results. It’s happening because they're building a foundation of data, a digital twinning kind of what that process looks like, and applying artificial intelligence to it.”
The second relates to a new form of identification, where AI is helping optimize consumer experiences while preventing fraud. Sanjay describes grabbing food at a concession stand during a sporting event and not needing to spend time in line to pay for it: “The touchless purchase, which is the idea of walking into a store, picking up what you want, and walking out with it. It's such an amazing piece of technology…A lot of times, you scan your hand. And what was interesting to me is there's a lot of possible fraud because someone could take a photograph of their palm and then potentially use it.” Enter AI, which is helping this new form of scanning technology detect sub-skin level blood flow in a customer’s veins. Without using traditional biometrics or fingerprints, AI allows the scanners to ensure it’s a real person: “That's an amazing example of how AI is at play. It’s so important to make that process secure and fraud-proof for it to be pervasive and usable.”
As more large enterprises begin to embrace AI, Sanjay believes both tactical and mindset shifts are required to get the most from these innovations, which means viewing data as its own asset class: “…you're dead on arrival unless you have the right data foundation. It’s not just the technology piece, but the process, ownership, and governance. Most of us in the enterprise used to think about data as a byproduct of automation; you keep it around if you need it, and do fun things with it. The world has changed and data is its own asset class.” Increasingly, roles like chief digital officers and board members who are AI-focused will be the best path forward for ensuring large companies can make the necessary changes to support the new tech. Most important, it’s always connecting the technology back to actual use cases. Sanjay’s advice to the new generation of IT leaders is clear: “Part of the reason some of the tech isn't translating is the fact that use cases don't come through, and the change management that needs to happen at the backend to integrate, utilize, and deliver on it and to get to actual outcomes isn't there in a mainstream way. And so my advice has always been that technology is one part of the equation, but how you architect it through the process in the business is really important. I think the new set of leaders across the enterprise that leads digital, tech, or data are thinking about business first and then how technology enables business.”