Continuum Home‎ > ‎Continuum 2018‎ > ‎

Systems Continuum


The world is sitting on a huge pile of data which is increasing at the pace of 2.5 quintillion bytes per day. Information is the key resource for any organization. With computers becoming as ubiquitous as televisions, Information Technology plays a critical role in an organization. Businesses today do not accommodate a trade-off between scale and flexibility but demand synergies from both. Systems Continuum explores different aspects of Information Technology and Information Systems in business by initiating and conducting discussions on cutting-edge topics. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas on the latest developments in the field of Systems and IT. Each Systems Continuum consists of a series of events centered on a theme. Eminent speakers from industry and students of management converge for a where myriad aspect across sectors are explored by initiating discussions on issues at the forefront of the industry leaders.

The Systems Continuum 2018 was organized on August 5th, 2018 with a theme which is necessary to understand the impact of information technology in the different dimensions of business. The Systems Continuum 2017 saw a series of lectures centered on the theme:

                                  “Technology disrupting business roadmaps and strategies”

Even in an industry accustomed to waves of change, technology executives are now navigating an unprecedented period of disruption and innovation. Disruptive effects are created by Innovation which has a wide-ranging impact on people, technology, and businesses. In the competitive market, Information technology is not a support function of business but incorporated with every function of business, even the core function of the business itself. There are also various business models supported by information technology that disrupts the market. For e.g., FinTech companies are disrupting financial transactions, Templated analytical products disrupting the consulting industry, Industry 4.0 disrupted the trends of automation and data exchange in manufacturing.


The following speakers delivered lectures at the Systems Continuum 2018:

  • Mr. Rohitash Gupta – CFO, eClerx
  • Mr. Sohil Mehta – Director – Enterprise Platform Solutions, Atos
  • Mr. Uday Gharpure – Executive - Delivery Transformation at Larsen & Toubro Infotech Ltd.
  • Mr. Suhrid Brahma – CTO, WNS Global Services
  • Mr. Prasoon Sinha – Senior Principal Engineer, Dell
  • Mr. Sanjiv Kumar Tripathi – Head Vendor & India Technology Risk, Credit Suisse Services India Ltd.
  • Mr. Supriyo Bose – Head of IT at Jardine Lloyd Thompson
  • Mr. Mukesh Kothari – Director at Deloitte Consulting India Pvt. Ltd.

Subthemes for Systems Continuum 2018

Indicated below are the suggestive and non-restrictive sub-themes for the seminar:

Role of AI in improving the customer experience

AI refers to intelligence that can be programmed into machines which helps them to perform day to day tasks. Companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook are the top players in AI research and technology. According to BRP consulting, the usage of AI by retailers to improve the customer experience will increase by 45%. According to Gartner research by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human. Companies like Amazon have incorporated AI based assistance in placing orders online. Others in the automobile sector include companies like Tesla which have incorporated AI based auto-pilot mode (self-driven).

The need for AI in customer experience

•  Customer experience is an important metric that drives growth

• Current customer experience data sets are complex

• Tough for humans to understand a customer’s entire history and derive insights in real time

AI in improving the customer experience

• Chat bots: AI-based conversation agents which can simulate human interactions. It can be used in handling customer complaints etc.

• Virtual Assistants: Online retailer spring used AI to provide virtual assistants to customers on their app to help them with purchases

• Personalization: Identification of patterns for e.g. in online clothing purchases and making recommendations on similar lines

Applications across various sectors

• Banking: Banks handle a huge number of customer interactions every day. Nordea, a Stockholm based bank introduced AI based virtual employees which handle repetitive tasks. AI-based text analytics can interpret inbound customer communication.

• Fashion: Sephora, a beauty brand app employs an AI tool that can map and identify facial features and apply beauty product to the user's face. This allows customers to virtually try on products.

• B2B: Sales force's artificial intelligence technology (called Einstein) uses machine learning algorithms to analyze customer conversations as they happen. It then alerts managers in real-time whenever an opportunity to enhance customer experience, solve a problem or cross-sell/up sell arises.

Incorporating design thinking in data analytics to solve business problems

In order to be successful with big data, there needs to be a culture that incorporates data-driven decision-making. That does not mean, however, that organizations should only focus on big data analytics and that they should ignore gut-feeling. Gut-feeling, or intuitive synthesis, is an important aspect of decision-making and successful companies are capable of combining the two in what has become known as Design Thinking.

Tech giants like IBM, start-ups like Airbnb have incorporated design thinking in form of customer journey mapping and empathy drove prototyping. But the challenge has been its application in areas like data analytics.

Design thinking flips the traditional model on its head by identifying the pain point and building a product that fulfills a need or solves a problem. The core of design thinking is to drive innovation, create human-centered products and services and help organizations deal with open and complex problems.

Creativity is an important aspect of innovation and design thinking requires a multi-disciplinary team of people in order to stimulate this creativity and develop radical new solutions. In order for creativity to flourish during a design thinking project, you need data, lots of data. Design thinking, a carefully crafted process of data analytics and gut-feeling, enables organizations to develop products and services that are actually customer-centric instead of company-centric.

Applications across sectors:

Banking: Bank of America’s “Keep the Change” program. Initially, the team set out to help customers increase their savings. But saving habits are difficult to change if the burden is placed on the customer. Using design-thinking principles, the bank came up with a debit card that automatically rounded up each transaction to the nearest dollar, depositing the “change” directly into a savings account – making saving effortless. Along with goodwill, this created value for both customers and the bank. As a result of this new service, Bank of America claims to have won five million new customers, seven million new checking accounts and one million new savings accounts, all while helping customers build up savings totaling $500 million.

 Role of technology in operational and SCM excellence

Supply chain management and operations is a key component of productivity and this has necessitated a paradigm shift in the way it is done. One of the most significant changes is the adoption of modern technology to enhance efficiency and accountability in the entire supply chain.

Global brands such as Nike is leveraging technology to enable real-time monitoring of the warehousing and distribution process. In simple speak, integrating technology in supply chain management ensures:

  •  Reduction in operational costs
  • Improved efficiency through reduction of errors
  • Greater customer satisfaction on the other end
  • Consider some practical innovations that have been adopted by industry

Radio Technology:

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, a company can effectively monitor every product both at the production line and in the supply line. RFID chips are placed on all items which help employees to quickly detect any anomalies in an order

Advanced Weighing Technology:

One of the greatest encumbrances in the supply chain is in the weighing process. Modern technology includes the ingenious onboard truck scales. The scales measure payload weight and the truck’s gross weight. They enhance productivity by ensuring a truck carries the maximum weight right from the point of loading while also saving time and money.

Transport Management Software:

Computerized supplies management is the future of the business. The use of computerized shipping and tracking systems helps to integrate all operations from one panel.

Data Analytics:

Every new tool is generating copious volumes of data that is driving intelligence which the supply chain management can use effectively.

The position of India in FinTech Evolution and its future

Over the past couple of years, the term FinTech has evolved from being a buzzword among tech-savvy business executives to an organized sector characterized by hyper-growth. FinTech is basically the amalgamation of finance and technology. It refers to a new generation of companies that leverage cutting edge technology to offer financial solutions that are significantly more efficient and effective than those provided by traditional financial institutions. 

What does the Indian FinTech landscape look like?

Traditional banking functions are being taken up individually by various companies that are creating separate constructs of the services. Firms are now specializing in certain banking functions, instead of taking an aggregator approach.

Digital Lending:

These companies provide flexible options for financing to SMEs and consumers. Some prominent companies in this space include Capital Float, Lendingkart, Indifi, NeoGrowth, etc.

Payment Services:

PayTM, Freecharge and MobiKwik are among the top players in this space.

Savings, Insurance & Wealth Management:

These companies help individuals save money as well as make and manage their own investments. Scripbox and Funds India are to name a few. FinTech has helped the insurance sector transform from being document-heavy to becoming paperless. Coverfox and Policybazaar are chief among the companies that have risen to prominence in the last few years.

India is playing catch up in Fintech:

India is not very far behind the world in terms of the state of the FinTech sector, although there’s room for massive growth. The country has recorded $1.77 billion in FinTech investments between 2014 and 2015 through a total of 158 deals, according to Inc42’s FinTech Market Report 2014-2016.

The future of FinTech in India:

The global FinTech sector is expected to become $45 billion in value by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 7.1%. India would play a critical role, given that the backdrop is highly supportive.

A strategic approach to disruptive technologies: Selection and Implementation of technology

Disruptive technology later changed into disruptive innovation was coined by Clayton Christensen, that describe it as a new product or a service that is so innovative, it disrupts the market and forces businesses in that market to radically change their business or suffer a serious consequence. He identified that it was not the technology itself which was disruptive, but its impact on strategy or business models. To remain competitive and drive their businesses forward, it is critical to develop disruptive technology strategies that are aligned with corporate goals and companies culture.

An effective strategic response is one which suits the external environment and fits with the organization's culture and characteristics. In order to make an effective strategy organization can do the following:

 The organization will need a multidisciplinary team to consider the potential impacts of new technologies especially outside of your industry as that very technology can revolutionize your industry in the future. The perspective of a single discipline should not be allowed to dominate, but every discipline should contribute to this agenda. Example- think about potential technology or legislation that can cause a change in your business model. Be the disrupter, not the disrupted. The first-mover advantage is often a key to success when executing a disruptive strategy. Knowing the competitor to either match or even surpass the innovative actions of their company. This can be achieved by anticipating competitors' plans and strategize accordingly. Pay importance to your customers. They can act as an early-warning system, allowing you to react in real time to market changes. Without customer guidance, you will most likely be creating products and services for a market that no longer exists.

Broadly these strategies will come under the following approach-First is ‘The back-scratcher approach’: The company offers a better solution to customers, and gains market share. Examples: Federal Express; Instant messaging.

Second is ‘The Extreme Makeover': In these companies concentrate on making the low end of the market more attractive. Such products will lack the full range of features or functionality offered to other customers but can be produced at sufficiently low prices to satisfy low-end customers. Examples: Toyota Corona; Tata Industries Nano.

Last is ‘Bottle-neck Buster': In this, a new technology removes a previous constraint to market growth. Customers are no longer excluded from the market because of a lack of skills, access or resources. Examples: personal computers; blogs.

Questions to be addressed-

Should the company let go of their approach even it is a source of competitive advantage?

Disruptive technology v/s visionary leadership

Should disruptive technology be seen as a business growth strategy? Why or why not?

 Defining the business market: Shift from siloed business to creating an ecosystem

In order to serve your customer best or to make a profitable business, you must define the market your business will cater carefully. We have seen leading companies fail miserably only by having a myopic view of their business. For example- the railways not defining its business as transportation and flight took over. Similarly, Kodak was also adamant to solve the business problem in their old way. Successful businesses are those that evolve rapidly and effectively. A company should be viewed not as a member of a single industry but as part of a business ecosystem that crosses a variety of industries. Ecosystems thinking provides a new frame and mindset that captures a profound shift in the economy and the business landscape. In a business ecosystem, companies co-evolve capabilities around a new innovation: They work cooperatively and competitively to support new products, satisfy customer needs, and eventually incorporate the next round of innovations. There is a barrier in organization silos as non-aligned priorities, lack of information flow, lack of coordinated decision.

Businesses are moving beyond traditional industry silos and coalescing into richly networked ecosystems, creating new opportunities for innovation alongside new challenges for many incumbent enterprises. With the rapid advancement of technology and globalization, which allows new business models to be introduced at an ever-increasing rate and with rapidly declining costs, companies have to constantly define their business market and industries they can collaborate with, to refine its value proposition.

Digital business will break down traditional barriers between industry segments, creating completely new value chains and business opportunities. Companies can make their business sustainable and profitable by first understanding the stakeholders, then involve them in making a seamless journey for customers. For Example – Apple explicitly conceived its products and services as an ecosystem that would provide customers with a seamless experience. They did not restrict their business market. So, they also created iTunes which solved problems for both the user and the music industry. Later, they generated money by charging the customer for streaming the music. Similarly, Europol connects steel manufacturers, steel traders, and companies that use steel in their productions, by providing services in the steel supply chain, such as product inspection, storage, payment, shipping, and market data services.


 The disruptive technology value map: the intersection of investment and impact

Disruptive consumer and enterprise technologies continue to rapidly transform the way we work and live - across verticals and throughout the consumer experience, the business-to-business world and the entire supply chain. From the cloud, mobile, and Big Data and Analytics to IoT, 3D printing, biotech and cybersecurity, entire industries and business models are quickly shifting as emerging technologies gain momentum, moving from experimental options to mainstream acceptance and maturity.

Disruptive technologies create growth in the industries they penetrate or create entirely new industries through the introduction of products and services that are dramatically cheaper, better, and more convenient. These disruptive technologies often disrupt workforce participation by allowing technologically unsophisticated individuals to enter and become competitive in the industrial workforce. Disruptive technologies offer a revolutionary change in the conduct of processes or operations. Disruptive technologies can evolve from the confluence of seemingly diverse technologies or can be a result of an entirely new technological investigation. Existing planning processes are notoriously poor in identifying the mix of sometimes highly disparate technologies required to address the multiple performance objectives of a particular niche in the market. For a number of reasons, especially the inability to look beyond short-term profitability, and the risk/return tradeoff of longer-term projects, it is suggested that current strategic planning and management processes promote sustaining technologies at the expense of disruptive technologies. Top-performing organizations know they have to keep up with the latest tech trends in order to transform into the digital business of the future.

Following are a set of guidelines to monetize disruptive technologies by creating an innovative business model, to gain a real competitive advantage and add new economic value:

  • Define extraordinarily ambitious goals
  • Relate emphatically to the customer
  •  Integrate social responsibility into the business model
  • Utilize design thinking and data analytics
  • Find disruptive opportunities along the entire value chain


 Future of data privacy laws and how to be prepared for them

The G.D.P.R. is the most contested law in the E.U.’s history, the product of years of intense negotiation and thousands of proposed amendments, despite its building blocks having been present in European law for decades. As of now, the law is applicable to European citizens, but it is hoped that the rest of the nations would gradually follow the footsteps in their own capacity.

These laws have gained significance due to the way we engage with technology in our day to day life. Smartphones are developing newer capabilities almost every day now and that makes it one of the best medium to gather data from the user. As a part of knowing their customers better, every service provider or a commodity seller is trying to gather as much data about their customers as they can. This has given rise to the business of data brokerage which currently is not at all a regulated business.

Therefore, in a digital age such as today, data privacy laws have become very important and as they come with implications that may change the way of functioning of technology/data-driven businesses. Also, the penalties of GDPR is high to make organizations think of data privacy as part of their organization design rather than making it an afterthought. The organizations not complying will not just suffer monetary losses but will also lose the credibility in the customer mindset.

The best place to start is with the data that is currently held by the companies. It’s important to have a secure CRM system for consumer data, any information about consumers including their opt-in preferences, interactions and profile can all be stored in one place. Ownership will have to be clearly defined and customer’s consent will have to be valued.


 Upskilling the workforce in the advent of automation in an economy like India

The world around us is changing drastically and extreme headlines are only a blink of an eye away. Apart from all the wide-ranging effects, it will have on our lives and society, technology is really beginning to displace millions of people from their jobs. The IT sector, the sector that was largely responsible for the growth of India in the 90s and early 2000s, is one example of this change. Observing the past shows us that jobs have consistently been predicted to become obsolete with the advent of technology and machines. Automation is posing the same threat today that machines posed a few decades ago

Between 1980 to 2010, 90 percent of world labor force growth occurred in developing countries and India is all set to power most of the global growth in labor in the coming years. However, while it's true that we are moving towards a massive labor pool, we are also possibly riding a low-skill, low-wage cycle to get there.

This brings up the long-lasted debate: ‘Will robots take our place in the jobs economy?’ While some jobs will surely become defunct, technology also presents opportunities for many other job types. Where routine work is decreasing, knowledge work is increasing. Labour adept at managing high-end technology will be high in demand as our processes become more complex and disruptive.

Most industries are undergoing a digital transformation, and skills relating to key technologies like mobility, cloud computing, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, etc., are gaining relevance. There are various ways in which industries today can start early and bank on the opportunity to upskill their workforce in this transformation. It is a time of continuous learning and this must be understood by every individual today looking for a job. The options are plenty; weekend programs, crash-courses, and boot-camps are some offline options. Online options offer flexibility and manage resource constraints (time and money) for working professionals who cannot afford to leave their current job market to go back to classrooms. Courses in data, digital, management, technology, products, and entrepreneurship are abundant, and it is up to the organization that wants to create a platform and an attitude towards continuous learning and the individuals who strive to succeed.

Evaluating the business impact of blockchain on a long-term basis

Contracts, transactions, and the records of them are among the defining structures in our economic, legal, and political systems. They protect assets and set organizational boundaries. They establish and verify identities and chronicle events. Blockchain came in with the agenda to revolutionize the way we manage these things. It is the technology at the heart of bitcoin and other virtual currencies, an open and distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.

While we all share its enthusiasm, every business must weigh it in terms of security, cost, and feasibility as a start.


The first thought that comes to the mind is the collapse of the bitcoin exchanges which were victims of hacking. Not just that, the fundamental concept of blockchain relies on a distributed ledger, which means every transaction is updated and maintained on every node. This makes the businesses today identify and classify the data they hold and then decide whether such a system is an appropriate solution for digitalization.


If blockchain technology is going to revolutionize how we transact with each other, computer scientists need to solve one big problem: It can consume way too much energy. The original blockchain, which underlies bitcoin, runs on an algorithm that could eat up more energy than Argentina this year, Morgan Stanley estimated. To unleash the power of blockchain – the technology behind bitcoin – for a wide range of business purposes, energy efficiency is key, developers said.


Blockchain could change the very nature of economic, social, and political systems. They involve coordinating the activity of many actors and gaining institutional agreement on standards and processes. Their adoption will require major social, legal, and political change. ‘Smart contracts’ is one of the most transformative applications now. If contracts are automated, then what will happen to traditional firm structures, processes, and intermediaries like lawyers and accountants? And what about managers? Their roles would all radically change.

Leveraging Technology for effective cost optimization

In the digital era, in order to remain competitive in business, irrespective of its kind, appropriate use of technology becomes all the more important for reducing cost and manual efforts. According to a February 2016 Gartner report, "The pressure to remain competitive and invest in digital initiatives is increasing across industries". Cost optimization strategies must include investments in IT initiatives to monitor the current process in place, identify the pain points or scope for improvement and help in taking corrective actions. It is safer to say a well-defined and structured IT infrastructure is fundamental for any business to run in a smooth and efficient manner.

Many companies have resorted to automation, analytics and other relevant technologies to improve cost optimization. For example, an analytics tool can be used to determine the optimal value for all the key parameters involved in a process for attaining maximum output in a process. A monitoring system can be in place to trigger an alarm once the parameters go beyond a certain value defined by the accepted amount of tolerance. This way, technology can play a part in achieving the maximum output, thus minimizing waste and resulting in cost optimization. On the other hand, the use of automation in an industry such as automobile manufacturing industry can lead to a huge cut in labor costs and at the same time improve the accuracy and quality by minimizing the human errors in manufacturing.

Even in the domains of procurement and transportation, technology helps in cost optimization to a larger extent. There are several web applications that help organizations compare and contrast the prices of commodities provided by a range of suppliers, analyze their pros, cons, quality levels and global sourcing of raw materials. In the transportation front, technologies such as truck platooning can be made use of to reduce fuel costs.

Technology has evolved from being a support tool in an organization to one of the most important aspects to run almost any business in today’s world. Earlier days, the word ‘technology’ meant predominantly the IT industry but in the current scenario, almost all companies use technology, only the level and scale of usage varies. Cost optimization is empirical for any business to remain profitable and sustainable in the long run and leveraging technology for the same is no more a choice for organizations, it has become a ‘must do’ thing.

 The inevitability of technology in the expansion of business globally

International companies more challenge than ever especially when they want to expand globally and into the emerging markets like India and China. Consumer culture is also accelerating rapidly throughout the Asia Pacific, as evidenced by annual consumption in the world's emerging markets being forecast to hit $30 trillion by 2025, up $18 trillion in 2010. India is set to be the fastest-growing market in the region in 2016, with a 7.6 percent expansion, with two of the other major economies in the Asia Pacific, China, and South Korea, growing at 6.5 percent and 2.9 percent respectively.

Also, research from software provider SAP AG and Oxford University's Oxford Economics shows that nearly 60 percent of small and medium-size businesses in North America are focused on penetrating new geographic markets.

When a business aims to expand beyond its domestic or regional boundaries, technology is a key enabler in the process. The research found that investing in new technologies — including business management software, data analytics, mobile, social media, and cloud computing — is a top strategic priority as small businesses expand internationally. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed strongly believe technology is the key to helping them achieve longevity and sustainable growth.

Technology is also helping small businesses level the playing field with their more established competition. Less than one-third of small businesses feel they lack the technology capabilities of larger competitors. Technology such as “cloud computing” where IT resources are hired over the Internet on demand basis is helping small and medium businesses to compete against bigger and more established companies. No large upfront investments in hardware or software are needed, and companies can be up and running quickly without being dragged into long implementation projects. When expanding globally, scalability becomes a must and that can be achieved by technologies such as cloud computing.                      Following are the main ways in which technology can be used to expand or run a global business:

  • Using cloud computing for global data sharing
  •  Staying in control of the data
  • Choosing collaboration tools to connect with people worldwide
  • Getting more mobile – accessing resources and connecting to people during business travel
  • Scheduling of tasks
  • Integrating data and automating the flow of activities in a process
  • Offshoring

 Predictive Analytics used as a tool to determine business roadmaps

Predictive analytics or big data analytics is the process of taking a range of data sources and using algorithmic analysis to identify patterns in the data and predict future user behaviors. One of the most fundamental things to ensure is the fact that the data source chosen should be appropriate enough to answer the questions of the business – like what to make, how to make, how much to make, how to market, how many resources to allocate and so on. Predictive analytics can be used to make major decisions such as the pricing strategy, marketing strategy, and expansion into a new market and product lines.

Any product’s price is determined by the supply-demand equilibrium. Predictive analytics is a handy tool to forecast the demand beforehand which helps an organization to decide on the product's price. This can also be used to study the shift of consumer's preferences and tastes from a company's product to others, either because of the substitution effect or because of the competitors. Seasonality factor can also be included as a parameter so that the fluctuations in demand can be handled well with the right amount of safety stock.

In the marketing side, analytics helps in deciding the target areas for marketing the product by making a forecast on which region or state will the product me much in demand during the course of the upcoming month or the year and where does a company should market more for getting the demand up.

Examples of Companies using Predictive analytics:

1. Netflix utilizes the millions of bits of data they have to predict which shows and movies users would like to watch through their service. Netflix has a ton of data on their watchers – including the content they watch, how much of it they watch as well as demographic data

2. Boston Medical Center has recently implemented a predictive analytics solution known as Hospital IQ, which allows healthcare institutions to allocate rooms and staff as per predictive patterns. Based on demand patterns, they are thus able to decipher how many staff members and rooms are needed during certain peak times    

            3. Facebook - According to data scientists at the company, relationships that last more than three months on the social                network are likely to survive for years. By looking at connections and communication patterns, Facebook can even                        predict who might be in a relationship next. It is a bit hard to believe, but technology can even predict our                                        relationships before we do.