How CEOs can build a resilient future?

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As business leaders in the hot seat plot a road to recovery, Country Head, Australia and New Zealand, Vikram Singh, has a vantage point from a company, connected across offices in 46 countries with 448,000 employees.

Posted: May 2020

Being virtually joined at the hip to leaders of the biggest companies in Australia and New Zealand over recent months, Vikram has a unique view from ground level of what’s happening within business forums as well as government dialogues.

There are common themes as public and private sectors as workforces re-emerge from unprecedented events. Firstly, digital transformation has not only been accelerated within businesses across Australia and New Zealand, they’re priority projects being owned by chief executives. Another key theme is the shared belief that the difference between businesses that survive today and those that thrive in a new-look tomorrow will be the ones whose leaders take control of the steering wheel today.

Here he shares his insights and responses to the most challenging questions organisations are confronting, as part of The Big Questions series.

How are ANZ businesses shifting in their digital transformation strategies in response to recent events? Who’s leading the change?

The reality today is that technology is core to our business models and must be top on the overall business strategy agenda. Companies are prioritising organisational adaptability and resilience by enhancing their capabilities using the cloud, data analytic & insights, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and collaboration tools.

Where it was once Chief Information Officers and IT leadership teams leading enablement, technology is now at the core of a CEO’s and CFO’s responsibilities. They’re the ones who are driving digital innovation.

What’s the key challenges businesses in Australia and New Zealand are facing?

No-one underestimates the challenges ahead but through all this companies are focusing on harnessing opportunities for the future. The events of recent months have impacted our lives socially, economically and technologically. Socially, companies are focusing on the health and safety of employees. Technology is helping to keep staff connected and in touch with broader developments in their organisations. New applications are also helping employees access an ever-growing number of organisational health and wellbeing programs.

Beyond a personal and local neighbourhood level, the whole global ecosystem is changing. Interaction between countries, cities and even smaller villages and towns is vital. Again, technology is the driving force for connectivity enabling our ecosystems to grow and develop. Recent events have impacted the way national economies are managed and this is challenging the fundamentals of education and health.

It also presents challenges for businesses, even as governments pour money into bailouts and economic stimulus packages. Chief executives are looking to ways to future-proof their organisations from future interruptions and challenges including by enhancing the mobility of their workforces. Technology is the backbone for industries in general and now more than ever it is the driving factor for companies to survive through innovation and transform. New digital products and services providing people and businesses new ways to manage challenges socially and economically and ultimately to thrive and excel.

What are businesses telling you about how they think Australian and New Zealand Governments have handled the challenges of recent months?

From my discussions with government executives and within industry forums, business leaders think Australia and New Zealand have been two of the best countries in the world in how they have handled the various challenges of recent months. There’s positive sentiment, as job preservation packages come online and businesses look forward to a further loosening of restrictions.

Organisations need to keep in mind that enabling recovery relies partly on keeping whole supply chain going and effectively managing trade and other associated challenges.

Having been a pioneer in location independent work practices for over 50 years, what behaviours do leaders needs to adopt to navigate our new world? 

Every organisation needs to leverage disruptive technologies to drive shifts in their business. But it’s the behaviours that are part of what we do as business-as-usual that are coming to the fore right now to effectively navigate and manage change.

Businesses that are adopting the four behaviours of Business 4.0™ and tackling the unpredictable by focusing on: being purpose driven, building resilience and adaptability are ones that will we be best equipped moving forward.

Firstly, organisations are undergoing a transformation journey, redefining their purpose to better serve their target markets using technology to drive innovation in their products and services. Strong businesses are also adapting their business models to build resilience and diversify into new markets and opportunities.

Enhancing adaptability is another key pillar with companies using artificial intelligence, automation, collaboration tools and the cloud to enhance flexibility and agility to respond to the need for alternate needs for scalability and structural change.

How should organisations rethink their technology requirements and support?

For both private and public sectors, it’s been about simplification and consolidation of technologies and systems. As a general observation, more needs to be done – there’s both an internal need and an external need for faster innovation. Businesses need to focus on flexibility in controlling volumes and the best way to achieve this is by enhancing agility and by ramping up innovation in technology and/or the company business model in line with customer needs.

Another good approach is to accelerate research and development-led ecosystem programs to address the needs of the customer. This enables organisations to react to spikes or change in demand. Sitting alongside all of this as absolute necessity is zero trust around cybersecurity.

Can you give us one example of a challenge that many businesses face in coming months that hasn’t been obvious previously?

Traditionally sales and client engagement teams have relied heavily on physical social interaction, and this includes more than meetings, but lunches, dinners, coffees and all the very human interaction that builds rapport, trust and mutual understanding and respect. I know this will not disappear, but in the initial phase of workforces re-emerging, it’s not going to revert straight back to what it was. So behaviours and maybe soft skills will need to be adapted or modified within client engagement teams for at least the interim.

In sales, and especially for introducing potential clients, there is a lot of customer-touchpoint relationship building and this still needs to happen. While that may slow down due to any obvious health and safety restrictions or a more flexible roster of remote working versus office working, it may also slow up decision making processes for management.

At TCS we are still seeing a huge interaction from the sales team to our customers with respect to presenting opportunities and negotiating deals, and this is happening remotely.
Ultimately, it will be a responsibility for any business to ensure that their sales & client engagement team are aligned and learning and has the competencies and tools to sell and deliver in the future.

What does the new normal mean for recruitment of staff?

Recruitment and retention of staff will change across industries because of the acceptance of borderless working. Employers will feel more comfortable with hiring across borders given the current demonstration of seamless virtual working. In the case of TCS, for our ANZ business, I see an increased investment in hiring of local on-site employees in Australia and New Zealand over the next two to three years. We have always had a model of on-site local employees with support of the expertise from those TCS employees with specific knowledge and skills across our global network.

I think what’s interesting is that Australian and New Zealand-based workers may now have more of an opportunity to apply and work on jobs and projects anywhere else in the world – and I am not specifically talking about TCS, I am talking about in any company. Borders and geographical boundaries are disappearing with regard to location of employees.

The virtual experience through COVID-19 has created more trust and confidence in remote workers across the board. This poses interesting and more flexible but positive outcomes for both employers and employees. I think recruitment, career development and staff retention will change in line with these shifting attitudes and accepted practices.

How have you been able to leverage the TCS’s learnings to achieve results for ANZ clients?

Organisations large and small, from governments and public service organisations to the biggest health care and pharmaceutical companies in the world have faced the same key concern – how to make their remote working capabilities scalable and adjustable to new circumstances and how to achieve this rapidly including security .

With more than 448,464 employees representing 144 nationalities across 46 countries across the world, ensuring seamless collaboration between remote teams has been a priority for TCS over the past 50 years. Unlike many organisations, which slowed down transformation projects in response to recent events, TCS hit the accelerator on our remote working model Secure Borderless Workspaces™.

We improved our efficiency by enhancing remote working and moving forward we are now planning that we only need 25 per cent of our workforce in the office to be 100 per cent productive by 2025. Naturally Secure Borderless Work Spaces™ gained huge traction and clients are making tailwinds by mirroring our transformation strategy. This has involved proactively deployed collaboration platforms, Process changes , cloud-enabled infrastructure and robust security practices put clients in good stead for an unprecedented future.

How will the TCS bold vision and message of “25/25” change global service delivery?

Three years ago, TCS had set a bold vision of becoming 100 per cent Agile by 2020 and we are on target to achieve this goal. As a part of this initiative, we have been systematically moving our development centres to Agile Operating Centres (AOC) and were encouraging our clients to move to the Open-Agile-Collaborative-Workspaces Offered by the AOC’s.

Recent events presented us an opportunity to simply extend the Open-Agile-Collaborative-Workspaces thinking to operate in a ‘Borderless’ environment beyond the office boundaries and thus was born our Secure Borderless Workspaces™ model. It has enabled TCS to move work to people where they are located, and to promote agility and help realise the creative and eliminate the repetitive parts of work.

All these learnings and investments have proven to be an advantage when we had to move work to remote facilities such as our homes where our associates are safe and have the ability to connect to internet. The learnings include best practices on network bandwidth management, operating the internal SOC benchmarked to the best in the industry, deploying a standard service delivery environment, digitised delivery governance processes, adopting collaborative and cloud-based technologies such as Office 365. Such workspaces promote an open office environment, co-working with people working for clients of different verticals and organisations yet with no compromise on the security features available in their ‘own’ development centres.

Our SBWS experience over recent weeks has been amazing. Clients are comfortable with what we have done and want us to take more work that others are not able to handle; associates are happy that they have flexible operating hours and have suddenly seen between one and two hours of commuting time now made available for work, learning, fitness and pursuing of their hobbies. During this short period, we’ve observed that not only have the teams managed to deliver to the SLAs but they have been able to manage the peaks and troughs of transaction volumes with alacrity. There are pockets of our business where we are witnessing improved velocity, throughput and productivity and areas where the free energy is being diverted to think digital, agile, IP and innovation.