All of us have been so engrossed in discovering, learning and introducing new “innovative” technologies to our customers. Be it Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, analytics, adopting various cloud models and so on. Not much attention has been given as to how IT organizations can adopt innovative technologies for themselves and the way we work which can enable us to provide increased value to our investors in terms of bringing efficiency and improving operational excellence .For over a year now this has been a favorite discussion topic within our India CTO Office team members and we have been playing with some ideas which can propose to our management to help increase productivity and hence increase cost per employee.
Earlier in mid 2014 when Vishal Sikka, the person known for SAP Hanna, was announced as Infosys CEO, he had spelt out a vision of making Infosys $20B organization by 2020. At that time,it sounded like just another vision statement coming from a leader in the process of establishing himself. Though I should admit few of us in our team were very curious to understand how he plans to achieve it. Then mid 2015, the news of Infosys planning to use automation and effectively using its workforce caught our attention. That got us interested to start investing and hungry for more news on their plans.
Later in October last year I heard Sikka’s key note speech in Oracle World and followed by more news quotes that followed in the news. Sikka is recently quoted as saying, “In the last two quarters, the power of automation has led to us removing and saving 1,200 people from our ongoing projects, and we have already seen up to 50 per cent of the works that can be mechanized being replaced by automation.” He also mentioned that the company wants to increase the revenue per employee from $50,000 currently to $80,000 per employee in near future. Some similar, though quiet statements were also heard from likes of TCS and Wipro. Now these are strong and concrete statements and we were convinced that these folks have gone one step ahead of us and actually put in action some of the ideas which we had left on our drawing boards.
So what are the key ideas that these organizations are toying with? With not much data given out by India pure players in the initial days, my first thoughts were use of Model Driven Architecture (MDA) and Development (MDD) concept which had gained lot of traction about 8-10 years back. This based on use of languages like Domain Specific Language (DSL) where requirements, architecture and design becomes more elaborate and captures details of the platform architecture and functionality and most of the code is generated by MDA engines. DSL-based models being input and source code as output. This would eliminate need of big teams for development as well as with a SDLC lifecycle support, can also make application maintenance and enhancement more productive. This will also increase software quality as we eliminate an important handover from Design to Development to Deployment. I had personally experienced this in a big development project and positively experienced the power of this methodology. Though this concept could not catch up much due to lack of support from vendors and lack of appropriate frameworks and products to support it.
With more news items floating around, in recent quarterly investor meets it struck us that these firms are generalizing the MDA concept to a much broader scope and phases. They are in process of building applications/tools which also use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enable their management to
- Smartly manage their bench resources and their overall resource management and target savings of 10-20% and thus increase their operating margins
- Automate lot of middle management functions including resource work allocation and tracking and use a streamlineed management workforce. This again can give them a got cost savings as resources in this band start getting expensive and add significantly to your cost.
- Capture knowledge of systems in tools which can use this knowledge effectively using AI, big data and analytics. Such knowledge usually is in heads of software designers and engineers and gets lost with high attrition in the industry and thus reduces the productivity for the vendor firms. Such knowledge, especially for legacy systems, evolve over a long period of time and becomes a challenge for vendors supporting them.
- By connecting this knowledge base to the automated testing engines can reduce lot efforts in development and maintenance projects.
This is interesting an intriguing development in the Indian software industry which has been a lot focused on providing various services to its customers and a sense was saturation was creeping in on fronts of improving its levers. This concept if conceived designed and implemented with good thought leadership, can help to significantly increase quality of services, make these services highly commoditized and predictable and this providing an increase value to the investors. There are other aspects about the effect this will have on IT employment which has been a significant pillar in the growth of developing nations like India. More automation means fewer resources and hence less jobs, though it is very difficult to predict the exact impact.
I am sure more IT organizations will soon join this bandwagon in what seems to have potential to become the next big trend – Artificial Intelligence Driven Environment (AIDE).