By Shankar Narayanan, VP and head of UK and Ireland at TCS
This year’s TCS Summit Europe was inspirational on many levels. We heard about leadership from world-class footballers. We learnt about embracing risk from the man who jumped to Earth from the Stratosphere. And – not least – many of our customers shared their own transformational journeys in industries as diverse as retail, pharmaceuticals and air travel.
Now comes the hard bit: Taking those inspiring words and turning them into concrete actions so that each of our workplaces creates exponential value in this era of Business 4.0.
As you reflect on the things you wish to implement in your own business, here are my five key takeaways from our time together in Budapest.
1. Machine-first elevates the role of humans
Much has been written about automation and its potential to replace human workers, from factory staff to HR managers and from fast-food workers to accountants. However, it is important to focus on what this automated world will offer humans, rather than on what it will take away. Machines will be given the first right of refusal when it comes to repetitive tasks. They will recognize patterns and operate at top speed. But humans will provide the context, the intellect, the creativity and judgement.
So, the challenge of a machine-first world is not in replacing human workers with machines. The real call for action is in making sure that people are sufficiently trained and refocussed so that their role can be elevated. There is an abundance of talent, and that talent needs to be harnessed and then released into the creative and ultimately rewarding roles that are on offer to we humans working in the age of Business 4.0.
2. Time for agility
The future is fast. And we all need to move faster and learn faster if we are to be successful in a machine-first world. Staying up to date with the latest tech requires a career that embraces continuous learning. As part of this fast-moving environment, the ability to adapt and to be agile is essential.
This need for speed was explored by Eoin Conneely, Head of Strategy & Implementation at Ericsson. Conneely talked about the ability to learn and change being a key differentiator when it came to rolling out 5G technology. The developers, he explained, were given near-instant feedback on their work, meaning that changes were made in a matter of minutes rather than waiting days or weeks.
The strategy of Ericsson, and other like-minded firms, demonstrates the kind of agility needed to achieve success in this age of Business 4.0.
3. How digital is different to IT
Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction to be made between digital and IT.
This was explained by the Chairman of Tata Sons, N. Chandrasekaran. IT systems are built, he explained, to improve processes by making them more efficient and responsive. Digital, however, takes process for granted; and liberates data to amplify business value. To a certain extent, the processes that IT can improve will happen regardless. The real takeaway from the summit is to reflect on how digitalization – and its associated data – will change business models and revenue streams.
Pieter Elbers, CEO of KLM, took the theme one step further. “Digital is a given, transformation is a choice,” he said, urging people to seek out the opportunities that a digital world has to offer.
4. Talent is just a tool
There was certainly a great deal of talent in the room when the football legends Lothar Matthaus and Ruud Gullit took to the stage to be interviewed by broadcaster Gabby Logan. Our own teams and workplaces are also full of talent, albeit more typically away from the pitch. However, aptitude alone is not enough. “Talent is just a tool,” said Gullit, “it all depends on what you do with it.”
Certain themes emerged as the two football stars – who between them have won the World Cup, the European Championship and the UEFA Champions League – talked about the reasons for their success: Discipline, hunger for success, self-belief, empathy and honesty.
I’m sure their session will be memorable for many of us. Now let us try and emulate those winning characteristics in our daily lives as business leaders.
5. Embrace risk
An equally unforgettable moment of the summit was hearing from Felix Baumgartner, the man who has skydived to Earth from the stratosphere. Despite his dangerous exploits, Baumgartner insists he is a risk manager rather than a daredevil, carefully evaluating each decision he makes.
Achieving great things often necessitates taking great risks. And it is a question we must all ask ourselves as we go back to our core businesses. The CEO and Managing Director of TCS, Rajesh Gopinathan, challenged delegates to ask themselves whether they were embracing risk and pushing the envelope on possibilities or avoiding it and being constrained by it. That choice could make all the difference when it comes to creating exponential value.