“Being CEO Is A Hazardous Job These Days!”

When three among the top ten biggest industries are represented on a single platform, and better still moderate by the CEO of a fourth representative, the stage seems set for war. But at the NASSCOM Technology & Leadership Forum 2019, information leaders of Bayer Crop Science (James Swnason, Chief Information Officer and Head of Digital Transformation, Crop Science), UnitedHealthcare (Phil McKoy, CIO), and Chevron (Sebastian T. Gass, GM-Technology & Strategy) joined forces to answer critical questions about accelerating digital innovation.

As Thomas Friedman rightly put in his talk later in the evening, “Later is officially over,” about saving the world from all sorts of climate hazards (environmental, political, behavioural). Look at the coincidence: Friedman merely illustrated glacial melting from the early 1900s to the present in the Rockies, Mphasis Limited’s Nitin Rakesh ended up showing the superfluousness of the Choluteca bridge – expressly built with the purpose of bridging the river, however hurricane Mitch just changed its course and rendered it utterly ridiculous!

Says the LinkedIn profile byline of one of the attendees of NTLF2019, “Data is the new soil, cultivate it!” A suggestion having been made in more than just this session, over and over and over – by heavyweights like ABB’s Dr Ulrich Spiesshofer to Rakesh, “Embrace the mindset of change.” But how does one go about confronting this seemingly new elephant in the room?

Mindset of Change

Well, first off, change, as we have known for as long as mankind has existed on the planet, (3.8m years, roughly?) change is the only constant! When you accept this simple dicta of mother nature, the patterns start to emerge: in our times, all industry disruption is technology-led. So according to Rakesh, customisation to personalisation is a key attitude change. He says, “Know what the customer wants before we do.” Isn’t that what AT&T’s VP of Global Operations, Sorabh Saxena also suggested at NTLF2019 – reflecting upon one of his company’s values, “Anticipate customer’s needs.”

How to Anticipate?

One of the greatest achievements of technology and software is precision of measurement. As Energy conglomerate, Chevron’s Gass righty put, “Data is the new oil.” Funny, how Friedman’s statement about India comes to mind again – “India is so lucky it has no natural fuel wells. People spend more time drilling into people’s minds to seek solutions.” Driven by data, personalisation is the result of precision technology.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Given the exposure of individuals in today’s times, the need for customisation stems from such a basic concept, “Care is individual… treat it like a consumer business with clear product and clear price,” as McKoy puts it, considering more and more cost burden especially in the healthcare sector shifts to individuals. He implores businesses to standardise these variables and equip people with more information in order for them to make better choices, better decisions.

Inform for Better Choice

Users have the ability to make up to 40 decisions every season. In the wake of this understanding, it is important to keep pace from a technology standpoint as well. Says Bayer’s Swanson, “Our scientists conduct a billion simulations before putting a single seed into the soil.” But this is only possible if the corporate clock-speed is recalibrated.

Disrupt Self

Whilst this recalibration of internal resources was stressed by everyone from ABB’s Spiesshofer to  AT&T’s Saxena, UnitedHealthare’s Phil McKoy adds another layer: India’s tech is solving global problems with fewer resources. In like of this innovation of scarcity, it’s important to disrupt oneself not only by oneself, but via outside forces as well, by learning from others’ mistakes and learnings.

Considering the quality if the food we eat and the air we breathe combine to dictate our healthcare needs, it seems the convergence and collaboration of all three forces is the only road ahead. But for all this talk about all businesses being tech businesses, all disruption therefore technology-led, and innovation the result of dogged effort and repeated failure, cultural change, it needs to be understood, is that whole that is greater than the sum of these parts. And then it may seem like truer words were never spoken – “Being a CEO is a hazardous job these days!” As Rakesh said.

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