Tell us about your role and journey into Enterprise Technology. What inspired you to be part of Tata Consultancy Services?
In my current role, I work closely with a team of business consultants and technology experts who help clients set up and build on their foundation of enterprise applications to become agile enterprises, poised for growth and innovation. We combine a customer-centric approach, deep technology expertise, and a dedication to robust results, which help clients drive exponential value and position themselves to be industry leaders.
The rapid evolution of the role of technology has been a fascinating one — it has transformed from a business enabler to a business driver, and I see this reflected in the journey TCS has with clients where our role has unquestionably evolved into a transformation partner to the entire business. I’m proud to have been a part of TCS for my entire career. I’ve had tremendous opportunities to influence our customers’ transformation journeys, working with brilliant minds and innovative technologies and I’m excited to see where this journey will now lead us.
Tell us about your preparation to tackle the most challenging activities in B2B technology and enterprise software marketing.
Marketing is one of the leading consumers of technology. Our greatest challenge (and opportunity) comes from driving a holistic, enterprise-wide approach to technology investments and looking beyond immediate impact to the long-term outcomes potential. For instance, marketing was previously involved in decisions around creativity, campaign management and MarTech, however, the conversation has now expanded to several avenues including analytics, automation, personalization and connected experiences.
Tell us more about your vision around growing your enterprise suite into a powerful force in the digital marketing ecosystem.
While enterprise applications continue to remain the backbone for enterprise digital business, I see tremendous opportunities for enterprises to now harness the capabilities offered by analytics, IoT, cloud, blockchain and emerging innovations to take marketing to the next level. This would bring in higher degrees of customization, personalization, creativity, efficiency and innovation.
Could you tell us how TCS worked with Adobe to combine strengths and reimagine customers’ digital experience?
As a leading partner of Adobe for more than a decade, we have built a number of solutions that enable marketing organizations to strengthen customers’ bonds with their target segments, increase marketing operations efficiencies, and most importantly, maximize their Adobe investments. For instance, we delivered an Adobe Marketing Cloud solution to help an information service provider unify its customer experiences. Now, they can understand every customer interaction to develop more personal relationships. They are also able to report on the posts or campaigns that are delivering revenues, and then quickly roll the data into a report for executives.
How can redesigning sales cycles boost deal closure rates?
Every CMO must think about customer experience from the first interaction to the final sale. Since consumer behaviors and expectations are constantly evolving, so too must the sales cycle. Relying on a flexible technology platform managed with an agile approach can enable marketing organizations to quickly redesign and test new sales cycles to maximize closure rates. As an example, we helped a global telecommunications company implement advance data modeling to continually optimize lead scoring to identify quality and best sales leads.
Tell us about your go-to strategies to support rapid growth and the lessons learned through periods of massive shift and transition.
For enterprises looking to drive rapid growth, there’s only one answer — enterprise-wide commitment, investment, and focus on digital transformation journeys. I want to stress the word “journeys” here. A one-and-done approach will never deliver true business outcomes.
The other consideration is the technology. Oftentimes, executives focus on the technology they want to adopt rather than the outcomes they want to enable. Recently, we are seeing that marketers must demonstrate ROI, resulting in more consolidation of projects rather than larger Marketing Tech stacks to deliver to its full transformative potential.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
I am very keenly observing the world of Artificial Intelligence and the innovations happening. There is a lot of interesting activity going on in expansion of the computing speed and capacity at hyperscale. As newer business applications of AI come up, intense computing power will be needed to identify as precise and as replicable patterns of data behavior as possible. As various Machine Learning platforms and artificial neural networks become popular, competition among them will force an evolution of a robust interoperability framework across these neural networks.
This will be necessary to port neural models from one platform to another. That’s a fascinating space to watch for marketers looking to increase the effectiveness of mass personalization and driving greater value for the business. And finally, there is an exciting effort going on to automate machine learning (AutoML), which takes automation to a different level. The funding for AI start-ups has hit record high levels this year and I expect it to continue to grow at a much higher rate.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
I see automation as a great enabler and we are only seeing the beginning of opportunities for AI. Today’s enterprises can fuel continuous innovation, make more intelligent decisions faster, and embrace creativity more than ever. As a business leader, it is critical to recognize what this translates to from the technology, people and process perspectives. AI technology can help reshape the entire business — enabling business leaders to reinvent traditional business models and uncover new revenue streams.
For people, AI will require a cultural shift in terms of jobs and the work they do — eliminating manual tasks to free them up for more creative and innovative work. By combining an agile approach to developing and continually improving processes, companies can become digital powerhouses with new data-fueled business offerings that delight customers.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
I encourage employees to try new technology in order to open their minds to new information, ideas and processes.
One word that best describes how you work.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
As of now – none. I use an as diverse a set of tools and technologies as possible to avoid developing a dependency on one set. For example, I use an android and an iPhone, with my contacts being at a third place independent of either the android phone or iPhone. I use a laptop with Microsoft OS with a non-Microsoft browser.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
I use a mobile app for dialing into conference calls. It integrates with my calendar, reads the relevant dial-in number local to the country/location I am in at that time, dials the number and then dials the access code. It saves me those precious a few seconds before a conference call.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading “The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World” by Pedro Domingos. It’s a fascinating book exploring the possibilities of how AI could shape our future. I mostly read non-fiction books. These could be about business, biographies, history, etc. I use a combination of paper books and audio books. Typically, I buy both audio and paper versions of the book so that I could use both modes depending on my travel schedule.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
What goes around, comes around.
Something you do better than others — what is the secret of your success?
Get the best outcome from a diverse group of people.
Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Thank you, Akhilesh! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Akhilesh Tiwari is Vice President and Global Head of Enterprise Application Services (EAS) at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
Tata Consultancy Services is an IT services, consulting and business solutions organization that has been partnering with many of the world’s largest businesses in their transformation journeys for the last fifty years. TCS offers a consulting-led, Cognitive powered, integrated portfolio of IT, Business & Technology Services, and engineering. This is delivered through its unique Location Independent Agile delivery model, recognized as a benchmark of excellence in software development.
A part of the Tata group, India’s largest multinational business group, TCS has over 400,000 of the world’s best-trained consultants in 46 countries. The company generated consolidated revenues of US $19.09 billion for year ended March 31, 2018, and is listed on the BSE (formerly Bombay Stock Exchange) and the NSE (National Stock Exchange) in India. TCS’ proactive stance on climate change and award winning work with communities across the world have earned it a place in leading sustainability indices such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), MSCI Global Sustainability Index and the FTSE4Good Emerging Index.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.