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Innovation is not a new concept for many businesses, and especially for those long-established organisations that have had to continuously adapt over the years.

More recently, those same organisations have looked to digital to survive against new competitors in a disrupted marketplace, with this innovation typically wrapped up as part of digital transformation. Indeed, in one IDG study carried out in late 2018, 82% of IT and business leaders across Europe said they were either at the discovery, planning or implementation phase of their digital journey.

However, the actual technology overhaul is usually the easiest part of this digital journey: instead, restructuring your organisation’s processes, culture and change management systems is often where difficulties can be encountered.

Yet, with every organisation’s journey different to the next, experts gathered at Tata Consultancy Services’ (TCS) Innovation Forum to discuss how to start innovating within your business.

Innovation in the fourth industrial revolution

Innovation today is much more than simply updating your company’s legacy systems. Successful digital transformation requires a complete organisational mindset shift.  Organisations need to move away from optimising existing and scarce resources, to a model in which they harness the abundance of  capital, data and computing resources available to them. TCS’ Business 4.0™ framework breaks down this daunting transformation process into core business behaviours; drive mass personalisation, create exponential value, embrace risk and  leverage ecosystems.

To utilise the interconnected ecosystems around them, digital leaders need to be agile and adaptable, focused on better addressing their customers’ needs and use their partners to extend their capabilities into new areas. Finally, given all of the above, they need to accept that change will come with an element of risk.  

Consequently, a major component of this new approach is ensuring your employees are skilled on the latest technical innovations – especially as humans and machines work closer together.

“Innovation in an agile, machine-first world is about people,” says K Ananth Krishnan, EVP and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at TCS. “It’s about machines working synergistically with people and teams. It is clear that the workplace where humans will be productively using their intellect and best abilities - like creativity and imagination - will demand very different skillsets and very different work environments.”

In fact, it could be argued that these skillsets are already changing as organisations experiment with newer concepts like artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning and machine learning.

For example, Decoded co-founder Kathryn Parsons told the TCS Innovation Forum audience that the global demand for data scientists now exceeds supply by 50% and yet, as recently as 2012, coding was not even a mandated part of many computer science degrees.

Echoing the sentiment that innovation hinges on talent, Felicity Burch, director of innovation and digital at the CBI, cited an upcoming CBI and TCS study, which found that the digital skills needs in the UK have reached a tipping point. The study also reported that two-thirds of businesses are unsure if they’ll be able to fill all available vacancies in five years’ time.

“Innovation is the answer; skills are the key”, said Burch.

Developing talent through collaboration

TCS agrees that skills are fundamental to business transformation, and have developed a number of partnerships in order to improve digital skills.

The company’s IT Futures programme was launched in 2013 and has thus far helped reach over 500,000 young people in more than 1000 schools across the UK with IT challenges, coding and application design competitions and classroom teaching. By working in partnership with clients, TCS has also been able to develop apprenticeships and training programmes that will give participants the IT skills their organisations will need to succeed in the long-term.

Yogesh Chauhan, Director of Corporate Sustainability at TCS UK, is responsible for spearheading the initiative and he believes such programmes are essential for guiding students towards a long and fulfilling career.

“We are highlighting possible careers in technology, helping young people imagine their place in the industry, and identify potential paths to getting there.”

According to Krishnan, this is because the jobs of the future, many of which may not even exist yet, will require completely different skills.

“[The jobs of the future] will demand high degrees of learning, the relearning of skills and very high collaboration between people, teams and machines.”

 Getting future-ready with your partner ecosystem

Skills may be critical to the future of your business, but there is also a realisation among digital leaders that they must build a global ecosystem of partners to broaden and expand their services. Collaborating with trusted partners both inside and outside the supply chain can not only help organisations optimise what they are already doing -- but also help to build out new products and services.

Take healthcare provider eHealth, which partnered with TCS to offer a new, personalised service to its patients. Using TCS’ programme Shine, eHealth was able to offer healthcare packages for elderly patients through the use of non-intrusive technology.

According to eHealth’s CEO Martin Curley “something like 50,000 home care packages have been provided to people living at home. We see the possibility of replacing some of those packages with the Shine platform, through which we are able to proactively detect if there is a problem and send the resource to that person’s home.”

For TCS, innovation is not simply about what it’s doing with its customers right now, it’s about how it can support what customers want to be doing in the future too. This is reflected in the company’s R&D, where it is focusing increasingly on emerging technologies like AI.

“AI is pervasive, it won’t just happen on the front-end of interactions,” says Krishnan. “It is not just about robotics and physical things, it is about AI automating large parts of our enterprise landscape, augmenting human capacity and tackling human problems that might look mundane from a public mindset.”

What does the future hold for organisations?

Despite the challenges that come with being digital innovators, when organisations do get it right, the long-term pay off can be huge. But this can only happen if business leaders recognise and accept the risks of venturing into unchartered territories.

For example, in a recent TCS report, a third of business leaders said that they planned to transform their business model within one year to embrace risk and almost half plan to do the same within three years.

In short, the opportunity to innovate in the digital age is too good to miss - so business leaders must move away from traditional views around risk.

Ultimately, this innovation must be a journey not a day trip and, as Burch bluntly put it in her keynote, organisations need to understand that the reality is “innovate or die.”

“You can’t just innovate once… because your competitors are not complacent or taking a nap. Your competitors are companies around the world who are all investing in more and investing faster.”

For Krishnan, this innovation has to start by putting your customers first and accepting that failure will happen along the way.

“With future needs come future customers and capabilities and technologies that you don’t have,” he says.

“But you take your highly innovative teams and your research teams and your business innovation teams and you give them the right to fail. Because they will fail. But what they learn from each failure is what drives your innovation.”

By adopting these leadership characteristics, innovative organisations can be more agile and adaptable to change, more ready to overcome challenges and embrace the opportunities afforded through advances in new technologies like cloud, AI and automation.

Through this, they can take their business to the next level in the fourth industrial revolution.

To find out how TCS can help with your digital journey, visit TCS.com.