K Ananth Krishnan TCS

The CTO of Tata Consultancy Services is preparing the company for the industrialisation of software robotics and artificial intelligence, as well as the flood of Millennials into the India-based giant, and is concerned about disruptive threats and the challenge of making work more social.

K Ananth Krishnan, the company's first Chief Technology Officer who is also their Head of R&D and Innovation, spoke exclusively to CIO UK at the end of May about overseeing the technology estate for the 318,000 staff working for TCS around the globe and how he is preparing for the repercussions robotics, AI and software industrialisation will have on the HR department.

The CTO of Tata, which was named by 15% of the 2015 CIO 100 as a strategic technology supplier, said that in an era when you can "disrupt or be disrupted" the known unknowns were a constant worry.

"Are we missing something? If there is an early trend or indication that could become something significant to us and we totally miss it," he said.

"We're constantly experimenting with things which disrupt yourself."

Being able to act upon industry trends was also a core concern for Krishnan, a TCS veteran who has been at the organisation since 1988.

"Even if you have thought about robotics and AI and have written a nice white paper on the subject, do you have the right capabilities inside, partnerships outside, and relationships with the right start-ups to deliver something?"

IoT, robotics and Artificial Intelligence

Preparing TCS for a future where the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and robotics was also something which Krishnan was actively engaging the TCS board on.

"Disrupt or be disrupted is the TCS perspective," he said. "We are a people-driven business. We think this will substantially change in the next five years. We will probably need to have HR policies for robots 10 years from now - and I've had chats with our board about this.

"The industrialisation of software robotics will take place within many of our businesses, and it will be a big issue for Tata needing to scale.

"Robotics and AI will transform many of the tasks that we do, especially in the IT world and the world of the CIO. Many things we did in the 60s are now done by software tools and are automated and are not relevant in today's world - and this is now happening in the way we manage data centres, write software and test it."

Enterprise social

Krishnan was also focusing on the TCS enterprise social network, KNOME, which was built from scratch - and viewed an end-point where all enterprise tasks were connected to the social platform.

He said: "We started very early on it, when Facebook was still called 'thefacebook' and there was nothing for enterprise employees.

"But outside of HR our enterprise tasks are still very disconnected from KNOME. Things people have to do as an employee, like access a code management platform, but now we want to bring 'work' and 'fun' together by deconstructing each task and socially enabling each one.

"We see huge opportunities for doing this across TCS - build all the lessons we learn from the social networks and Gamificiation, as a way of making people happier and more productive."

And this will be entirely necessary as organisations of all sizes will have to cater for the a generation of Millennials.

"Gen X and Gen Y are already the predominant part of the company," he said. "The flip has already happened and the Baby Boomers are in a minority - and the Millennials will be much more receptive to new technology."

The Royal College of Art and TCS

TCS also announced a partnership with the Royal College of Art to establish a Design Innovation Lab at the RCA's South Kensington campus in London to develop and deliver joint research projects at the confluence of design, technology and business - with the goal of filing joint patents and publications.

Krishnan said that the partnership would help the organisations learn more from each other about the role creativity plays in technology, and the role technology plays in letting us be ever more creative.

"With digital technologies now the default channel for organisations to engage with customers and employees, intelligent and intuitive design has never been more important," he said.

"We are looking forward to working closely with RCA staff and students to explore new concepts and ideas that we hope will ultimately prove tremendously valuable for our customers."