Design thinking should be at the center of DX: Prashanth MJ, Sutherland Global

Sutherland's Head of Technology Infrastructure and Operations, Prashanth MJ, elaborates on how creating a design thinking model on top of emerging tech is a critical aspect of achieving digital transformation (DX). 

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In an interaction with IDG Media, Prashanth MJ, Head of Technology Infrastructure and Operations at Sutherland Global, shines the spotlight on how technologies such as big data analytics, robotic process automation (RPA) and AI/ML are fueling business transformation for the company and its global clients across different verticals. 
 
Sutherland Global is a digital operations and transformation company, operating out of 19 countries and clocking 43 million transactions a month. Sutherland's Head of Technology Infrastructure and Operations, Prashanth MJ, elaborates on how creating a design thinking model on top of emerging technologies is a critical aspect of achieving digital transformation for businesses in India. 

Edited Excerpts

What is Sutherland Global's digital transformation strategy and if you could explain the product portfolio around it?

At Sutherland, we moved away from the contact center and into customer interaction center. And from customer interaction center, we are now focusing on digital transforming processes. Our strategy is to take ideas, design, technology and talent to work behind the scenes to make transformation seamless for the clients. 

... We have our own robotic process automation platform that we have built from scratch. We have also employed AI and machine learning on various automation initiatives for our clients. Additionally, we have deployed hundreds of bots for our clients and their customers for the entire IT service management.
Prashanth MJ
Head of Technology Infrastructure and Operations at Sutherland Global

Sutherland is very well positioned in the industry in India and also worldwide when it comes to business process transformation in IT services. One of our key deliverables is offering a 360-degree view to our customers across omni-channel powered by leading edge technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), etc. Our focus is about using digital platforms to offer superior customer service and efficient process transformation. 

You have talked about design thinking. Can you elaborate more on how Sutherland works on the principle of design thinking and helps its customers in digital transformation journey? 

“Analytics is one of the key facets of digital initiatives for our clients, to put them on the right track of transformation. 

There is Verint speech analytics in every transaction today at Sutherland."

Absolutely, design thinking should be at the center of digital transformation. We have a design thinking team and we have established two extremely comprehensive labs in San Francisco and also in London. Even before the client starts working with us, we actually do prototyping, run the design, run the processes in the lab, simulate the transactions, simulate the channels and the matrix delivered. We employ our six sigma and other quality methods in our design for business transformation. 

Can you talk about the technologies that Sutherland is focusing on?

In terms of digital transformation we have created a digital blueprint for Sutherland. Also, we have customized this blueprint for various clients we interact with. 

We have our own robotic process automation platform that we have built from scratch. We have also employed AI and machine learning on various automation initiatives for our clients. Additionally, we have deployed hundreds of bots for our clients and their customers for the entire IT service management.

Which verticals are you getting the most traction from?

While we are using our digital initiatives for all verticals - but in terms of stickiness, retail stands out. Other major verticals include IT services, insurance, banking and financial, all of which have a lot of back office work. Wherever we have the back office, there is big traction in terms of technological demands to improve efficiency. 

I would say every vertical is at a different phase of maturity when it comes to embracing digital transformation and technologies. 

How does Sutherland use analytics tools for improving its processes?
 
Analytics is one of the key facets of digital initiatives for our clients, to put them on the right track of transformation. 

There is Verint speech analytics in every transaction today at Sutherland. Each customer call that enters the interaction center has got a lot of analytics built into it. On top of it, we have employed a voice-assisted platform and that has allowed us to handle several business problems and deliver efficient results. 

Using analytics, we are able to intelligently hire, gather the right intelligence regarding the agents' behavior while engaging with customers, and know what kind of skills are needed to improve engagement. 

We are using analytics for multiple purposes, which is to improve our quality management, achieve a better P&L and get a better revenue growth by attracting new clients. 

What do you think is the importance of robotic process automation and how is it impacting the various industries?

“While we are using our digital initiatives for all verticals - but in terms of stickiness, retail stands out. Other major verticals include IT services, insurance, banking and financial, all of which have a lot of back office work.”

Robotics process automation has definitely taken very big importance. With this technology, you don’t need programmers like we did with process automation in the past. With robotics process platforms, the key advantage is the ease of automating the processes with very little knowledge of programming or no knowledge of programming. Today, robotic process automation deals with repetitive known predefined tasks. So there are platforms with cognitive intelligence that are able to enhance efficiency for customers.

There has also been a lot of talk about chatbots. What is the current role of chatbots in various service sectors?

Similar to analytics and process automation, every product manufacturer and service provider has got chatbots on their websites, in their portals and other services. So it is already a main stream phenomena. The chatbots are going to become smarter in future with AI/ML advancements. Chatbots can learn, understand and capture the interactions with customers. 

We have deployed chat bots for our customers and our chatbots can understand the context and intentions, take in all the details automatically to open tickets with the help desk. 

How do you see the adoption of digital technologies in India? 

India is growing to be the headquarters for the world’s digital transformation going forward. A lot of the research and development of digital technologies is happening in India. We are also seeing several initiatives to upskill people both in the delivery side and support side. So, my take on this is that India is going to lead the world in digital transformation of industries.

What could be the roadblocks or challenges for digital transformation in India?

I don’t see any roadblocks but there are certain challenges in India today in terms of the skill sets available.  While we have quite a lot of engineering graduates coming out of college, not many of them are able to take up innovative roles. They don’t have the required skills, and hence, skill development is one of the big challenges that needs to be addressed.