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Byju Joseph harnesses the power of digital to foster innovation at FGIL – ET CIO : Shivpurinews.in

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The Coronavirus pandemic has had far-reaching ramifications on businesses across the globe. And in many ways, the future has been pulled forward faster than people might have expected.

In the world that we are now living in, digital has become the front and centre of business. The need for digital transformation, the need for speed, agile delivery, simplicity through modernization, an active stay-at-home workforce, digital customer engagement channels and a fundamental rewrite of the business model have become a launching point for path-breaking innovative initiatives.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that you, India’s IT leaders, still managed to weather the storm. And how!

Not only did they skilfully juggle their IT and business priorities but also came up with ingenious ways to lead transformational shifts in their IT roadmap.

Byju M Joseph, CTO, Future Generali India Life Insurance is one such resourceful IT leader. He is a company veteran, having spent 13 years at the life insurer as the CTO. And during the pandemic, he exhibited his ability to embed resourceful thinking into the digital roadmap of his company. Here’s how he did it

In the post-pandemic world, digital transformation is all about innovating at scale, building cloud nativity, and data-led decision-making capability. How are you delivering on each of these guiding principles of Digital Transformation within your enterprise?

Consumer expectations and next-generation technologies are constantly evolving, requiring us to re-evaluate and undergo end-to-end digital transformations. We are in process of modifying traditional processes into smart and digital business processes and customer experience. It is the integration of digital technologies such as cloud computing, Cognitive technologies, CRM, data analytics, and many more in different areas of a business.

Enterprise modernization, platforms, and cloud: we are modernizing customer and distribution facing system operations into cloud platforms, its development, and delivery practices to rapidly unleash business value.

To better organize for a post-pandemic future, we are focusing on the following important areas.
· Increase of automation – the mechanistic thinking for all distributor and customer facing processes.
· Risk control and predictability to be machine-driven
· Cost to achieve scale must slowly evaporate
· Taking API ecosystem perspective very strongly
· Build data-rich CRM and workflow platforms
· Treat talent as scarcer and accelerate learning/upskilling

What are some of the key IT priorities that you and your organization are driving for the next 2-3 years?

Hyper automation is the focus, anything that can be automated should be automated. We implemented point solutions to adapt and survive during the pandemic. We are in process of implementing an intelligent cloud CRM technology with re-engineered business process, robotic process automation, and cognitive tech to drive end-to-end automation and deliver a superior customer experience. We are working to engage with customers through mobile.

Also, a team is examining the existing CX approaches, comparing them with industry best practices and those from insurtech challengers. Document gaps in user experience, including processing time, user interface, sales and service process workflow, the complexity of navigation, and content robustness. We have amplified the need for mobile and contactless solutions while maintaining a human touch through distribution.

We will be taking mobility to the next level, by leveraging CRM Project to analyse customers’ data and deliver intelligently customized communications across any mix of channels and devices in a meaningful way.

With remote operations, data and cybersecurity have become a growing concern. Essentially, to maintain privacy and data security, we tap into technologies such as cloud and SaaS platforms while driving overarching digitization efforts.

API Ecosystems- We are aiming to build a connected API ecosystem to encourage all our partners to adopt innovative technologies that help to define their customer journey and underwrite, improve business outcomes and ultimately enable personalized need-based insurance solutions.

We are forced to look at costs in new ways, with an emphasis on increased flexibility as well as lower costs, in order to remain competitive. The need to innovate and re-engineer and greater digitalization fuel the need for a more strategic approach to cost transformation.
· Implementing the right technical architecture to execute our strategic plan and promote innovation, for now, and in the future technology be deployed to the greatest effect.
· De-bottleneck the constraints do legacy technology and processes present, address them with most cost-effective way. Reviewing legacy technology and system complexity as inhibitors to cost efficiencies.

How are you drive customer focussed experience modernization within FGLI?

In today’s fast-moving, always connected, and always on customer and workforce, we have an opportunity to engage them and deliver on their expectations of a seamless experience regardless of channel or place. It’s time to build new experiences that meet their demands.

That being said, digitally transforming can be quite a complex project. Having the right technology to power up digital strategies is fundamental in today’s business world.
So, here’s how we are doing it:
1. We think cloud solutions first. Cloud solutions enable us to be agile and meet customer demands quickly. In addition, we’re automatically updated to the latest features, so we are never behind.
2. Personalized experiences are what our customers have come to expect. We are in process of implementing a cloud-based modern CRM to leverage the data to give them just that.
3. Customers want seamless experiences regardless of servicing channels. We are in process to tie all the digital channels we have in your company together in order to provide a single, user-friendly customer experience.
By focusing on these three factors, will help us organization embrace the new digital landscape, exceed and improve the overall customer experience.


Digital requires a fundamental rewrite of the technology stack. How do you see cloud-enabling this shift?

There isn’t a clear route to building and deploying an AI and data product like there is for something like a basic web application.
The tech stack is entirely dependent upon what purpose we are fulfilling. If it’s purely reporting/analysis driven team that provides Business Intelligence (BI) reports to our leadership, the stack will be very straightforward. The moment we get into delivering applications and automated processes, the tech stack get far more complex.

Mobile/Web Applications that Cognitive, we have taken approaches as simple as Python Flask leveraging REST APIs alongside some Azure Cognitive services. Our teams have fully rewritten the algorithms for all distributor and customer-facing onboarding processes with web app stacks completely cloud-native.

It is extremely challenging to manage the tried-and-true concepts of “data at rest” and “data in use” and “data in motion,” which is supported by tools for data streaming, ingestion, classification, storage, and access with an on-prem deployment. The Cloud, core modernization, cognitive, and other technologies are bringing fresh solutions to an exceptionally complicated challenge.

What challenges have you faced/are you facing in trying to manage workloads across those different cloud environments?

Together, integrated on-prem and public cloud infrastructures that support this fluidity will deliver the agile infrastructure businesses want.

Some of the practical challenges comes with hybrid setups based on our experience.

Insufficiency of Resources and Expertise – The inadequacy of resources and expertise is one of the cloud migrations challenges this year. People with certifications or skills in cloud computing are scarce. We are providing training of present employees to make them more productive and speedier using the trendiest technology. Its continues struggle to hire and retain qualified, knowledgeable IT professionals with experience working with hybrid clouds.

As the development progresses, the people in the team may change. The onboarding of the new people and offboarding of the people from the team can also lead to friction.

Cloud Cost Management- Handling cloud spending has passed security as the biggest cloud computing challenge. Cloud operations are comparatively new, initially do not tend to budget expenses properly. Operational costs may differ enterprise to enterprise and the budget may fluctuate. There could be some unseen expenses that may tend to change the budget limits and cross over.

Developers turn on a cloud instance implied to be utilized for some time and forget to turn it off again. Automation, cloud spending management solutions, serverless services, containers, autoscaling features, and numerous management tools provided by the cloud vendors may help lower the possibility of the issue.

Dealing with future Hybrid-Cloud Environments– The future of hybrid cloud can lead to some challenges for the IT infrastructure delivery team. However, training staff, tooling and active vendor relationship management can help combat these challenges.

Cloud Integration – Integration of legacy systems is the biggest challenge in multi-cloud especially with hybrid cloud environments associated with having on-premises apps and tools and public cloud for working together in spite of having express routes. This particular challenge, unlike the other ones, will not possibly disappear any time in the future. Combining new cloud-based apps and legacy systems needs resources, expertise, and time.
Although these hybrid cloud computing challenges are there, if well-managed, these issues don’t mean that adoption/migration plans must stay grounded.

During the pandemic, the wide-scale remote working has made the CIO’s job more challenging. How has it forced you to rethink security?

As we move towards the next phase, there will have to be an increased emphasis on effectively protecting customers’ data and cybersecurity have become a top priority.

We are implementing effective quality assurance techniques. Good quality assurance techniques can be effective in identifying and eliminating vulnerabilities. Fuzz testing, penetration testing, and source code audits all incorporated as part of an effective quality assurance program. In addition, independent external security reviews were conducted to lead to more secure systems.

We have adopted a secure coding standard. Develop and/or apply a secure coding standard for your target development language and platform. Code scanning feature is used to analyse the code in a GitHub repository to find security vulnerabilities and coding errors.

In addition, adhere to the principle of least privilege. Every process should execute with the least set of privileges necessary to complete the job. This approach reduces the opportunities an attacker has to execute arbitrary code with elevated privileges.

We also have initiated the use of threat modeling to anticipate the threats to which the software will be subjected. This involves identifying key assets, decomposing the application, identifying the possible threats to each component, risk ranking, and then developing threat mitigation plans that are implemented in designs, code, and test cases.

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