Can SRI LANKA become the next Asian Tiger?

The Internet has effectively transformed the world we live in today and thought leaders around the world are maximizing the benefits of this transformation in ways unimagined a few decades ago. Human intelligence as we know it is now convoluted with artificial intelligence forming an alliance towards beating the odds of survival in the natural world.

Is this what we really asked for when humans ventured into creating machines that could take on tasks that would otherwise have to be performed by ourselves? How best should we manage the collection and use of information? What really, is the future of humans in a world that could possibly be dominated by machines?

These are just a few questions asked around the world and probed further in this article with respect to opportunities and challenges created in the human-machine partnership.

Digital is globally disrupting many and creating new frontier in business and technology, while these take place across the globe where do we see the opportunities for Sri Lanka?

Today, DIGITAL is transforming the way we do EVERYTHING! We use the world DIGITAL to define many facets of what we are seeing in today’s context in terms of Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud and Internet of Everything (or Internet of Things). It’s estimated that the INTERNET connected devices would reach a staggering 75+ B by 2020 and this would unleash OPPORTUNITES as well as CHALLENGES in making sense of the DATA that all of these devices would unleash. Today, the world is moving towards mass personalization and that too based on context. IoE is already revolutionizing personalization based on context (location based services), how people drive (driverless cars), deliver goods (drones), nations manage public utilities (smart cities), newer buildings manage themselves (smart building), etc. This does present a unique opportunity to enterprises who wish to create engagement with their customers than merely transacting with them, since it enables an organization to serve its stakeholders with better visibility of what they are looking for through meaningful insights.

Further, the amount of data in our world has been exploding. Companies capture trillions of bytes of information about customers, suppliers, and operations, and millions of networked sensors are being embedded in the physical world in devices such as mobile phones and automobiles, sensing, creating, and communicating data. Big data — large pools of data that can be captured, communicated, aggregated, stored, and analyzed — is now part of every sector and function of the global economy. Like other essential factors of production such as hard assets and human capital, it is increasingly the case that much of modern economic activity, innovation, and growth simply could not take place without data. The question is what this phenomenon means. Is the proliferation of data simply evidence of an increasingly intrusive world? Or can big data play a useful economic role?

As alluded to earlier, with Digitalization gaining traction there is an obvious growth of data that is being churned out by all of these devices connected to the internet, Big Data. The success of future organizations would greatly depend on how effectively they could crunch these data to get meaningful insights to make better decisions, build personalized services and build value eco-systems beyond the traditional boundaries of their organization. This has also given rise to a new breed of professionals called the ‘Data Scientist’ who are helping organizations unearth the hidden potential within the zeta-bytes of data which is inundating them today. Obviously this amount of data is going to intrusive, but does present useful outcomes from personal healthcare to sustainable economies with increased pressure on our habitat with the increase of the global population and consumption. Also, this does present immediate opportunities for certain industries such as telecommunication, retail, financial services, logistics who are better geared to capitalize on it today and the rest will evolve with the passage of time due to the competitive forces as well.

This also puts pressure on the CxOs to embrace the digital-wave much more aggressively, but there’s also the reality that much of the business often involves long cycle times, with product platforms that have been in place for decades. With such competing forces at play, CXO’s can be challenged with achieving harmony with fellow executives and business-line leaders between driving innovation and respecting longstanding, tried and true processes. How does one reason with such situations towards seeking out the stable platforms to introduce new technologies and processes?

The emerging mandate for CXOs today is to help business understand the potential of emerging platforms beyond the boundaries of traditional organizations and more so in terms of the Digital platforms that we spoke of earlier in terms of iSMAC (IoE, social, mobile, analytics, cloud) stack, Cognitive Intelligence/AI, Blockchain, 3D printing, Mixed Reality, etc. The traditional platforms which are transactional warrants them to be stable and predictable, but the emerging digital platforms which are necessary to create engagement warrants them to be agile. The challenge is to balance the act between these two end of the continuum of platforms and hence between stability and agility. The key to this is to acknowledge that every platform and solution need not be inside-out, but can be outside-in as well. We need to create a platform that is open, scalable and federated, in terms of IT parlance so to speak, that can fuel open-innovation through crowd-sourcing, collaboration, co-creation. Today, Social, Mobile, Cloud, Analytics and IoE presents numerous possibilities to create this kind of platform and with the right API (Application Programming Interface) platform today, organizations can deliver the expectations of the business whilst balancing the expectations of the businesses whilst safe guarding governance structures that need to be present as part of the organization.

The CXO roles today have transformed into that of Digital Advocates and with this transformation the metrics associated in assessing their performance have evolved as well and can be broadly categorized into the two modes that I had mentioned earlier.

Mode One — Operational Efficiency & Stability

  • Strategic Value of IT in the organization
  • Transformation role/potential of IT in the organization — Profit Center vs Cost Center
  • Portfolio/Investment/Time spent on Transformational, Growth and Operational programs/initiatives
  • Performance benchmarks against industry — IT budget as a % of revenue, cost of IT per employee, SLA commitments, etc

Mode Two — Engagement & Agility

  • New capabilities and competencies incubated/acquired in line with ISMAC stack
  • Programs/initiatives aligned to drive growth/transformation
  • Extend of digital reach/foot print

Business leaders often complain about the lack of urgency with the Internal Organization and in comparison to the frequently changing scenarios in business and marketing campaigns towards keeping up with market conditions. The notion of agility is a key measure of value. Is it important to think differently — away from cost centricity and more towards business agility and invest in technology to leverage much greater engagement & agility whilst balancing the operational efficiency and stability.

In most organizations, IT is still seen as a cost which immediately implies that IT is seen a mere utility and a non-value adding function and/or investment where the potential for IT to transform the organization is very low. In such as context, IT function will not have the alignment nor the capability to respond to changing business scenarios due to limited budgets, capability and lack of alignment between Business/IT. On the contrary, in organizations where IT function is able to lead the discussion on IT led Business transformation, IT is seen to be a strategic asset and thus agility becomes a key measure of value since the capability to react to evolving business needs becomes a core capability.

Many Business leaders often take longer to understand the value of IT innovations while IT departments often may not fully understand the needs of the business. Thus, CxOs must educate the business on the value of the technology at hand and also to educate their people on what the benefits of deploying technology to accelerate their business, to explore new markets, engage customers, up-sell/cross-sell and create better engagement.

Executives who are both business savvy as well as IT savvy are a big ask in today’s context and those who are able to cross-breed the Business/IT capabilities are able to have a meaningful discussion in providing the much desired leadership for transformation that could be championed through IT/Digital. The common language both parties understand is return on investment and value driven innovation which can impact the business. Demystifying technology to business executives is key and having a continuous dialog with the business on an on-going basis is key to building that confidence and knowledge.

Innovations will be the consistent ask from businesses to meet market demands and conditions successfully. One cannot recognize the value in business organizations without having a INNOVATIONS DNA with an open mandate for everyone in the company to contribute towards it.

Innovation today has become a global agenda and this cannot be assigned to a group of individuals or a unit, rather needs to be everyone’s agenda where by one within the organization or outside is able to contribute — open innovation. Open innovation is the way forward for any organization and it is a must to enable collaboration, co-innovation, and co-creation. Today’s IT platforms lends itself to facilitate same and extend the boundaries of an organization beyond the physical domain into a virtual world, truly making the world flatter.

Organization must be able to attract the right talent and help them realize their fullest potential. Information technology and Digital is often mistakenly seen as the component in the organization that would minimize the need for human talent, but on the contrary it paves the way for your talent to come from anywhere, anytime and help you unleash your true potential.

Today, with the world getting flatter by the day with globalization with technology accelerating same and has helped reduce the degree of separation to less than 4 degrees today. This creates a new opportunity and a threat for those who could leverage same vs those who stay static. Digital will continue to drive the eco-system and platform play and will transcend traditional barriers in creating new vistas for many. Those who can leverage same and able to grow their value proposition coupled with creating ways of crowd sourcing their resources — be it talent, funding, spaces, customers, etc will emerge as the better and more successful organizations of the future.

Sri Lanka needs to think of itself as an ‘Information Highway’ of Asia by integrating and creating platforms and eco-systems which will form the DIGITAL CORE for ASIA which will help SRI LANKA become the DATA FACTORY which will power the next phase of growth for ASIA and thus SRI LANKA. With the strategic location of being positioned between China and India, Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, etc Sri Lanka must work on putting herself at the center of the ASIAN digital footprint.


Ramesh is a Visionary, Entrepreneur, Transformation Strategist & Architect #ramesh24 #ramesh24inc #r24inc