Infosys is reaching for the sky with holistic automation strategy

April 26, 2017 | Tom Reuner

Life in Infosys’s board room can’t be easy these days. Founders continue to throw spammers from the sidelines at CEO Vishal Sikka and its fellow board members, the sales engine is stuttering, and the company has to manage the secular shift toward digitization and automation. Macro issues like H1B visas in Trump land must look like gentle bumps on the road in comparison. As Vishal has singled out automation and AI as the key strategic pillars for Infosys, more clarity around these topics will go a long way in supporting their sales teams. If executed properly, Infosys’ broad set of automation capabilities could evolve into a lever to get the stuttering sales engine running again. It is exactly here where the realignment of Infosys’s automation strategy and the acquisition of Skytree, an innovative Machine Learning startup are focusing on.

A holistic automation strategy could put Infosys back in the driving seat

Infosys strategy on automation can be probably be best described as a rollercoaster ride. Having been a pioneer by being the first service provider to publicly announce a partnership on Intelligent Automation with IPsoft back in 2013, the service provider went in reverse and focused its efforts on proprietary tool sets that are difficult to benchmark with the leading third-party tool providers. Only to move to a hybrid strategy that still focused on proprietary tools yet leveraging third-party tools largely on a pragmatic basis where clients were mandating those options. Then back at the last Confluence, Infosys’ flagship event, the company launched Mana as an automation platform that was meant to revolutionize service delivery. However, ever since Mana was launched its capabilities have remained blurred, and in particular, it was never fully explained how Mana was meant to co-exist or even be integrated with Infosys broader automation assets. There was a lack of cohesion but also communication among the different teams driving automation. For example, the EdgeVerve teams were never quite sure or clear how Mana was impacting them, both in terms of branding but also broader delivery issues. Put in a nutshell, the marketing and communication around Infosys’ automation approach were disjointed. But not only that, the value that assets like Mana bring to clients was undersold as the value proposition was never properly explained. This is not to suggest that Infosys has not made progress with Mana as it has engaged in 150 projects with 50 clients, but given the strategic importance the go-to-market and narratives have to be enhanced. And it is here, where the reorganization and rebranding will focus on.

To overcome some those shortcomings, the company launched Infosys Nia, what it describes as “the next generation of the company's Artificial Intelligence Platform which converges technologies previously known as Mana, AssistEdge, DEEP and IIMSS along with recently acquired advanced machine learning capabilities from Skytree.” Thus, Infosys demonstrated that it had listened to its customers and the odd analyst. For the first time, Infosys is offering a holistic and more importantly an integrated automation strategy that is leveraging the following building blocks. Putting this in context, Infosys is catching up with peers as we have called out in numerous instances (for details see: HfS Intelligent Automation Blueprint). Fundamentally, Infosys is leveraging and integrating the following five assets into the new Nia platform:

  • Mana – An integrated artificial intelligence platform incorporating big data/analytics, machine learning, knowledge management, and cognitive automation.
  • AssistEdge – Provides end-to-end RPA. Uses integrated software robots to automate any high-touch, repetitive processes.
  • DEEP – (Data Extraction and Enhancement Platform) a platform that ingests heterogeneous source documents or images containing structured & unstructured information, then uses embedded OCR, NLP, and Machine Learning to extract data, validate the correctness of extracted data, and automatically resolve exceptions with high accuracy.
  • IIMSS – (Infosys Infrastructure Management Services) A unified IT operations command center for datacenter, infrastructure, cloud, applications, security, network and business services. This includes a workbench for lifecycle management and business services assurance. Also, it has an orchestration automation engine for event management, correlation, context-driven recommendations, machine learning & knowledge-based self-learning.
  • SkyTree – Advanced high-performance Machine Learning with automated selection of algorithms and methods to achieve best possible predictive accuracy. This includes advanced tools for feature creation, feature selection, models, training and an entire workbench for creating new models. SkyTree is also to become a Center of Excellence with a team of ML experts to actively evolve ML concepts and technologies for future use cases.

SkyTree is providing the talent to scale Machine Learning

The recent acquisition of SkyTree, a Silicon Valley based startup, focused on speeding up and scaling Machine Learning, is reinforcing Infosys new emphasis on a holistic automation approach. As the market is starting to shift toward transformational projects and an end-to-end process point of view, the notion of data curation increasingly has to become the starting point for transformational projects, not just a by-product or a secondary motivation. As in particular, RPA will start to commoditize, the value creation but also the differentiation has to come from data-centric delivery strategies. SkyTree’s IP will enhance the deep analytical capabilities of Mana. Having said that, Infosys was very clear that the talent of SkyTree was the key motivation for the acquisition, the IP is rather the icing on the cake.

Infosys needs to drive change management as culture eats strategy for breakfast

As management guru Peter Drucker put it, culture eats strategy for breakfast. With that in mind, it is not enough to fix the automation branding and go-to-market issues, but Infosys urgently needs to drive change management through the organization to make automation demonstrably show results. And this change has to happen on different and disparate levels. First and foremost, Infosys needs to develop a narrative (or even better multiple narratives) what automation and AI mean to different stakeholders. Second, it has to demonstrate that automation and AI are are the game changers for Infosys as Vishal tirelessly puts it. Put it other words, is Infosys proactively pushing automation or is it mirroring its peers in being defensive and only push it where a competitive situation requires such change. And lastly, it needs a coherent strategy of understanding automation of being the pivot for innovating service delivery. With Nia, Infosys has done the first step of doing the latter. But having realigned capabilities is just the first, and most likely easier step. Change management if the harder act to follow.

Bottom-line: It is all about sales execution for Infosys

Having realigned its strategy for automation and expanded its AI capabilities is an important step forward for Infosys, but it will only change the fortunes of the company if Vishal can fix the sales execution issues. As he continuously puts automation and AI as the central pillars of his strategy, the narratives need to be more nuanced and most importantly driven through the organization. Both Nia and SkyTree are important milestones of this journey, but to reach for the skies Infosys has to follow through with all the other challenges that we have called out.

Posted in: Intelligent Automation

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