Why API strategy matters

About the author: Siddharth Jhawar is a Management Consultant at Zinnov with the Engineering Excellence team.

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This meme depicts the state of APIs in the current tech industry. It seems that every other company has its API or planning to launch one. But what exactly is an API?

API stands for application programming interface. It is a set of functions that allows access to core functionality of a central solution. Think of it as a command that can retrieve relevant information or capability from the product core.

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API adoption has grown exponentially, from about 9000 APIs in 2013 to over 16000 in 2016. (as listed in ProgrammableWeb, which is one of the most popular repositories of APIs listed on the web)

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This tremendous growth can be attributed to the fact that firms are realizing immense business potential in APIs. APIs decrease effort to scale businesses, improve agility, increase accessibility of solutions, and provide customizations.

Expedia is an online travel company that provides a suite of public APIs to optimize transportation and accommodation related search of users. Out of its $6.7 Bn revenues in 2015, ~90% comes from APIs. Companies like eBay and Salesforce generate more than 50% of their transactions through APIs.

Implementation of APIs necessitates a business strategy that includes setting goals, framing policies, and understanding market opportunities. Often, organizations conceive and design API initiatives without aligning them to business goals. At times, they even have stretch expectations from APIs. Organizations need to be cautious in defining the intent behind APIs. Some possible intents include:

Sharing of data and services (Internal APIs, most commonly used): APIs can be used to exchange information and services within product groups and functions, to increase productivity by streamlining collaboration. For example, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos through his infamous memo (around 2002) had established a mandate to expose data and functionality internally through APIs.

SaaS adoption: APIs can act as a hinge to shift businesses from on-premise to SaaS. For example, Salesforce Pardot API integrates with external 3rd party applications like ERP, CMS etc. to give access to customer data stored within an account.

Extending revenue channels: The APIs of Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc. have found new revenue channels in a number of ways:

  • Monetizing datasets: APIs ease the process of hosting and transferring data. Existing datasets could be provided to prospective consumers by using APIs. For example, Foursquare monetizes location datasets through APIs.
  • Extending customer reach: APIs strengthen an app ecosystem by extending customer reach that enables developers to create customized solutions. YouTube offers iFrame API to developers that give them programmatic access to customize video playback experience. Sears API exposes eCommerce catalog and provides access to its products list. Facebook API allows applications to use profile information and social connection, which in-turn helps Facebook expand its customer base.
  • Exploring untapped market: APIs can be used to access untapped market through partnerships. For example, Flipkart affiliate API allows partners to access products information, offers, and consolidated report.

Driving innovation and brand awareness: Public APIs are helpful in driving innovation and brand awareness through third-party developers. The case in point being Twitter, which acquired TweetDeck — a third-party developer platform for $40 million to improve its user-interface.

Successful API initiatives have a comprehensive GTM strategy in alignment with business objectives. Before releasing APIs, organizations should understand the business intent to avoid pitfalls or failure.

More about the future of APIs in the upcoming articles. If you would like to know further about API business strategy, ping me or drop a note at disruptor@zinnov.com.

Have a query?

Reach out / Schedule a meeting with Zinnov’s Engineering Practice Head directly here : http://zinnov.com/engineering/

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Emerging Automotive Silicon Valley of Middle East — Israel

About the author: Shashank Pandey is a Consultant at Zinnov with the Global Engineering Insights Platform team.

Waze, TowerSec, Mobileye, Softwheel, Argus, Redbend, Cognitens and many more sensational new age automotive startups, are all based out of Silicon Valley. This is indeed true, but only if read in Hebrew. They are all based out of ‘Silicon Wadi’ of Middle East i.e. Israel. Be it Autonomous cars, cyber security or mobility, Israel is a hotbed for technology start-ups that are pulling in funding worth billions of dollars from leading organizations and VC firms.

“Despite the exceptional technology advances in India, China & Britain, what might be the reason for the dark horse emergence of Israel?”

With increasing need for safer, cheaper & eco-friendly transport and the advent of AI & on-demand services — Autonomous Technologies, Electric Vehicles & Ride-Sharing are the hottest technology areas in the automotive start-up landscape. Harbouring the new age talent conversant with the automotive sector requirements, Israel has bought itself a ticket to becoming a hub for Automotive Software research and development.

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Image 1

Waze — The smartphone app of Israeli origins, which helps drivers to get an easy way around traffic jams using crowdsourced data, was acquired by Google for a billion dollars. This has somewhere led the newly emerging start-up to shift focus towards combating the first world problems using software.

Following the lead of Waze, Mobileye a Tel Aviv based company focusing on camera based driving assistance, has become one of the leading players in the global strife to develop advanced vehicle safety systems. It was a sure bet, that features like forward collision warning, high-definition 3D maps will catch an eye of future sighted automotive leaders fixated on autonomous vehicles. Mobileye counts almost every major global automotive firm as a customer and has built even deeper strategic ties with GM, Nissan and Volkswagen.

Argus — The advanced cyber security solutions & services startup deals with the approaching threat of hacking in autonomous and connected vehicles, making car manufacturers, their Tier 1 suppliers and aftermarket connectivity providers its major customers. Argus is also backed up by some major VC firms such as Magna International, Allianz Digital Corporate Ventures, the SBI Group and existing investors Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital. The dominion displayed by Israel in new age automotive technology is sustained by the software start-ups in Image 2.

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Image 2

Israel’s robust R&D programs, its proficiency in advanced technologies, its acclaimed talent for design & innovation, along with its potency in computer-aided design & manufacture have all been keenly observed by the automotive industry.

General Motor to start with, has set up a dedicated research centre for the development of autonomous vehicles. Honda on the other hand, with an aim to attract new innovations which can be used in future products, has set up a high-tech incubator in Israel.

Apart from these developments, in 2016, several Global OEMs & Tier 1s have started engaging with Automotive Start-ups in Israel. These elevated interactions may either be in form of acquisitions, accelerator programs, venture capital arms, strategic collaborations or cross industry tie- ups, as is evident from Image 3 & 4.

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Image 3

However, Tier 1s were more active in acquiring the new age technology start-ups, when compared with the OEMs. This might be because disaggregation of the Automotive Value chain has rendered the Tier 1 suppliers at the risk of becoming irrelevant.

Harman followed by Denso has been the most aggressive investor in acquiring/ incubating software capabilities of Israel. TowerSec — the cybersecurity start-up & Redbend — OTA Management suite, were the 2 major acquisitions by Harman aimed at not compromising security while building functionality.

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Image 4

Despite the existence of a potential lot of start-ups in California, many VCs headquartered there are investing in Israel’s business. Though the funding is still insignificant when compared with some of the world’s major economies, Israel has more VC funds per capita than any other country.

Leading the tribe is BMW iVentures, which invested recently in a public transport app maker Moovit, with the estimated valuation standing around $450 million. The other prominent automotive venture arms present in Israel are Robert Bosch Venture Capital and GM ventures.

From around 15,000 startups, which have popped up in last 15 years, one third still run an active business, at an accelerated pace with an elevated success rate. Israel is the country endowed with new age talent, presence of start-ups catering to the major technology trends of automotive industry, including:

(1) Electric Vehicles,
(2) Autonomous cars and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS),
(3) Connected cars and
(4) On- demand car riding.

The presence of almost 30+ VCs funding automotive startups, 50+ tech startup accelerators in just Tel Aviv, investment arms of the eminent automotive leaders and the attention gained from the automotive industry, collectively suggest that the auto scene in Israel may be young, but it is growing fast. The locally acclaimed ‘Silicon Wadi’ of the Middle east is sure on path to be the new Silicon Valley of the world.

This blog is a research outcome of Zinnov’s research intelligence platform- GEIP. Want to know more about Zinnov’s GEIP?

Have a query?

Reach out / Schedule a meeting with Zinnov’s Global Engineering Insights Platform Head directly here : http://zinnov.com/platforms/global-engg-insights-platform/

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Review of Digité’s Visual Lean Project Management software – SwiftKanban

As organizations move towards becoming leaner and striving to deliver high quality products and services — the Kanban method offers a potentially powerful solution across all types of companies and business functions. We spoke to AV Sridhar — Co-Founder, President & CEO of Digité, to gather his perspective on the subject and learn about their Lean/ Kanban based Visual Project Management software — SwiftKanban.

Zinnov: What are your thoughts on lean & agile industry? What are the recent trends in the space and how are you trying to align to those trends?

AVS: The Agile movement started in the late 90s/ early-2000s & has gathered momentum in recent years with customers expecting faster software development that better meets business needs. There’s tremendous pressure on software industry & we have seen changes in the methodologies used for development, testing, release & deployment. Depending on the industry & the type of software, software releases are done within days or weeks and deployed through automation. The fundamental area that Agile & Lean focus on is delivering the feature set to the customer on the cloud. While Agile greatly solved the problems of Waterfall, it remains a time bucketed method, with some of the same challenges of waterfall, only at a smaller scale. Our product, SwiftKanban, implements the Kanban method that tries to eliminate these challenges and fits in with current paradigm of continuous integration & deployment. It does not compete with Agile but is rather complementary to it, where customers expect even faster delivery & deployment. We feel that just as the Agile movement started in early 2000s, the Kanban movement started around 2008–09 & is gaining widespread following, especially in the Agile community. David Anderson is one of the leading thought leaders in the Lean/ Agile community who pioneered the Kanban Method and we have worked closely with him to make sure that we can bring his concepts into a product & as a solution to our customers.

Zinnov: What does Kanban bring in for a development team and how does it add value to their work?

AVS: Kanban is based on concept of continuous flow and delivery, similar to the functioning of line manufacturing, where it has its origins. We have seen scenarios in the software development industry where work can be stuck at a point in the overall chain, resulting in inefficiencies and delays. One of the fundamental principles of Kanban is to focus on the flow of work through a system. A smooth flow indicates that everyone is operating in an optimized manner ensuring up to the mark output. The second principle that Kanban emphasizes is based on the saying “one thing at a time, best done” that makes certain that a developer or tester focuses on one work item at a point of time. Due to the tremendous pressure to deliver, people often try to do multiple jobs at a time in different projects/ areas. Contrary to popular belief, such multi-tasking actually reduces the effectiveness of work and reduces the output quality. Kanban emphasize the need to limit the work-in-progress (WIP) a person has at a time, which dramatically helps reduce the lead time to do that work. Finally, in the context of software, the Kanban method helps teams move away from pre-defined pre-estimated sprints and releases. Instead, it encourages making releases early and often. In our case at Digité, we make a production release as soon as we have enough features or enhancements or even defect-fixes ready to be released. Instead of having lot of features packed in one unit & eventually finding that it suffers several quality issues, we make small(er) releases more often and with high quality. Overall, Kanban ensures that a high quality feature set is delivered in least amount of time, where all wastages & wait times in the entire system are removed.

Figure 1: Illustrative Kanban Board Source: Digité Website

Zinnov: Where does DevOps fit in all of this?

AVS: In the context of high frequency (continuous) delivery and deployment that businesses and customers are looking for in today’s environment, DevOps becomes a key enabler. DevOps is nothing but a culture of collaboration between the traditional Dev and Ops/ IT folks on the one hand, it also means a technology environment where there is integration and automation of development, testing, build, release and deployment tools that all enable requirements to be continually worked on, developed and deployed to production.

Kanban’s role in DevOps is significant. It helps visualize the entire DevOps value stream and helps different teams — product management, engineering, testing, documentation and Ops/ Infra teams — to be aware of what each team is doing and to effectively collaborate throughout the lifecycle of a sprint or a release.

Our own dev environment of SwiftKanban is a great example of a DevOps team at work! While we don’t yet have the business pressure of doing multiple deployments a day or even a week, we certainly have the capability to do so, if called upon. Kanban plays a big part in helping us all achieve a mind-set that gets us there.

Figure2: DevOps workflow Source: Digité Website

Zinnov: What are the deployment & pricing models of SwiftKanban?

AVS: It is available as both On-premise and SaaS model. There is a gradual shift of large customers from On-premise to SaaS based model. The mid-tier & smaller customers prefer the SaaS model. We offer different modules at team level, group level & enterprise level which are priced differently. The Team version is a free version for very small teams and for Personal Kanban, since Kanban can be used for personal self-organization with variety of uses such as monitoring SAT preparation, managing home-related chores, etc. We a 30-day free trial so people can try and buy.

We also provide training and consulting services on Kanban for those organizations making their first forays into Lean/ Kanban. We have consultants on our staff who have Kanban Consulting Coach and Accredited Kanban Trainer certifications from David Anderson’s Lean Kanban University.

Zinnov: How much time does it take for a team to start afresh & realise benefits out of it.

AVS: As a tool, SwiftKanban is intuitive and easy to pick up and use. We also provide training that doesn’t require much time to cover the overall product. Typically, customers, tend to buy 10–20 licenses for a team which can expand to 100–150 licenses quickly. Larger companies tend to have more organized procurement and training programs. Typically, a team should be able to drive value out of the product within a month.

A key dependency for the success of a SwiftKanban implementation is for the team or organization to have committed to implementing Kanban and getting value out of its core principles. Most of our customers tend to be like that.

Zinnov: Who are the core competitors? What are core value propositions & differentiators that you have?

AVS: Kanban can be said to still be in an early stage, where we must evangelize what exactly Kanban is & how is it useful.

People often mistake it for simple board based visualization, whereas Kanban is much deeper than that and solves specific problems of flow, lead time, demand and capacity utilization, risk mitigation and cost of delay for an enterprise.

For organizations that get it, SwiftKanban is an ideal product. The market has simple visualization tools such as Trello on the one end. Then there are pure Kanban tools such as SwiftKanban, Leankit, Kanbanize and a few others. Then there are the Agile products that now have some level of Kanban capability bolted on such as JIRA, Rally, VersionOne and a few others.

Our biggest strength is our fidelity to the Kanban Method and our association with David Anderson. Today, SwiftKanban is widely regarded as the best implementation of the Kanban Method. This includes things such as our board modelling capability, our Kanban-based metrics and several cool and innovative features that help software and other teams manage their work in a Lean/ Agile environment.

One such feature that we provide is the replay feature. Users “play back” their Kanban board for any time period and see why a certain project was delayed or could it have done better. It is archiving complete events in real time-manner, or in other words replaying the entire events like a video & analysing it. It is a very important feature for teams to gain insights from their past work.

Another breakthrough aspect of SwiftKanban is that we make use of the Monte Carlo simulation, (a statistical technique that enables modelling a process, simulating it over 1000s and 1000s of times and drawing a probability curve to predict the outcomes of milestones such as release dates, project completion, etc. This helps organizations to make SLA commitments and account for risk in quantitative analysis and decision making.

At the enterprise level, we have Enterprise Services Planning (ESP) to align and synchronize various enterprise functions for a smooth flow of products and services across the Enterprise. With ESP, teams can decide which areas to focus on to be able to smoothen the flow & achieve a predictable & reliable output. ESP provides answers such as how much time would It might take for a set of work items (such as user stores in a release) to be completed given a specific environment.

Zinnov: Which are most important market segments to you? Which segment is growing fastest?

AVS: SwiftKanban can be used for any segment. Our customers are using it for HR, Marketing, Advertisement, Healthcare, Telecom, Software & IT. While Software and IT form the largest base, the Kanban principles along with the visual management capabilities lends itself very well to any organization looking at continuous improvement in complex process flow scenarios.

Zinnov: Could you provide us a broad customer profile that you are currently catering to? What are the benefits they have derived and any major incidence of productivity gains from your client(s)?

AVS: We have customers from diverse industry background, with IT & Tech-focused being the key customer segments. These customers have different licences depending on number of users. We have large customers with 2,000+ users, with the likes of Huawei, Amazon & United Health. They started with small teams, and now have a user base of thousands. It speaks of how useful customers find the product to be & kept on widening its usage.

We have had customer feedback saying their team level productivity increased 60%- 150%. The very fact that customers started small & scaled up to 2,000–3,000 licenses indicates they find the product very useful.

Zinnov: Where do you see the industry going & where are you planning to take your product?

AVS: Being a SaaS company, I would like to see exponential growth. There has been uptake of Kanban at various agile conferences & agile practitioners adopting the solution. I see Kanban moving into agile & scrum areas and growing at a phenomenal pace, and we would like to ride with the wave.

Kanban is gaining acceptance across a variety of domains. On the one hand, in software itself, the Agile community has embraced it wholeheartedly in the context of Scaled Agile. Kanban is an integral part of the SAFe 4.0 framework, for example. Across a wide range of Agile conferences, we see agile teams, practitioners and thought leaders speak about Kanban as an integral part of an enterprise’ tools for achieving enterprise agility. At the same time, Kanban is considered to be quote suited to IT/ Ops and DevOps teams where there is greater emphasis on discrete work and continuous delivery.

On the other hand, with its broader applicability in non-tech functions, Kanban can potentially grow significantly in sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, construction and engineering, wherever Lean is seen as a high-value proposition; and several of our customers have validated this. Besides that, Kanban’s use in general knowledge work such as marketing, HR, legal, procurement, etc. makes it a widely applicable tool.

At the same time, at a completely different level, enterprises are constantly dealing with business challenges such as changing market conditions, resource availability and customer demand. Traditionally, portfolio management tools have tried to address this problem — but have largely failed to really help or have remained in the IT domain. With Enterprise Services Planning, and our tool SwiftESP, I believe we will provide a power tool for executive teams and portfolio managers to do enterprise strategy and service delivery planning using SwiftESP.

My hope is that we can lead this movement and make SwiftKanban, SwiftESP and SwiftALM, as the choice of tools/ solutions for enterprises to plan and deliver on their enterprise business strategy effectively and successfully.

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Review of Infogain’s Test Automation Platform — ITAS

About the reviewer : #ZinnovDigital is Zinnov’s Digital Transformation Practice which advises on areas such as Digital Sourcing Advisory, Digital Lab Setup and Peer Benchmarking among others.

Testing has always been an integral part of product/software development processes. The growing adoption of digital technologies by enterprises has however resulted in a need for new age testing solutions and capabilities. Also, given the scale of digital initiatives, there is also a need to normalize the cost of testing services so that the enterprise can adhere to their project budgets while focusing on their R&D spend. To learn more about Quality Assurance in the digital paradigm and to learn about Infogain’s test automation platform — ITAS, we sat down with Robb La Velle — Vice President and Global Practice Leader, Business Assurance Services, and Vikas Mittal — Head, Testing Expert Centres and Solution Delivery, at Infogain. Here is the gist of the conversation:

Zinnov: How has QA evolved over the last few years as enterprises have started traversing on digital journeys?

Robb: The evolution of the role of IT, generally, and QA, specifically, in business, has placed a great deal of pressure on organizations to deliver quality solutions in ever more complex environments. These complexities include the need to maintain and manage extended QA environments, the requirement to develop more layered automation capabilities, the requirement to identify and attract new skills and, at the same time, the need for greater speed and agility throughout the development lifecycle. Infogain has embraced these challenges and is charging ahead on several fronts. These include the extension of our ITAS automation framework to support test data, release management and mobility domains, the strengthening of our data validation capabilities to support data analytics and the collaboration with our UX practice to develop business assurance solutions for application user experience.

Zinnov: Automation is often spoken about in the context of testing. What are your thoughts on this, especially the relevance of RPA?

Robb: Automation is the most complex and cost intensive weapon in the business assurance arsenal and the difficulties organizations face in capitalizing on the capability leads many to revert to manual methods. Extending automation beyond just ‘testing’ exacerbates these complexities. However, when used with the right framework, the right strategy and the right people, automation can have the single most profound impact on the economics of business assurance. That is to say it can lead to the lowest cost of quality by maximizing each dollar spent on getting quality solutions to the business. Therefore, organizations striving to maximize the economics of their QA programs must be successful in applying automation not only to reactive ‘testing’ functions, but proactive upstream solution quality initiatives as well. These include BDD/TDD, test case design automation, DevOps automation, service virtualization and other advanced approaches.

Zinnov: Tell us about Infogain’s Testing capabilities: What is your strategy to stay relevant in the ever-evolving testing landscape?

Robb: Infogain’s testing services start with the assertion that we are not about testing. Our mission is to assure our clients’ ability to deliver solutions that meet the requirements of their business. Our Business Assurance practice works with our clients to take a holistic view across the development lifecycle and explore ways to design and build quality proactively rather than simply finding defects once code is made available to a testing organization — an approach typically used by our competition. To support our business assurance approach to quality, our solution set includes BDD and TDD capabilities, DevOps automation and an incredibly talented group of quality engineers dedicated to agile development programs. In addition to our portfolio of IP, solutions and assets, our delivery approach diverges heavily from legacy time & materials engagements. We call this delivery approach Quality as a Service (QaaS), an output and outcome-based delivery model that targets three business objectives:

1) It provides transparency in the work being done by charging clients for delivered outputs rather than hours burned.

2) It provides flexibility by delivering services in an on-demand mode rather than a core/flex mode

3) It provides accountability for continuous innovation through ‘auto-efficiency’ pricing.

This means that the price the client pays for a unit of output, say the execution of an automated test case, automatically decreases in successive periods, effectively placing the onus of efficiency on Infogain.

Zinnov: What is the core value proposition of the ITAS framework? Who do you compete against and what is your differentiation?

Vikas: The main reason the enterprise economy are either adopting ITAS or are showing interest in it is because of its proven ability to increase test coverage from 30% to well over 90% while assuring nearly 60% cost reduction. ITAS has been successful in enabling business analysts and functional test engineers to contribute to test automation without writing any code, ensuring coverage of more scenarios in test automation than otherwise generally possible. We have successfully leveraged ITAS for web applications, web services and mobile application test automation for our customers.

Furthermore, ITAS Test Manager — the cloud hosted component of ITAS — has proven to be quite beneficial for our customers. The distributed teams have successfully leveraged each other’s work through it, whereas the managers have accurately monitored progress made by their individual teams with the executive’s getting a complete view of all the applications in their portfolio.

Zinnov: What are the enabling technologies of ITAS?

Vikas: Infogain has used best-of-the-breed tools to create its Unification Platform with Selenium, Appium, Cucumber, RestAssured, Axis 2, Jmeter, Galen and Java Hibernate being some of the tools integrated in it. Every automation tool has been integrated using ITAS Core API ensuring that the developers or test engineers have a common function or API list to utilize irrespective of application they are automating.

This approach has benefited us in terms of reusability of test case automation scripts for Web and Mobile interface of an application where business logic was implemented as micro-service which resulted in 40% savings in effort and timelines.

Zinnov: How do you monetize ITAS?

Robb: Our ITAS automation framework can deliver automation services in a traditional time and materials or fixed bid mode, we offer their delivery in a QaaS mode charging by unit of output and license the ITAS intellectual property for clients who want to internalize a proven framework, rather than spending the better part of a year developing one themselves.

Zinnov: Talk about a few case examples of ITAS deployment and resulting benefits the clients could derive

For a leading network storage and data management solutions company based in the US, we engaged to help the client create significant efficiencies and accelerated delivery with our ITAS Test Automation Framework. Their regression suite was automated in less than four months creating the capability ability to simultaneous test solutions on all utilized web browsers. In addition, we used IITAS SOA Web Services testing capabilities to automate end-to-end flows across multiple third party applications. The business benefits for the client were many including reducing the execution time for a full regression from 400+ hours on 1 browser to less than 10 hours on multiple browsers. This led to easier failure analysis of releases and ultimately higher quality releases with lower total cost.

Zinnov: What is the future roadmap for development of ITAS?

Vikas: Based on our discussion with our customers and the way the industry is moving forward we see a need for “Unification Platforms” like ITAS which enable high level of reusability of test automation effort. In our roadmap for ITAS we are building integration which will allow us to utilize functional scripts created in ITAS to be leveraged for UI/UX and Performance testing. Along with that, microservices test cases developed for a project can be utilized for functional testing for both Web and Mobile platforms. Test Data Management and offering ITAS in a SaaS based platform are other enhancements on which we are currently working which aligns with the needs of our customers.

We are also working on building an orchestration solution for DevOps by combining tools for every stage in DevOPS with ITAS being utilized for continuous validation. Along with a centralized dashboard on ITAS Test Manager which combines reports from various tools like JIRA, Rally, Microsoft TFS, HP ALM, Jenkins and other systems to give one consolidated view of the health of an application in a current sprint release.

Zinnov: What are the best practices that enterprises need to consider while investing into a testing strategy?

Robb: The most important thing for businesses to consider when developing a testing strategy is that ‘testing’ is a value destroying proposition. One only needs to create a parallel between current software development practices and how cars have been manufactured for the last four decades to understand this. A strategy that continues to focus on finding and remediating issues that originated in upstream activities rather than on creating solid quality practices from the inception of an IT project will perpetuate value destruction. Only when IT leaders begin to solve for the minimization of cost of quality with rework costs as the primary quantitative driver will business truly begin to disrupt the legacy testing mindset.

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Review of Persistent’s Digital Experience Platform — Vega

About the author(s) : #ZinnovDigital

New-age customer experiences are central to the digital transformation initiatives of most enterprises. However, being able to enable engaging transformative experiences has been a challenge for most companies. We spoke to Sudhir Kulkarni — President, Digital at Persistent, to gather his perspective on the subject and also learn about their digital experience platform — Vega.

Zinnov: What does digital transformation mean to you? How important are customer experiences with respect to the same?

Sudhir: The world today is driven by software. Looking back at the last few years, we have seen digital native companies, such as Uber, Airbnb, etc., completely disrupt many traditional or existing business models. To address this disruption, enterprises need a different mindset altogether — to almost think and act like a software-driven or born-digital company, thereby creating transformational experiences across the business value chain. At the same time, digital transformation is not just about customer experiences — but how a company or an enterprise can meaningfully engage with consumers, with employees, with channel partners, etc. The way I think about digital transformation and our point of view at Persistent, these new experiences is what true digital transformation is. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, unlike most previous technology-led business transformations — digital transformation is a continuous transformation making speed or agility crucial.

Zinnov: Why this sudden buzz around customer experiences? Ideally, how should enterprises enable customer experiences from a technological standpoint?

Sudhir: I want to clarify again that it is not just the traditional view of customer experiences. Think about Uber or AirBnB, the driver or the host is as much a customer and so it is about all experiences that define a business. Today, every industry is getting disrupted by digital natives that have innovated and created transformational experiences. This is forcing all businesses to look at newer ways of interacting with customers. No one wants to stand in a line or wait, when instead, in 2 minutes and 2 clicks or touches you can do a lot more. The potential of digital transformation is in showing traditional companies and business models how technologies make new and different experiences possible, and how the ability of delivering new experiences continuously is crucial to the growth of their business.

In our opinion, what will power this is a model or a framework, which includes data, APIs and experiences. Experiences are continuously evolving, however the API infrastructure and the data integration layer behind it remains the same. Hence, in order to sustain these iterative experiences and also to enable personalization, an enterprise should adopt a platform-centric approach to enable this kind of continuous innovation with experiences. These experiences can certainly not be accomplished with an IT centric approach.

Zinnov: How is Persistent focused on enabling its clients to offer transformative customer experiences or experience? Tell us about Persistent’s digital experience platform.

Sudhir: We have a digital experience platform, that we call Vega (for speed). Vega is a toolkit or a framework consisting of 4 components –

  1. Data curation and integration,
  2. API management
  3. Digital experience framework
  4. and Identity management and security

APIs are at the centre of any solution we build using our platform, with APIs being used to bring in data from the various sources. The platform has the ability to handle all forms of data — structured, unstructured or semi-structured due to the presence of a Hadoop aggregation layer and also a smart integration layer. Further on, with the help of APIs, the curated data is pushed to the data consumption apps.

Since, the various data streams are mapped to the APIs, it can be easily combined and manipulated to enable different experiences. Also, as there is no requirement of creating a data warehouse, the speed at which we can build the platform for our customers is phenomenal. We view Vega as a workbench that allows us to swiftly create the required set of solutions for clients.

Figure: Vega — Reference Architecture

We offer an array of services along with the platform to enable the enterprise to enable right digital experiences for customers. We help setup the base infrastructure, integrate data sources and curate the incoming data. We use our experience framework to then design and create engaging omni-channel experiences for the end users.

Persistent supports its clients throughout the journey and tracks user engagement to deliver contextual information, as well as monitor continuously to measure business impact. Also, the platform supports continuous enhancements and iterations to deliver new customer experiences.

Persistent’s DNA of building products has taught us that tasks that used to take six months to do, can now be done in less than six weeks. This is aided by cloud infrastructure taking care of scalable storage, compute, processes etc. Experiences delivered through Vega platform utilize the once built infrastructure multiple times.

Zinnov: What would be the core differentiator of the platform when compared to the competition?

Sudhir: The biggest differentiator is speed — in a very continuous way. Compared to traditional competitors, the speed with which Persistent can deploy these experiences, will be phenomenally higher. Not just one time, but in a continuous way because of the digital experience platform — Vega.

In addition, for industries that we have a priority focus on, such as healthcare, we have physicians, and nurse practitioners on our payroll to help us with the domain and ensure high relevance of experiences.

We have a few other differentiators. The ones I would call out are our technology edge and our software product DNA, along with how we as a company have always been open to pricing model innovation and risk-sharing with customers. Speed of execution, however, is the most important differentiator for us.

Zinnov: Does the platform enable personalized experiences? Can you share some success stories?

Sudhir: Personalized experiences use data to provide actionable insights at an individual level. There is a whole element of data curation and data analysis that is required. Vega actually enables that and delivers the right kind of insights at the user level, whether it’s a physician in a hospital, or a patient, or a banking customer. The platform enables these users to make personalized decision right there on the spot.

Over the last few months, we have a few customers transform their experiences for stakeholders using our platform. For a large New Jersey hospital, we created a series a digital experiences for patients, providers and others involved in the delivery of healthcare. For example, a paper based authentication that was conducted at each department was replaced with a digital bracelet that can be tapped to make relevant patient information available at every step in the patient journey. For a regional bank, where putting senior experienced consultants at branches was cost prohibitive, we implemented kiosks with biometric recognition. Upon identification, the agent gets to see a contextual profile of the customer, including suggestions on best suited products. This enables even a semi-experienced agent to not only service the customer better but also drive new business for the bank.

Zinnov: How do your customers buy and use this platform, what is your sales process like? How is this related to your platform partners and partner-centric sales model?

Sudhir: Customers can leverage the platform as a subscription or a one-time purchase. My view is that consumption based or per-user type of pricing models become less compelling as the digital experiences deployed on the platforms start to scale. Customers also engage with us for systems integration and other services in addition to the base cost of the platform. In addition to the advantage of speed, the platform allows customers to rapidly iterate and deploy new experiences, and there is no need to invest into new platforms while the infrastructure also remains the same.

In terms of sales process, we mostly sell to the line of business who understand the use case and are looking for speed. They work with us to flesh out the solution roadmap, and any proofs of concept. The CIO and IT teams get involved for integrations with other systems.

Our platform partners for digital make it possible to get into new customers and engagements. That said, the core of the offering for us is digital transformation and a platform-centric approach that drives continuous transformation by design. We work on the premise of an API economy and use the APIs that are exposed by our partner platforms. An open platform like Vega with an API orchestration and API management layer is the way forward and it works well for partners as well.

Zinnov: When was this platform launched and what is the growth plan ahead?

Sudhir: We launched this platform about 6 months ago and the two industries we are focused most on are — Healthcare and Banking. We have significant traction in these verticals and plan to expand into retail and logistics as well.

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“Google is coming!” – The Game of Autonomous Cars

About the author: Vishnu Shankar is a Lead Analyst with Zinnov in the Global Engineering Insights Platform team

“Google is coming!” – The Automotive Industry has been hearing this since 2009, the year the Self Driving Car Project was announced. Autonomous Cars are the most discussed topic in the industry right now and we were curious about what is happening with the Self Driving Car Project. We pulled out some data from Zinnov’s Global Engineering Insights Platform (GEIP) and here’s what we found out:

Google Self Driving Car’s R&D Team

Google has over 11,500 engineers out of Bay Area working on a wide range of products. Of this, a team of around 350 engineers under the Google X umbrella is the complete engineering team that is working on building the Self Driving Car. This team does not look like any regular Automotive R&D team – It is a mixture of software engineers, sensor systems engineers, UI/UX specialists, data scientists, machine learning, computer vision & deep learning experts who are all working on the “Autonomous” component of the Car. This team is primarily based out of Mountain View. The team is led by the CTO, Chris Urmson, a Robotics Scientist with a doctorate from CMU.

Screenshot 2016-07-19 at 13.59.09

The Self Driving car is currently being tested in Bay Area, Kirkland and Metro Phoenix and has completed over 1.5 million miles.

Technology Partners

Google has always been very clear that they will not become a manufacturing company. The Self-Driving car will replicate the same model as Google followed in its Nexus handsets where Google only owns the software and brand though the manufacturers are LG, HTC or Huawei. Even in Google’s self-driving car, nothing except the “Autonomous” component comes from Google. Every other part of the car and in fact, the car itself are from several traditional Automotive partners which includes Bosch, Continental & the recently announced, Fiat-Chrysler. Google is also setting up a testing facility in Michigan to stay close to its suppliers. The below illustration shows the various technology partners of Google’s Self-Driving Car:

Screenshot 2016-07-19 at 13.55.34

This is actually transforming the way the industry has been working – where generally, the OEMs are the final end customer facing entity. Now, with entry of firms like Google, there could be a transformation in this model. Here, Google becomes the end customer facing entity whereas the manufacturer of the Self-Driving Car – for example, FCA would become a supplier to Google.

With Google making big bets in this space, there are other Tech firms who have already jumped into the Automotive car race:

  1. Apple’s Project Titan: Though no official announcement from Apple, they have been hiring a large number of people from Automotive Companies like Tesla, Ford, Volkswagen, GM & Bosch. Apple has also made a Billion-dollar investment in Didi Chuxing, a Chinese Ride sharing company
  2. Uber (in which, Google Ventures is a major investor): Uber’s driverless cars are not a secret as they are being tested on a Ford Fusion in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania already.
  3. Baidu: The Chinese competitor of Google has setup a lab in Silicon Valley with an autonomous-car research team and plans to mass produce autonomous vehicles by 2021. They are currently developing and testing the car in partnership with BMW.
  4. LeEco: Another Chinese Tech company which is the major investor in Faraday Future has now partnered with Faraday Future and Aston Martin to develop Autonomous Cars. They have also set up a Silicon Valley Lab for the same.

The Technology supplier landscape is also fast evolving with more than 200 start-ups in ADAS, Connected Car and Autonomous Technology space globally. These start-ups have received over 1 Billion USD funding till date.

This does not mean that the OEMs will be replaced by these Tech companies. The OEMs are also participating in the shift towards autonomous cars either by partnering with these Tech firms or by setting up their own Autonomous Technology teams. We populated some data from GEIP on where the Automotive companies are running their Autonomous Tech research and who their technology partners are:

Screenshot 2016-08-03 at 11.19.59

We are eager to wait and watch how the Game of Autonomous Cars would turn out to be in the next few years.

Google is coming!

Want to know more about Zinnov’s GEIP?

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Digital Disruption via Pokémon GO: A lesson for brick and mortar firms

About the authors: Prasanna SatpathyMember, Zinnov Advisory Board (Co-founder AgileMinds Inc., ex-Lead Partner & VP, IBM GBS with 25+ years of IT Strategy/ Consulting/ Transformation experience) and Shobhit MohantyConsultant with the Enterprise Digital Transformation Team at Zinnov

What is all the craze on Pokémon Go about?

On July 6, Nintendo released Pokémon Go, a simulated Augmented Reality (AR) gaming app based on the extremely popular Pokémon characters. Created by leveraging location based geocaching and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies, the game took the world by storm and became viral within hours of its release in a handful of countries (currently launched in Japan, US, Australia and New Zealand). That day on Tokyo’s exchange, Nintendo’s stock zoomed 36% intra-day with its market cap rising from $20 billion to $37 billion within a week!

Screenshot 2016-07-28 at 21.14.40

As per mobile engagement firm Similar Web, in 2 days of the game’s release, it had become the most successful game ever with daily average user (DAU) engagement of 45 minutes, compared to WhatsApp (31 m), Instagram (25 m), Snap Chat (23 m) and Messenger (13 m). Smart Tower estimated that the daily in-app purchases in the US alone hit $2 million per day by the end of first week, and Niantic is now looking for new monetization channels including paid sponsorships and advertisements.

What is it about Pokémon Go that has made it such a viral phenomenon?

  1. It connects with the millennial generation at multiple levels. This generation grew up watching Pokémon and bingeing on the first generation of Gameboy based Nintendo Pokémon games—277 million Pokémon games were sold between 1996 to 1998 alone. Along with all technology advancements, there is a wave of nostalgia that is currently driving game adoption for two generations of Pokémon-lovers
  2. While the adoption of AR tech seems to be stealing the limelight as one of the primary reason for Pokémon Go going viral, it really is more than that. The beauty of the game lies in the way it converges Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming principles with AR to successfully transport users into a parallel Pokémon universe– not as an individual but as an entire population of Pokémon lovers
  3. The other powerful factor working in favour of Pokémon Go is that the requirements to play are minimal. A charged smartphone, access to internet (Wi-Fi or 3G/4G), GPS, and a phone camera. Pokémon Go’s potential market is approximately 2 billion devices – or more than a quarter of the world’s population

Emotional connect, advanced technology, affordability and the affinity in bringing people with similar interests together– Pokémon Go has all the right ingredients to become a viral phenomenon and unsurprisingly it has!

So what is in it for brick and mortar businesses?

Pokémon Go offers tremendous possibilities for most B2C businesses to effectively market their services within the burgeoning Pokémon Go user base, and with minimal expense. All one has to do is purchase and drop lures inside the game, to increase the chances of Pokémon popping up in the vicinity of the lure location. Given the relative rarity of Pokémon in the game (especially the rare Pokemons like a Vaporean or Dratini), businesses can expect a steady stream of Pokémon seekers rushing into their establishment as soon as a lure is dropped.

Bloomberg reported how L’inizio’s Pizza Bar in Queens spent approximately $10 on Lure Modules and saw food and drink sales spike by more than 30 percent during the Pokémon launch weekend. Bon Appetit reported that businesses from Flying Saucer Pizza Company in Salem, Massachusetts, to Huge Café in Atlanta are seeing huge in-store traffic bumps, either from buying and dropping Lures or from the good fortune of being located near Poké-stops. Flying Saucer Pizza Company is encouraging customers to post a Pokémon Go picture to social media and then tag the restaurant to automatically enter a daily raffle for gift cards. Some establishments are also running deals on different Pokémon Go teams. CitySen Lounge in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is offering a 10 percent discount for Team Mystic. Zoe’s Kitchen in Texas is offering a $25 gift card to anyone who catches a Pokémon in one of their restaurants and tweets it.

Pokémon Go phenomenon opens up multi-fold opportunities for digital marketers. It offers the kind of convergence between the digital and the physical channels that businesses can leverage. It takes digital marketing to an altogether different level because it is more than just a channel for communicating your offers and discounts. Here is an app that allows you to advertise in hyper-local scenarios, where in-game actions within the digital world directly incentivise customers to physically visit your brick and mortar outlet. Pokémon Go shows us the kind of digital-to-instore integration that any true Omni-channel tool must comprise of. It points towards the kind of possibilities that MMOG and AR based games can open up for businesses.

Screenshot 2016-07-28 at 21.14.20

What is Niantic planning for the future of Pokémon Go?

We are at the cusp of a significant digital disruption, make no mistake about it. One can only imagine what will happen (and it’s a question of when and not if) once Niantic opens up the Pokémon world for businesses to advertise. Gigaom has already reported of talks taking place between Niantic and McDonalds to make their outlets official Poké-stops (where players pick up items) and Poke-Gyms (where your Pokémon fights others to take control of the gym). If the examples quoted earlier are anything to go by, it would provide McDonalds with an immensely powerful marketing tool.

Niantic hasn’t built in social media integration yet; and once players can post and tag directly to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine without even leaving the Pokémon Go app, businesses may be tempted even more to advertise within the game.

Like all other advertising channels, the popularity of Pokémon Go has a direct influence on its effectiveness. But its more than just Pokémon Go, imagine how Google Glass, smart watches, smart phones, ADAS, wearables can all be integrated into a seamless AR enabled physical reality that businesses can leverage to interact directly with consumers.

AR based futuristic scenarios for brick and mortar firms

Retail stores are already targeting near-by shoppers with coupons and rewards, using geo-locations and beacon technology. They can now build much more motivational means to lure (no pun intended) consumers leveraging such a game app that builds an emotional connection. Using smart sensors and cameras, stores were already making preliminary efforts to watch customer behaviour, plotting heat maps from their movement within the stores, using advanced analytics to direct the shopper to specific shelves/products, and influencing the shopping cart. An app like Pokémon Go can simplify these efforts and make the shopping experience fun and rewarding.

Think of combining Pokémon Go with the likes of Waze to build AR based hyperlocal mapping applications.  Retailers can use them to help shoppers navigate their path to reach desired products, advertise their features, run basic budget analytics, compare with other products, etc.– all of which can be juxtaposed onto real world images. Add a layer of communication and collaboration on top of it for shoppers to exchange shopping ideas, share personalised discount offers, post reviews & tips– and you can bet that enterprising developers are already working on these!

Such AR apps can deliver for retailers where other approaches to gamification have failed thus far. It is up to the imagination of the stores to use (or even build) a game such as Pokémon Go tailored to their context. As an example, imagine friends, families and neighbours who often shop together (especially at Groceries, Dept. stores, Outlet store malls, etc.) competing among each other for Pokémon-like prizes and rewards while shopping inside the stores

ADAS or Advanced Driver Assistance System is another AR based use case that seems to be picking up quite rapidly with the pioneering work being done by industry behemoths such as Google, BMW, Nvidia, Tesla among many others (not to mention the rumours of the work that Apple seems to be doing in automotive). ADAS thus offers another potential AR based platform for physical businesses to market their offerings on. Google is already building a repository of information on physical locations that is integrated into its Maps and StreetView offerings. Imagine an ADAS based car windshield that not only helps people navigate but provides a channel for Google to advertise physical outlets of highest bidders whenever people search.

Wait, what about VR?

The opportunities are staggering, what remains to be seen is how well can businesses leverage AR technology to meet their goals. Remember AR is only a part of the story; we haven’t even begun on Virtual Reality (VR) which is an altogether different and more powerful tool. With better and more affordable AR/VR headsets coming soon from tech giants like Facebook, Google, Samsung and Sony, the 3-D high-def immersive experience will feel life-like. Microsoft’s Nadella believes that the experience can feel more natural by customers using contact lens type Hololens instead of additional gadgets like headsets.

These are truly exciting times we live in– where the physical and digital realms seem to be morphing into each other through advanced digital technologies. The question is what are you going to do about it?

– A blog by Zinnov Digital

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Self-Driving Technologies – Time for Greater Collaboration?

About the author: Ashwin Ballambettu Pai is an Associate Director at Zinnov with the Global Engineering Service Provider Practice.

Self-driving technologies have come a long way from hands-free and minds-off driving to driverless pods in a short span. Luxury car maker BMW is expected to launch a fully self-driving car by 2021¹. 10 million self-driving cars would potentially be on the road by 2020². Arguably, the automotive industry has its priority on self-driving technologies for the future.

According to Zinnov, global R&D spend on self-driving technologies in 2015 was close to $6B. Toyota has earmarked $1B over next 5 years to develop advanced driver assistance systems³. Technology giant Google is spending $30M YoY on autonomous cars⁴. Tier 1 supplier Bosch is leveraging artificial intelligence(AI) to develop its autonomous technology⁵. Uber has started testing its own self-driving car in Pittsburg, PA⁶. In summary, we would potentially see plethora of autonomous technology offerings from multitude of players – OEMs, Tier 1 Suppliers, Technology Giants, Ride sharing companies, and more.

Thanks to hyper competition self-driving technology is advancing and maturing at rapid pace. However, a recent fatality involving a Tesla Model S electric sedan using the Autopilot feature has casted doubt on the safety aspect of autonomous driving technology⁷. Earlier this year, Google’s self-driving car caused an accident with a public transit bus⁸. Mid last year test cars from Google and Delphi Automotive nearly collided, a first such instance involving a pair of self-driving cars⁹.

Autopilot systems comprise of disparate hardware and software sub-systems such as image and proximity sensors, Radar, Lidar, vision processors, AI algorithms, etc. Also, such sub-systems are developed/supplied by multiple industry players adding to the complexity and reliability of autopilot systems. Ironically, Tesla and Mobileye – a provider of Autopilot technology to the former, are in disagreement on why the Autopilot did not apply brakes¹⁰.

A deeper inspection into the above incidents point at gaps in testing of self-driving technologies. To achieve 100% test coverage for countably infinite number of potential scenarios that could lead to an accident is humanly impossible. Also, testing conditions exacerbate due to interoperability challenges that could potentially arise between self-driving technologies from multiple players. Further, in countries such as India with no lane discipline, future autopilot systems must also deal with chaotic traffic including pedestrians as well as holy bovines. Having said, 1.23 million vehicle collisions occurred with deer in the US during the 12-month period ending June 2012¹¹.


(Image source: Google Self Driving car)

With too many corner case scenarios that would potentially escape test, automotive industry is bound to face regulatory hurdles further delaying wide spread adoption of self-driving cars. Regulatory bodies would ensure parity for safety standards across self-driving technologies irrespective of premium or mass market OEMs. Automotive players should seize the moment to collectively address the challenge and win.

First, the automotive ecosystem including the regulatory bodies should jointly formulate the policies and regulations around self-driving cars. Second, there should be an industry wide effort to define and adopt open standards/ technologies based platform for self-driving systems. This would ensure transparency about the limitations of such autopilot systems. Finally, define a robust framework for system test – modeling, simulation, test and validation. Also, partner with extended ecosystem such as engineering services players to accelerate test and ensure zero test escape.

“Our vision is that by 2020 no one should be killed or injured in a new Volvo car.” – Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO, Volvo Cars

In conclusion, it is the spirit of competition that led to the advancement of self-driving technologies. However, the primary challenge of automotive industry is to ensure passenger safety which can perhaps be achieved through greater collaboration.


  1. https://techcrunch.com/2016/07/01/bmw-mobileye-and-intel-are-building-a-full-self-driving-car-for-2021/
  2. http://www.businessinsider.com/report-10-million-self-driving-cars-will-be-on-the-road-by-2020-2015-5-6?IR=T
  3. http://www.businessinsider.com/toyota-is-spending-1-billion-on-advanced-safety-features-2016-6?IR=T
  4. http://www.oesa.org/Publications/OESA-News/November-2015/Googles-Self-Driving-Car-Strategy-and-Implications.html
  5. http://www.bosch.be/en/be/newsroom_16/news_15/news-detail-page_73152.php
  6. https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/19/uber-confirms-its-testing-self-driving-cars-in-pittsburgh
  7. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-tesla-autopilot-idUSKCN0ZH4VO
  8. https://www.wired.com/2016/02/googles-self-driving-car-may-caused-first-crash/
  9. http://fortune.com/2015/06/26/google-self-driving-lexus-audi/
  10. http://electrek.co/2016/07/01/tesla-autopilot-mobileye-fatal-crash-comment/
  11. http://www.automotive-fleet.com/news/story/2012/10/state-farm-deer-related-collisions-up-7-7-in-past-year.aspx
Posted in Automotive, Innovation | Leave a comment

The Agile imperative for enterprises and how Service Providers can help

About the authors: Andre Wegner is the Founder CEO of Authentise, a 3D printing startup based out of Silicon Valley. Shobhit Mohanty is a consultant with the Digital Transformation practice at Zinnov.

World economies are more connected than ever before. One only needs to look at the recent Brexit vote and the financial mayhem caused by it across global national stock exchanges to fully understand the extent of globalisation and interdependence between economies and firms today. Globalisation has opened up enterprises to a wide variety of external forces. There is an urgent need to be agile and nimble in the face of such uncertainty but it’s easier said than done.

When we think of agility our minds tend to focus on software and internet giants such as Google, Amazon etc. innovative firms who are known to always stay ahead of the curve. Yes, it is “easier” for IT companies to be agile thanks to the relatively lower proportion of fixed assets and reliance on internal talent and IPs created rather than fixed assets such as heavy machinery and factories. But there is a much sharper contrast between IT’s relative and lack of agility in manufacturing than just that. When global macro-economic conditions, natural disasters and fickle customer demand are not selective in impact then why should some companies be more agile than others?

Digital technologies such as sensors and mobile devices can today, deliver rapid insight to traditionally inert verticals such as automotive, consumer electronics and embedded systems. Insight itself is not enough, however. Customers and managers want the insight from sensors turned into action as companies try and adopt to rapid changes as quickly as their digital peers.

Here are six reasons why companies need that agility to survive

1. Agility to react to market forces

Market conditions change fast, and when they do, it’s important to respond quickly and decisively. While the concept sounds fairly simple, we can see industries struggling to adapt.

During the 2003-2008 energy crisis, rapid rise in the prices of auto fuel discouraged car purchases especially sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks with low fuel economy. This posed a major challenge for the American “Big Three” of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler who had made them their primary focus, given historical popularity and relatively high profit margins. Their combined US market share declined from 70% in 1999 to 53% in 2008. In comparison the impact of the crisis on big European and Asian manufacturers was much lower given their higher focus on hatchbacks and fuel efficient cars, highlighting the need for firms to quickly redirect resource allocation in response to changing market conditions.

Fairphone has partnered with 3D Hubs (a network of 30,000 3D printing locations) to produce protective cases, on demand, in 200 different locations. This has helped reduce inventory levels to zero, ensuring that the company was not subject to currency fluctuations anymore while also delivering enhanced customer engagement

Agile production methods make tooling less expensive and machines fungible, and thus enable companies to adapt rapidly to changes in global markets by redirecting resources easily to new tasks

2. Agility to react to competitive changes

The relentless pressure to improve performance is particularly clear in today’s automotive industry. The value of digital manufacturing technologies in the areas of designing and rapid prototyping is fairly evident. This is why companies such as Ford, BMW and others have all incubated 3D printing technologies in their labs or innovation centres. Digital manufacturing can go beyond that; it can also help firms in end to end production of high precision products at feasible rates to support truly innovative projects.

Case in point being Konigsegg’s inclusion of 3D printed Turbocharger in the “world’s first megacar”, the One:1. The turbocharge delivers fully variable performance at any RPM, giving it a relatively flat torque curve from 4000RPM all the way to its 8250RPM redline. Car companies wishing to compete with that kind of performance explosion have to adopt production technologies that are sufficiently flexible to not constrain engineers.

Another way to provide agility is to crowdsource innovations. Examples abound in the embedded market, where Apple and Google opened their respective mobile OS’ to app developers contributing valuable content. Nokia did so too slowly for its Symbian OS and as a result its market share of the global smartphone industry dropped from a whopping 48% in 2007 to just over 3.5% in 2013. It was sold twice in the last 4 years, and is now a shadow of its former self.

3. Agility to use cheaper inputs/reduce costs

It’s not just tooling prices that can be reduced through more agile operations. Smarter manufacturing operations are allowing companies to adapt to changing raw materials prices. In the embedded industry we see such disruption being brought about by Nano Dimension. Their Dragonfly 3D printers can print multi-layered circuit boards (PCB) enhancing a product designer’s ability to experiment with their projects and cut down development time as well as end consumer costs.

In another example, Jabil Circuit has integrated extensive backend systems through which it is able to coordinate 17,000 suppliers – always picking the cheapest one while maintaining deadlines. By leveraging mobility, advanced analytics and other technologies within this platform, Jabil has been able to reduce inventory by more than $300 million over several years while elevating customer service levels by more than 20 percent.


4. Agility to meet fickle customer demand

The customer is always right. Managing inventory to keep up with quick changes in needs and tastes is a must. Failure to react to consumer demand is not only dangerous, its suicidal. We know what happened to Kodak with its refusal to enter the digital camera industry. Intel too was slow to react to shifting customer demand from desktops to mobile and tablets which has led to it losing ground to the likes of Qualcomm- who chose to focus on the mobile processor segment. Intel has seen rapidly falling chips sales since 2013 signifying the level of impact of missing the mobile bus.

For physical product companies the cost of moving slowly is high. Some are adopting software-like cycles of testing, measuring, and updating to get an edge. Xiaomi, the billion-dollar Chinese consumer electronics tech start-up uses a flash-sale strategy which helps test demand of a product before moving to mass production. This enables Xiaomi to keep very low inventory and have much faster release cycles than competitors. It’s akin to devOps for a physical products company!

5. Agility in the workforce

Who you employ is just as important as what you produce! Traditionally, CEO’s have simply interpreted this to mean a reduction in labour cost or headcount. Car producers in Europe moved production eastwards; Foxconn automated 60,000 jobs in a single factory in China.

However, automation is not everything. Savings from automations are simply re-routed into higher value tasks, as a slow education reaction to technological changes has led to a talent crunch in coding and software related areas. Where the labour comes from and how it’s trained is hence more important than ever.

Many interesting innovations are resulting from this insight. GE Aviation, for example, crowdsourced the redesign of an aircraft bracket, receiving designs from 56 countries and reducing the final weight by 84%. Qualcomm meanwhile increased its collaboration with universities to increase its agility in R&D by not being locked in to a particular skill set of its employees.

6. Agility to react to environmental issues

While companies may spend a decade planning for shifts in the workforce, environmental disasters often dictate significantly more agility—and its absence can cost companies dearly.

When the Tōhoku earthquake and following tsunami wiped out four key Toyota plants and countless suppliers, no contingency plan would hold. Nearly a month later, two thirds of their suppliers from north-eastern Japan were still not functioning. Toyota’s production declined by over 600,000 cars in 2011 and the firm lost its place as largest automaker by volume. The price of a less-than-agile manufacturing operation is staggering.

Western Digital, the largest drive manufacturer in the world, also suffered massive SCM disruption when its hard disk drives manufacturing facilities submerged during the Thailand floods of October 2011. The floods were reported to have cost $199 Mn with operations not returning to pre-flood scale before January 2012.

In both the above cases, a more agile manufacturing operation that allowed production to be re-routed autonomously may have been able to keep more of Toyota and WD’s operations running during the event.


Role of the Service Providers

While the benefits of digital manufacturing are clear for everyone to see, most businesses are not aware of the urgency of the situation. This is where service providers come in to spread awareness and help firms expedite their journey towards becoming a more agile enterprise. In order to tap into this opportunity, services firms need to quickly build capabilities and position themselves as a digital manufacturing services provider. We have provided a broad, step-by-step framework to help in doing so:

  1. Build thought leadership around digital manufacturing technologies: Blogs, webinars and roundtables are the best way to showcase capabilities as well as build expertise in new technology areas. Service providers should look to leverage said collateral to increase awareness within clientele as well as build connects with new logos. SPs should also look to attend popular conferences such as CES, International Manufacturing Technology Show
  2. Partner with leading digital manufacturing technology providers: Firms such as Authentise (with their microservices based 3DIAX platform) and Stratasys (leading 3D printer and production systems manufacturers) are laying most of the groundwork by building vital components of Digital Manufacturing. It is vital for Service Providers to partner with them to enable knowledge sharing and build expertise on said platforms/solutions.
  3. Identify how best to leverage current expertise in the digital manufacturing domain: Digital Manufacturing lays heavy emphasis on revamping the IT systems and machinery utilised, thus creating a need for allied IT services. Leading IT service providers can leverage existing staff augmentation, testing, automation, analytics, integration and security services capabilities to build relevant offerings around these needs in digital manufacturing.
  4. Initiate consulting led digital manufacturing conversations with top current accounts: As with other advanced technologies the level of awareness within most firms with regards to digital manufacturing technologies is considerably low. Service Providers need to drive consulting discussions with relevant stakeholders to create the need for said technologies within their clientele- starting with the top accounts.
  5. Build accelerators and frameworks to help firms in rapid prototyping of digital manufacturing technologies: The age of Digital transformation has increased emphasis on digital technologies, pushing numerous enterprises to setup digital labs and innovation centres to constantly innovate. Given the rapid growth in number of digital labs, service providers who can provide accelerators and frameworks to build prototypes of digital manufacturing technologies quickly and effortlessly will be able to differentiate themselves in this space.
Posted in Digital Transformation | Leave a comment

Indian Fintech Startups – Riding a high tide!

About the author: Anjan Krishnamurthy is a Management Consultant at Zinnov with the Global Advisory & Performance Consulting Practice. 

In a letter to shareholders last year, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon warned of growing competition for Wall Street in the form of new age Fintech startups.

“Silicon Valley is coming” Jamie Dimon, CEO, JP Morgan.

I believe this warning is applicable to banks across the world. A disruption in the Fintech industry has just begun and it is certain to change the way how banking is done. The question is only ‘By when and by how much?’

India too is proving to be a hot-bed for Fintech, as these startups have raised over USD 1.3 Bn over the last 3 years. These include payment start-ups (Mobile Wallets & mPOS), p2p platforms, marketplaces and aggregators, crowdfunding platforms and financial services. Mobile Wallet startups have received the most funding over the last 3 years with PayTM alone raising over USD 890 Mn. This growth is attributed to the rise of the Indian e-commerce and the active M&A’s in the mobile wallet space, with Snapdeal acquiring Freecharge, Ola acquiring Qarth, Flipkart acquiring PhonePe and Amazon acquiring EMVANTAGE.

Another sector to watch out for is the p2p lending with more than 80% of the P2P lending startups founded over the last 3 years. With more than 50 Mn. SMEs and growing – quick access to capital, avoidance of tight regulations and credit checks, coupled with an unfriendly banking system has aided the growth of P2P lending start-ups.

As on today, majority of the Indian Fintech startups are curating platforms for alternate lending, mobile wallets, marketplaces & aggregators. While there are startups in financial services that facilitate risk analysis and fraud detection, improve customer experience, automate trading systems etc., this number is significantly low. In the long run, It would be great to see more product startups with a global focus, building deep tech solutions.

A growing number of startup accelerators too has helped in nurturing the ecosystem. While there are 70+ broad-themed accelerators across the country, a number of Fintech focused startup accelerators too have emerged. These include Start Tank (part of PayPal), Startup Studio, amongst others. Barclays’ RISE program is set to launch in Mumbai in 2016.It wont come as a surprise if a number of other banks, especially in the private sector incubate similar initiatives in the near future.

And finally, the India stack with open APIs, especially the payments layer, could redefine banking solutions for Indian SMEs & consumers. It will be interesting to see how one could leverage the stack in order to enable efficient B2C or G2C services.

As the high tide is set to create newer energies & synergies, it is interesting times ahead for anyone who is a part of the Fintech ecosystem.

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