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 –
- Data curation and integration,
- API management
- Digital experience framework
- 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.