Innovating tomorrow: Tech disruptions and opportunities at WEF 2024 | HCLTech

Innovating tomorrow: Tech disruptions and opportunities at WEF 2024

Uncovering tech opportunities and impact with #HCLTechAtDavos panel – insights from visionary leaders
11 minutes read
Mousume Roy
Mousume Roy
APAC Reporter, HCLTech
11 minutes read
Innovating tomorrow: Tech disruptions and opportunities at WEF 2024

During at Davos, the HCLTech pavilion emerged as a focal point for an engaging panel discussion on tech disruptions, opportunities and impact of groundbreaking technologies, including GenAI and distributed cloud. At the heart of the tech-centric conversations were esteemed business leaders who shared their insights on embracing human-led, tech-powered strategies to shape the future.

The panel featured Kalyan Kumar (Chief Technology Officer and Head of Ecosystems at HCLTech), Sheila Jordan (Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Technology Officer at Honeywell) and Lars Stenqvist (Executive Vice President at Volvo Group Trucks Technology). Dr. Saikat Chaudhuri from UC Berkeley moderated the discussion.

The convergence of these next-generation technologies into the mainstream has captivated the global audience, drawing attention to the need for more than just technological innovation. Genuine and sustainable change, as highlighted by the panelists, demands a bold vision, a distinctive business model and swift execution.

Setting the tone: Beyond technology

While technology took the center stage, the dialogue extended to how humans interact with technology and each other, emphasizing the critical role of innovation. Dr. Chaudhuri posed a straightforward yet critical question to the panelists, asking each to share their views on the main disruptive technologies of the moment and how they were engaging with and deploying them.

Jordan commenced the discussion with a captivating account of Honeywell's digital transformation journey. From streamlining network and infrastructure to reducing applications through strategic platforms, the journey culminated in the creation of an enterprise data warehouse. She emphasized the transformative power of generative AI, positioning Honeywell as perfectly poised to harness this disruptive technology.

Stenqvist spoke about Volvo Group's mission to decarbonize commercial vehicles by 2034. He highlighted the excitement in engineering, covering diverse technologies from lightweight materials to green hydrogen-powered combustion engines. He stressed the collaborative nature of the challenge and the need for partnerships and innovation across industries.

Kumar, known popularly as KK brought a dual perspective to the discussion, showcasing HCLTech's role as both a service provider and a product software business. On the services side, the focus was on supercharging digital cloud transformations, while on the software side, he highlighted the importance of mindful modernization.

“I strongly believe that not all data can be shipped into one place, because the data explosion is going to go on more and spread out in a distributed environment,” he said, underlining the evolving nature of data management and distribution.

Realities and opportunities in GenAI

Reflecting on the overwhelming attention AI receives, KK noted, “I'm not throwing in the sprinkler on AI. I don't want to use the word GenAI because GenAI is a subset of AI. Unfortunately, GenAI just got all the attention." He highlighted the broader spectrum of technologies and innovations, not limiting the discourse to AI alone.

Jordan responded assertively to inquiries on Honeywell’s position on the debate, highlighting the transformative power of generative AI and its potential application in supply chain optimization and autonomy.

As the discussion extended to concerns regarding human analysts and biases in data processing, she added: “I think it's going to change some of the skills, and we're going to not do the tedious, boring things the machine can do. But also, we're going to need to uplevel our skills to teach critical thinking, judgment and data-based decision-making down into the organization.”

KK pointed to the pivotal role of data engineering and the need for diverse human involvement to address biases.

“Bias inherently will happen. Even your current enterprise data would have bias. How do you unlearn? I think you cannot just clean all the biases that existed. You must take stock of where you are and make continuous efforts to identify, adjust and improve biases in the evolving landscape of AI,” he said and drew attention to innovative approaches to enhance transparency and traceability in decision-making processes.

Stenqvist extended the focus of the discussion beyond AI to encompass the transformation of vehicles into intelligent computers driving efficiency. “I think that the hardest part, overall, is the societal perspective because it's not enough to have zero-emission vehicles if you don't have the infrastructure,” he said.

“In the commercial vehicle industry, you will have two business cases, and in many cases, you will also have a safety case where you’re performing transport, rather risky transport, where you don't want to have drivers on board on the vehicles,” Stenqvist added.

When Dr. Chaudhuri raised the issue of decision-making in critical situations, Stenqvist asserted the need for industry standards and certification, emphasizing the imperative for autonomous systems to surpass human drivers in safety.

Driving disruptive thinking in organizations

How do leaders drive disruptive thinking in organizations?

“I want to make [innovation] as easy and efficient as we possibly can—whether that’s the applications, data or any new technology. We're introducing this to our three thousand software engineers to accelerate the development of software code. Now, that doesn't mean we're going to minimize jobs, it means we are prioritizing innovation,” Jordan said.

Stenqvist talked about a structured approach to global startup collaborations, emphasizing the need for startups to solve specific organizational problems. “Right now we are running projects with 23 startups across the world. Ten of them have already paused proof of concept and we're taking it further into productive AI, either into the products or the processes or into our lives,” he said.

Discussing HCLTech’s commitment to innovation, KK sheds light on the challenges faced by large enterprises in engaging startups due to cumbersome procurement and legal processes. He delved into HCLTech’s Startup Ecosystem Innovation Platform & Program — better known as eSTiP™ along with highlighting HCLSoftware’s SYNC. Both these programs are designed to streamline collaboration with startups through a one-page partner agreement, addressing the inherent problem of navigating big company bureaucracy. He underlined the tangible benefits of these strategies, which led to “showcasing a 40% increase in developer velocity and a significant reduction in product development roadmaps.”

Biggest challenges in tech’s spotlight

Dr. Chaudhuri prodded industry leaders to talk about the biggest challenges they face in steering their organizations through the ever-evolving tech ecosystem. KK zoomed in on the challenge of cultivating talent and maintaining their motivation, particularly with the influx of Gen Z into the workforce. He articulated the need to align systems and processes with the mindset of the new generation.

Jordan discussed the challenge of prioritizing technology initiatives amid an insatiable demand for innovation. The pressure to deliver impactful outcomes that resonate with customers, partners and employees requires a discerning focus on initiatives that yield the most significant value.

Stenqvist stated the criticality of navigating partnerships adeptly. He highlighted the shift from transactional engagements to collaborative partnerships, stressing the need for authentic collaboration and solutions that evolve without rigid specifications.

Regulation in technology: Striking the right balance

As the conversation transitioned to the topic of public distrust in technology and the role of regulation, Dr. Chaudhuri delved into the question of whether more or less regulation is the solution.

Jordan advocated for "more regulation in certain areas," underlining the importance of targeted regulations rather than a blanket approach. Stenqvist agreed, cautioning against Europe's tendency to regulate for success and emphasizing the need for global standards.

KK said that "responsible regulation" is the need of the hour, highlighting the importance of enterprises adopting responsible data practices to address public concerns. He also questioned the notion that corporations are inherently designed for profitability.

While the leaders acknowledged the role of self-regulation, they also stressed the importance of external oversight. Jordan asserted that the technology industry “absolutely has the responsibility to regulate themselves,” emphasizing the trust component of their brand. KK echoed the need for a "watchdog" to ensure a level playing field, drawing parallels with examples like cricket and open-source communities.

Innovation, collaboration and the future: Closing thoughts

As the curtains drew on this riveting conversation, Dr. Chaudhuri summed up the takeaways. Amidst the intricacies of technology, the consensus emerged that execution, particularly in the realm of people and their roles, poses a formidable challenge. Technology, while advancing rapidly, remains the easier part, with the human element standing as the true linchpin in the grand scheme of innovation.

The panel discussion also emphasized the need to bring every stakeholder along the journey of disruption as trust-building and inclusivity are crucial aspects of this. While technology propels us forward, it is the human touch, collective trust and inclusive execution that will define our success in this technological tapestry.

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