SAP has appointed a new global head of artificial intelligence, Walter Sun, after the previous post-holder quit to found her own AI startup.

For the past 18 years, Sun worked at Microsoft, most recently as VP of AI for its business and applications platform group. Sun has a PhD from MIT and continued to publish academic research papers during his time at Microsoft, in addition to teaching at Seattle and Washington universities.

As part of Microsoft’s development team, Sun created Bing Predicts, the inference engine that provides the “favored to win” forecasts beneath search results for sporting fixtures and attempted to predict the 2016 US presidential election winner. (Spoiler alert: it failed.)

More usefully for enterprises, he also helped develop Dynamics 365 AI for Market Insights, a feature for Microsoft’s ERP and CRM platform that scans search data to provide enterprises with information about emerging trends in social interest and sentiment around their brands. Most recently, he was involved in the introduction of Dynamics 365 Copilot, which draws on OpenAI’s GPT-4 generative AI model to, among other things, help marketers write engaging sales pitches. In a recent blog post, Sun described how Microsoft researchers conducted experiments to compare the performance of different AI models for use in Dynamics 365. His colleagues also studied how to write the most effective prompts for soliciting useful responses from generative AI systems.

Sun replaces Feiyu Xu as SAP’s global head of AI. She joined the company in 2020, after a three-year stint in a similar role at Lenovo. Prior to that, she had worked for two decades at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, DFKI.

In the three years Xu led SAP’s AI initiatives, the company introduced AI technologies to many of its products, including tools for supply chain planning, expense management, customer experience, and online commerce. In May 2023, around the time Xu announced her intention to leave the company, SAP said it would embed IBM’s Watson AI technology into its products.

SAP’s AI product team

The entire AI unit that previously reported to Xu will now report to Sun, an SAP representative said. Sun’s team will include two VPs of AI technology, Sebastian Wieczorek and Ulf Brackmann; a CTO, Johannes Hoffart, and a global AI product manager, Nadine Hoffmann.

Sun will report directly to Philipp Herzig, SAP’s head of cross-product engineering and experience, who reports to SAP’s executive board member for product engineering, Thomas Saueressig.

SAP couldn’t say whether Sun will have a seat on the company’s AI Ethics Steering Committee as his predecessor, Xu, did. For now, the only representative of the AI team on the committee is Wieczorek, the VP of AI technology. The other eight committee members hold senior posts with responsibility for marketing, data protection, government affairs, legal, diversity, customer data, quality, and sustainability.

As for Xu, after leaving SAP, she co-founded Nyonic, a Berlin-based startup that aims to build industry-focused, multilingual AI models that meet European ethical and legal standards. Xu is Nyonic’s chief innovation officer, and her co-founders include serial AI entrepreneur Han Dong as CEO in Shanghai, NLP expert Johannes Otterbach as CTO, computational linguist Hans Uszkoreit as chief science officer, and Vanessa Cann, a board member of the German AI Association, as CEO for Europe. The company is hiring engineers in Berlin and Shanghai.

Enterprise Applications, SAP

Retail organizations face an urgent need to accelerate digital transformation efforts in response to economic insecurity, persistent inflation, and growing consumer price sensitivity. Consumer product goods manufacturers (CPGs) and physical and online retail stores need to increase investments in strategic real-time pricing, supply chain resiliency, and customer experience management to keep pace with the competition. With cloud adoption, retailers have been successful and with emerging artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities on cloud, they can break the barriers. 

“Cloud adoption was the need, and AI on cloud is imperative today,” says Nilendu Pattanaik, Global Head Business Applications Practice, Microsoft Business Unit, at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). “Having hundreds of employees managing on-premises infrastructure is not cost-effective. Cloud adoption normalizes legacy infrastructures, standardizes applications, and reduces redundancies, and AI infuses new possibilities for experience and efficiency.”  

The right cloud platform helps businesses achieve their digital transformation goals. “Our key solutions for retail industries are built on Microsoft Cloud, which combine best-in-class retail and consumer products domain across multiple types of businesses, and process capabilities built by TCS with AI-enabled solutions that leverage Microsoft technologies,” Nilendu says. 

A cloud-first approach to modernization supported by AI should ensure that technology investments are in lockstep with the retailer’s business model and objectives. IT leaders are prioritizing models that are more agile, efficient, and intelligent, allowing them to respond to market changes quickly. The right model facilitates the adoption of new technologies on cloud, provides a framework for collaboration between teams seamlessly, and supports continuous refinements in an agile manner.  

Great expectations 

For all types of retail outlets, be it a website, a mobile app, or a physical store, it is vital to adopt strategies that meet shoppers’ heightened expectations. Customer loyalty and retention depend on it, and the competition is setting a high bar, with retail leaders incorporating AI as well as augmented reality technologies to create hyper-personalized customer experiences.   

These types of technologies require IT architecture and infrastructure that enable increased flexibility and scalability. A more engaging customer experience may be achieved through improving navigation in store-branded mobile app, for example, or by offering an AI-driven feature to help customers determine correct sizing for apparel. 

Small changes can have a big impact on performance. “Even a small reduction in the time it takes to deliver a cup of coffee could have a significant impact on employee productivity and the overall customer experience,” says Nilendu. “Spatial analytics and competitive analysis have started to play critical roles in driving differentiated experience, dynamic pricing strategy, store layouts and improved personalized buying experiences.”  

Supply chain resiliency  

Maintaining a competitive position in the retail world involves tremendous pressure to manage costs more effectively. Supply chain resiliency can help reduce disruptions, streamline inventory management, and improve operational efficiency. With AI and Microsoft Cloud, the right product at the right time can be supplied, stocked, sold, and served with a superior impact. 

“An AI-enabled, resilient and digital supply chain is one of the key focus areas for TCS to take to the market,” Nilendu says. “Similarly, this is one of the key platforms from Microsoft Dynamics 365 for the retail industry, and with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Copilot in both ERP and CRM, the solutions have now got wings of intelligence for smart selling and hyper-personalized experience. Hence, we have created a smart and resilient supply chain framework on Microsoft Cloud for Retail integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Dynamics Point of Sales, powered with Microsoft Power Platform and Microsoft Azure OpenAI, to help retailers transform across the entire value chain.” 

As retailers transform, privacy and security of consumer data must remain the top priority. “Security and compliance are paramount for retail businesses because they’re dealing with so much personally identifiable information (PII) and need to be competitively ahead while being compliant,” says Nilendu. “It is extremely important to manage that data privacy at the highest security level. Normalizing your data infrastructure on Microsoft Cloud allows you to manage security and compliance across multiple geographies more effectively through one major security framework.” 

Retailers are under pressure to transform into more responsive and resilient organizations to meet broader competition and rapidly changing customer expectations. A cloud-first approach supported by next-generation technologies powered with AI can help transform operations, optimize inventory, store operation, market outreach and supply chain management, and enhance customer experiences to deliver sustainable growth while staying compliant, maintaining security, and preventing fraud. 

Learn how to master your cloud transformation journey with TCS and Microsoft Cloud. 

Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Retail Industry

Thanks to cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G technologies, every link in the retail supply chain is becoming more tightly integrated. These technologies are also allowing retailers to capture and gather insights from more and more data – with a big assist from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies – to become more efficient and achieve evolving sustainability goals.   

From maintaining produce at the proper temperature to optimizing a distributor’s delivery routes, retail organizations are transforming their businesses to streamline product storage and delivery and take customer experiences to a new level of convenience—saving time and resources and reinforcing new mandates for sustainability along the entire value chain.

“Transformation using these technologies is not just about finding ways to reduce energy consumption now,” says Binu Jacob, Head of IoT, Microsoft Business Unit, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). “It’s also about being able to capture the insights needed to better forecast energy consumption in the future.”

Reducing energy consumption across the value chain

For example, AI/ML technologies can detect the outside temperature and regulate warehouse refrigeration equipment to keep foods appropriately chilled, preventing spoilage and saving energy.

“The more information we can collect about energy consumption of in-store food coolers, and then combine that with other data such as how many people are in the store or what the temperature is outside, the more efficiently these systems can regulate temperature for the coolers to optimize energy consumption,” says K.N. Shanthakumar, Solution Architect – IoT, Retail Business Unit, TCS.

Landmark Group, one of the largest retail and hospitality organizations in the Middle East, wanted to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint, improve operational excellence, and make progress toward its sustainability goals. Working with TCS, Landmark Group deployed TCS Clever Energy at more than 500 sites, including stores, offices, warehouses, and malls, resulting in significant improvements in energy efficiency and carbon emissions at these sites.

“Retail customers are looking to achieve net zero goals by creating sustainable value chains and reducing the environmental impact of their operations,” says Marianne Röling, Vice President Global System Integrators, Microsoft. “TCS’ extensive portfolio of sustainability solutions, built on Microsoft Cloud, provides a comprehensive approach for businesses to embrace sustainability and empower retail customers to reduce their energy consumption, decarbonize their supply chains, meet their net zero goals, and deliver on their commitments.”

Optimizing delivery workflows

For delivery to retail outlets, logistics programs—TCS DigiFleet is one example—increasingly rely on AI/ML to help distributors plan optimized routes for drivers, reducing fuel consumption and associated costs. Video and visual analytics ensure that trucks are filled before they leave the warehouse or distribution center, consolidating deliveries into fewer trips. Sensors and other IoT devices track inventory and ensure that products are safe and secure. Postnord implemented this solution to increase fill rate, thereby improving operations and cost savings. 

“Instead of dispatching multiple trucks with partially filled containers, you can send fewer trucks with fully loaded containers on a route that has been optimized for the most efficient delivery,” says Shanthakumar. “5G helps with the monitoring of contents of the containers and truck routes in real time while dynamically making adjustments as needed and communicating with the driver for effective usage.”

More data, better insights

With cloud-driven modernization, intelligence derived from in-store systems and sensors can automatically feed into the supply chain to address consumer expectations on a real-time basis. In keeping with the farm-to-fork movement, for example, consumers can scan a barcode to find out where a product originated and what cycles it went through before landing on the grocery store shelf.

With 5G-enabled smart mirrors, a person can virtually try on apparel. By means of a touchpad or kiosk, the mirror technology can superimpose a garment on a picture to show the shopper how it will look, changing colors and other variables with ease.

Retail transformation enabled by AI/ML, IoT and 5G technologies is still evolving, but we’re already seeing plenty of real-world examples of what the future holds, including autonomous stores and drone deliveries. The key for retail organizations is building a cloud-based infrastructure that not only accelerates this type of innovation, but also helps them become more resilient, adaptable, and sustainable while staying compliant, maintaining security, and preventing fraud.

Learn more about how TCS’ Sustainability and Smart Store solution empowers retailers to reimagine store operations, optimize operational costs, improve security, increase productivity, and enhance customer experience.

Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Retail Industry

As consumers embrace ecommerce, digital banking, and online payment applications, the risk of fraud and other financial crimes has increased dramatically. Every new portal and mobile app expand the attack surface and give hackers new opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities. The stakes for financial organizations are growing as well. In 2021, U.S. fraud losses amounted to $5.9 billion, a 436% increase over 2017 levels, according to McKinsey. And for every dollar lost to fraud, banks spend over $4 on recovery fees, legal fees, and other expenses. 

Thwarting financial crime is never easy, but by adopting the right cloud infrastructure and strategically deploying artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, financial institutions can get ahead of bad actors, gaining insight into their tactics, discovering their activity sooner, and preventing attacks before they lead to a loss.

Challenges for fraud risk management 

Fraud is a big and a worthwhile business for today’s online criminals, who troll the internet and insert data-stealing malware into vulnerable sites and mobile apps. They sell stolen data on the dark web, where they form alliances to trade tactics and technologies, such as AI algorithms that can crack even the most complex passwords in seconds. They purchase thousands of illicit debit and credit card numbers and combine them with other hacked information—including Social Security numbers of children, who have no financial history—to create false identities and open multiple fraudulent accounts.  

To counter these measures, financial institutions are taking increasingly aggressive steps to identify suspicious behaviors and transactions quickly. 

“One main challenge faced by financial organizations is the complexity of correlated data needed to discover deviant behavior and patterns,” says Archana Trikha, Associate General Manager at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). “Mature banks perform massive volumes of transactions, but less than one percent are fraudulent, so it’s basically finding the needle in the haystack. When a card or an ATM transaction is taking place, you need to identify suspicious activity and take a decisive action in milliseconds.”  

Traditional tables and relational databases at the back end of financial systems and applications are often siloed. By missing important correlations, analysts or automated systems may not spot illegal activity soon enough to prevent a loss. When suspicious activity is flagged, it can hold up a transaction while a representative investigates the matter, frustrating customers.   

Fighting back with AI  

“Effective fraud prevention requires financial institutions to stay a step ahead of cybercriminals by incorporating AI technologies and multiple dimensions related to sequence of events to identify suspicious activity in real time,” Trikha says. One essential step is accessing the processing power of Microsoft Cloud, where organizations can integrate and analyze large data sets from multiple data sources, swiftly correlating them for possible connections to fraudsters or money-laundering shell companies.  

For example, organizations can use cloud-based AI applications to analyze customer behavior, discerning near-real time deviations from a real customer’s profile, identifying anomalous behavior, or identifying collusions among entities. AI can also enhance existing software, such as alerting systems, which often generate many false positives. In addition to reducing alert fatigue, AI capabilities can provide reasons for its decisions, saving staff hours of time in compiling compliance reports. 

“These are just some of the advanced technologies TCS deploys and customizes for financial clients,” Trikha says. Once big data and AI systems are set up in Microsoft Cloud, they continue to incorporate the latest information about threats, investigations, and interventions, helping financial institutions to stay one step ahead of criminals. 

Learn how to master your cloud transformation journey with TCS and Microsoft Cloud.  

Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Financial Services Industry

Though three-quarters of U.S. employers now offer hybrid work, some retailers have been slow to embrace emerging hybrid work models, even for corporate employees. We spoke with Ashok Krish, Global Head of Digital Workplace at TCS, about how hybrid work will impact employers – and their employees – in the retail industry.

Do you believe hybrid work is here to stay?

Hybrid work is absolutely here to stay. While retail has always had a sizeable frontline workforce, there has always been an asymmetry in technology investments. Knowledge workers in a traditional office setting have historically been more invested in technology than frontline workers. But the pandemic has forced a rethink. Digital enabled frontline workers are more crucial to the organization’s long-term success than ever before.

How will hybrid work change the employee experience in the retail industry?

In the context of retail, where one might argue that a hybrid model of work has always existed (frontline workers vs. knowledge workers), the transition required now is more subtle. The focus now is on technology investments that allow more fluidity between frontline and knowledge work and slowly blur the distinction between these roles. Retailers that invest in workplace technologies that allow anyone in any role to work effectively in both a frontline as well as a traditional office/home capacity will succeed.

Empowering frontline workers with better real-time analytics, decision support, and devices that help them spend less time doing boring, repetitive work is a crucial investment for retailers to make.

What are some of the challenges hybrid work poses for employers in the retail sector?

One of the biggest challenges hybrid work poses for retail is churn. Retailers employ a large number of transient/temporary workers who need to be onboarded and offboarded rapidly, while enabling others’ contextual knowledge to be delivered to them and simultaneously capturing their tacit knowledge while they are working. This means that traditional ways of managing knowledge and enabling collaboration simply do not scale for this workforce. The investment in AI-backed continuous skilling and just-in-time training experiences for frontline workers will be crucial in overcoming this particular challenge.

Microsoft’s Work Trend Index found that 48% of employees and 53% of managers say they are burned out at work. What can employers do to improve employee engagement and reduce stress in the hybrid workplace?

Employers need to rethink the rituals of work. Retail organizations need to rethink how their frontline workers collaborate in real time with the rest of the organization. Employees waste time finding information, finding people, setting up meetings, and cleaning data. Everyone spends more time looking for information than acting on information. It’s a discouraging, stressful environment. To change it, managers must transform their processes and their culture. They must embrace new technology stack metaphors (such as Microsoft Teams vs. email) to become more efficient. They must learn to become effective facilitators of digital processes and distributed teams.

How can retail organizations use technology to improve communication, collaboration, and productivity, while maintaining security and preventing fraud?

Companies can no longer expect employees to attend town hall meetings and read company newsletters. Technology can help them target the right messages to the right demographic in the right form factors. For example, you can ask ChatGPT to reduce a 900-word report to a 50-word summary or generate a video, which you can send on a mobile phone.

Tools like Microsoft Teams break down silos and enable collaboration across the organization. Once managers set access controls, the platform worries about security, freeing people to exchange ideas without constraint. But at the same time, the design and configuration of these collaboration systems will make the difference between creating a noisy, unproductive culture of collaboration and a personable, productive one.

Automation, AI, and the cloud can save employees tremendous amounts of time. Instead of attending two-week training sessions, employees can receive nudges from a virtual assistant to acquire new skills as they work. In the near future, knowledge assistants powered by large language models, purpose-built for specific industry domains, will augment every employee’s productivity by providing contextual knowledge on demand.

Retail companies have historically been early adopters of technology and will need to continue to increase their momentum of change. The traditional dichotomy between build vs. buy has given way to a “no-code vs. pro-code” approach – employees will expect new capabilities to delivered quicker than ever before.

With cloud-based software, front-line employees can see back-end customer information in real time, increasing upselling, cross-selling, and client satisfaction. Bringing business tools into the flow of collaboration will create more frictionless experiences and enable more agile collective decision-making.

These capabilities can help to eliminate workplace pain points, greatly improving the employee experience. Without a great employee experience, you cannot create a great customer experience.

At the same time, companies must maintain secure environments and prevent fraud. Companies must invest in newer tools that give them wider and deeper visibility into their threat landscape and leverage built-in AI and machine learning to proactively manage threats and reduce alert fatigue. The future of security is to largely automate responses to standard threats while investing in education and change management to prevent social engineering and attacks on individuals.

How does TCS help organizations reimagine the future of work for their employees?

We provide a comprehensive solution combining infrastructure, applications, and human resources expertise into a single package that helps retail organizations deliver an outstanding hybrid work experience. My group includes people who do everything from designing applications to mapping workflows to managing the inner workings of a cloud framework, including reinventing productivity and the future of work with AI using Microsoft 365 Copilot.

TCS also invests in behavioral science research to help organizations prepare for the workplace of the future. How can retail companies accommodate gig work? How should AI collaborate with human beings? No one knows the answers to these questions yet, just as no one knew until recently how to manage hybrid work. By peering into cutting-edge technology, we can pass along insights that keep our clients ahead of the curve.

Discover how you can transform meeting culture, help managers to be more effective, and drive employee engagement.

Tata Consultancy Services

Ashok Krish Global Head of Digital Workplace, TCS
Ashok Krish is the Global Head of the Digital Workplace unit at TCS, which helps customers reimagine the future of work for their employees. His team works at the intersection of design, technology, and behavioral science, and helps conceptualize and implement modern, persuasive, and immersive employee experiences. Outside of work, he is a columnist, musician, and a food science enthusiast.

Employee Experience, Remote Work, Retail Industry

The financial services sector is undergoing rapid change as fintechs develop convenient, consumer-focused services that were once the province of traditional banks. We spoke with Siddhartha Gupta, Global Head of Application Modernization on Azure at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), about this trend and what financial services organizations need to do to improve their capacity for agility and innovation.

What are the greatest challenges that financial services firms face with their digital transformation initiatives?

Many established financial institutions have very good core business capabilities, but their technology platforms tend to be archaic and rigid. A modern bank must have an agile, open, and intelligent systems architecture to deliver the digital services today’s consumers want. That is very difficult to achieve when the systems running their business functions are resistant to change. This is the fundamental digital transformation problem that financial services organizations are facing.

These organizations have two choices: They can modernize their architecture and develop the technology they need in-house or collaborate with fintechs to do it for them. Many established banks are doing both—using the Microsoft Cloud to create a secure innovation bed as well as working with fintechs or buying some of their cutting edge technologies. The need of the hour is to transform business applications from monoliths to smaller, independently designed capabilities that can easily change and scale.

Across the globe, financial organizations are using cloud-native apps to create everything from payment platforms and credit card tools to systems for managing corporate rewards. Like the retail and media companies that adopted cloud-native services before them, financial institutions are learning that the more agile their technology is, the more customers they will attract.

Why are traditional financial services firms feeling an increased urgency to adopt a cloud-native approach to applications?

Traditional financial organizations are competing with digital native firms using technology as a key differentiator to draw customers. For these companies, offering user-friendly services such as digital wallets, lightning-fast payment platforms, and easy access to credit have become established norms. To remain relevant, traditional financial services firms must become as cutting-edge as fintechs. They must develop services that are more innovative, resilient, fast, and agile than those traditional banks can create.

This competitive landscape is increasingly driving banks to adopt a cloud-native approach to applications. To succeed, they must first build a culture of development within the organization. That means business units must be the owners of the applications they use, and they must work closely with application architecture and build teams to create world-class, innovative capabilities keeping in mind security and compliance.

Organizations must also be willing to continually adapt to change, which occurs almost daily in today’s business environment. They must adopt innovations as soon as they become available. A cloud-native architecture, which is designed for openness, makes that possible.

How can cloud-native applications help financial organizations drive innovation at scale?

A cloud-native approach drives innovation in several ways. It begins at the development stage, in which the business service owner, the solution architect, and the technology team all work together to develop effective microservices. Each party adds their expertise from the beginning, creating a seamless flow that eliminates arguments and time-consuming revisions down the road.

The second important characteristic of cloud-native applications is their flexibility. Business units can deploy and scale applications independently to serve their customers’ needs. They are not blocked behind a traditional monolithic system, and they can scale their services faster. When each business unit operates at maximum efficiency, the organization as a whole becomes more agile and responsive.

Why is the Microsoft Cloud the right environment for both financial services companies and the fintechs that serve them?

The Microsoft Cloud offers the right blend of services to help large or small financial services organizations create business-critical platforms and applications. One of the most valuable services is the Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service, which enables teams to build high-performance and resilient containerized applications that are always on.

Another strength is the Microsoft Cloud’s ability to enable “appification” and real-time integrations, which are key to achieving growth in today’s markets. We are seeing financial services institutions use these capabilities to create dealership networks and build new monetization models for mutual fund distributions, portfolio management, and
other digital services.

The Microsoft Cloud also helps financial services companies achieve their mandate of maintaining a secure, compliant environment and preventing fraud. Built-in AI and machine learning capabilities give financial institutions
better visibility into their threat landscape, enabling them to proactively manage incidents while reducing alert fatigue.

How does TCS help financial organizations with application modernization?

We see application modernization not just as a technology or architecture change, but as the gateway to a culture of innovation. We help organizations build that culture with our cloud-native development method, which is based on the Three Horizon Journey framework we use to help all businesses achieve digital transformation.

Our TCS Azure Application Modernization Service is a comprehensive offering designed to guide organizations on their digital transformation journeys. It helps banks and fintechs create a clear cloud strategy and a path for moving to an architecture that facilitates cloud-native applications and opensource technologies—the foundation of the
modern financial enterprise.

Learn more about how to build agile, cloud-native applications on the Microsoft Cloud.

TCS

Siddhartha Gupta, Global Head of Application Modernization on Azure, TCS
Siddhartha Gupta has over 25 years of experience helping global customers in the financial services, banking, healthcare, publishing, professional services, and retail sectors in building applications and
systems that are focused on creating business value. He is a proponent of the TCS cloud modernization strategy and adoption paths and evangelizes the adoption of cloud-native applications and integrations to drive business benefits.

Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Financial Services Industry

Though three-quarters of U.S. employers now offer hybrid work, some banks and insurance companies have been slow to embrace this emerging work model. We spoke with Ashok Krish, Global Head of Digital Workplace at TCS, about how hybrid work will impact employers – and their employees – in the financial services industry.

How will hybrid work change the employee experience in the financial services industry?

It will enable employees to shift from work processes designed for the last century to a fluid environment where they can easily share information, discover a wider range of people to collaborate with outside silos, exchange ideas, and create new products and services. Banks developed the traditional office model, using physical inboxes, outboxes, and carbon copies to transmit information. Early software programs simply digitized these desk-based procedures, and banks still use them.

Modern technology vastly broadens communication modes and enables real-time analytics and immersive experiences. In a hybrid workplace, you need to give everyone access to these capabilities, whether they are in the field, at home, in the office, or in transit. Financial services organizations that succeed with the hybrid model will greatly enhance the employee experience. They will attract a global talent pool, building a highly skilled, diverse, and motivated workforce, which is critical for an industry whose business model is innately digital in nature.

What are some of the challenges hybrid work poses for employers in the financial sector?

Banks and insurance companies carry large volumes of sensitive personal information and are heavily regulated. As a result, they have developed an information-security mindset that focuses on prevention rather than enablement. Systems and departments are very siloed, making it difficult for employees to gain access to the tools and information they need.

To succeed with hybrid work, financial services organizations will have to rethink how information flows. Decision-making cannot be restricted to the top—it needs to happen at the edge, among teams and individuals. To make informed decisions, employees must be provided with better access to corporate analytics, reports, and tools.

Another challenge is legacy technology. Financial companies often have multiple types of hardware and 20 or 30 versions of similar software, each with its own set of tools. Their rate of adopting new technologies is exceedingly slow. This makes it challenging to innovate and provide the seamless, integrated experience employees expect.

Microsoft’s Work Trend Index found that 48% of employees and 53% of managers say they are burned out at work. What can employers do to improve employee engagement and reduce stress in the hybrid workplace?

Employers need to fundamentally rethink the rituals of work. Financial services managers spend about 80% of their time in meetings, which aren’t necessarily productive. Every minute spent being muted in a meeting is a minute wasted. Employees waste time finding information, finding people, setting up meetings, and cleaning data. Everyone spends more time looking for information than acting on information. It’s a discouraging, stressful environment.

To change it, managers must transform their processes and their culture. They must embrace new technology stack metaphors (such as Microsoft Teams vs. email) to become more efficient. They must learn to become effective facilitators of digital processes and distributed teams.

How can financial organizations use technology to improve communication, collaboration, and productivity, while maintaining security and preventing fraud?

Financial organizations can no longer expect employees to attend town hall meetings and read company newsletters. Technology can help them target the right messages to the right demographic in the right form factors. For example, you can ask ChatGPT to reduce a 900-word report to a 50-word summary or generate a video, which you can send on a mobile phone.

Tools like Microsoft Teams break down silos and enable collaboration across the organization. Once managers set access controls, the platform worries about security, freeing people to exchange ideas without constraint. But at the same time, the design and configuration of these collaboration systems will make the difference between creating a noisy, unproductive culture of collaboration and a personable, productive one.

Automation, AI, and the cloud can save employees tremendous amounts of time. Instead of attending two-week training sessions, employees can receive nudges from a virtual assistant to acquire new skills as they work. In the near future, knowledge assistants powered by large language models, purpose-built for specific industry domains, will augment every employee’s productivity by providing contextual knowledge on demand. Robotic process automations streamline approval processes and free IT workers from pushing updates and patches.

These capabilities can help to eliminate workplace pain points, greatly improving the employee experience. Without a great employee experience, you cannot create a great customer experience.

At the same time, companies must maintain secure environments and prevent fraud. Companies must invest in newer tools that give them wider and deeper visibility into their threat landscape and leverage built in AI and machine learning to proactively manage threats and reduce alert fatigue. The future of security is to largely automate responses to standard threats while investing in education and change management to prevent social engineering and attacks on individuals.

How does TCS help organizations reimagine the future of work for their employees?

We provide a comprehensive solution combining infrastructure, applications, and human resources expertise into a single package that helps financial organizations deliver an outstanding hybrid work experience. My group includes people who do everything from designing applications to mapping workflows to managing the inner workings of a cloud framework, including reinventing productivity and the future of work with AI using Microsoft 365 Copilot.

TCS also invests in behavioral science research to help organizations prepare for the workplace of the future. How can financial companies accommodate gig work? How should AI collaborate with human beings? No one knows the answers to these questions yet, just as no one knew until recently how to manage hybrid work. By peering into cutting edge technology, we can pass along insights that keep our clients ahead of the curve.

Discover how you can transform meeting culture, help managers to be more effective, and drive employee engagement.

Tata Consultancy Services

Ashok Krish, Global Head of Digital Workplace, TCS
Ashok Krish is the Global Head of the Digital Workplace unit at TCS, which helps customers reimagine the future of work for their employees. His team works at the intersection of design, technology, and behavioral science, and helps conceptualize and implement modern, persuasive, and immersive employee experiences. Outside of work, he is a columnist, musician, and a food science enthusiast.

Financial Services Industry, IT Leadership, Remote Work

Blackhawk Network is shaping the future of global branded payments — from QR code payment solutions and retail gift card programs to tailored incentives and reward programs. 

The Silicon Valley-based company has been expanding its global footprint through numerous creative acquisitions. While each brought a wealth of benefits, the acquired companies’ existing processes and platforms challenged Blackhawk Network’s ability to optimize and scale its go-to-market strategy. 

To address this issue, Blackhawk turned to TCS. With its extensive cloud experience, TCS transformed Blackhawk’s ERP and CRM systems in tandem, enabling the sales of one set of solutions and services to a global customer base at scale.  

In this case study, Blackhawk Network’s Cara Renfroe joins Tata Consultancy Services’ Rakesh Kumar and Nilendu Pattanaik to explain how TCS transformed the gift card company’s customer engagement and global operations on Microsoft Cloud.  

Read more. 

Cloud Computing, Financial Services Industry, IT Leadership

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has always been a digital-first organization. Continuous transformation of the workplace has been a cornerstone of the company’s business model for several decades.  

This approach proved its value during the COVID-19 crisis, when TCS pioneered location-independent “borderless workspaces” aided by Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams. The modern workplace solution suite was the perfect fit for TCS’s constantly evolving needs, becoming a canvas for improving the experience of 500,000 employees while maintaining the security and integrity of the company’s systems and data.  

At the same time, TCS is focusing on maintaining a secure environment and preventing fraud. According to a recent Microsoft blog, organizations can use security and compliance solutions in Microsoft 365 E5 to have visibility into their threat landscape and leverage built-in AI and machine learning in Microsoft Sentinel and Microsoft Defender for Cloud to proactively manage threats and reduce alert fatigue.  

Watch the video. 

Cloud Computing, Financial Services Industry, Microsoft

The retail industry is transforming rapidly. Modern retailers rely heavily on automation for managing inventory, shelf design, customer service, and logistics. Video cameras and sensors that allow for unique store design help to enhance the customer experience. Technology is truly powering retail transformation, setting modern stores apart from traditional brick-and-mortar ones.

It is no easy feat sending all these video streams and sensor data to the cloud for real-time analysis. High bandwidth is required to move heavy data streams. So is low latency for quick data processing and decision making, especially when robotics is involved. 

This is where edge computing and edge-native applications become relevant for retail stores. They allow computing to occur closer to the source of data–right inside the store. Coupled with a private 5G communication network, retailers can deploy cost-effective and high performing ‘edge-native’ applications.

At the same time, companies must maintain secure environments and prevent fraud. According to a recent Microsoft blog, organizations can use security and compliance solutions in Microsoft 365 E5 to have visibility into their threat landscape and leverage built-in AI and machine learning in Microsoft Sentinel and Microsoft Defender for Cloud to proactively manage threats and reduce alert fatigue.

Read the full blog post to learn more.

Cloud Computing, Retail Industry