Q&A: innovation never stops

Innovate or die. It’s a mantra every business must live by – or suffer the consequences. The rapid level of digitisation in professional and financial services means those sectors are acutely aware of this. 

In Australia for a strategic partner executive forum, Wipro BFSI chief Shaji Farooq sat down with ANZ GM Operations & Services Craig Sims to chat about customers, technology and the steady state of change.

Below is a podcast and edited transcript of the conversation. They started by addressing the disruptive nature of technology.

Shaji Farooq: Technology can create great opportunities but it is also an immense threat to everything we do.

Most industries reach a ‘steady state’ or what they call the ‘natural life cycle’. They would probably stay in that state for a long time and most companies would fall into that category. 

"If you want to build the fort and hang on forever, those days are gone.” – Craig Sims

Unfortunately life is never that linear. Technology is doing exactly that for us at Wipro and it’s completely changing everything every aspect of our business.

Craig Sims: It’s interesting what you say about the steady state. As a person who's lived through the banking in the ‘90s and now - in the ‘90s you came to work for the core technology and then it flipped to the consumer.

I think in that flipping we lost sight of the customer. Now we’re at the tipping point where technological capability means we can get really close to the customer and personalise offerings.

I think that’s both exciting and challenging for us - how do we use that tech to really help customers get things done?

SF: The impact is immense because there are many things that can be disruptors. Regulatory change for example is a phenomenal disruptor. And it can completely change everything you do in your business.

But the real disruptor is there are new business models. In my world services were delivered in a certain way.

Typically people are familiar with the term ‘waterfall’ development. These are long IT projects which go on to solve significant business problems.

This means you spend an immense amount of time understanding what the business requires and then you start this humongous project which usually lasts years.

Sometimes when you're fortunate you actually deliver all the value. But quite often somewhere along the line you miss out on things.

At times business users will give you all the requirements they think are important and expect you will fill the gaps. We are not always very good at filling the gaps.

CS: In banking one of our challenges is to recognise customers have got jobs to be done and aspirations to achieve. To nail the art of what is required you have to look outside to the art of what is possible and force those two to intersect.

Whether we like it or not, it's not always banks which have the answer. So we look outside - business like Zappos, now owned by Amazon for instance - for really different ways to service the customer and bring those in.

The art form is taking the insights of those industries and applying it to your company and your strategy.

When you have that intersection of what's required and the art of the possible from outside you get that spark of creativity. We're finding what is much more energising and rewarding and attracts a better calibre of people. Today we need more of those in our tent than in somebody else’s.

SF:  Yeah absolutely. It's about completely flipping the way you think.

CS: You know if you think disruption, you've got to know your core and then throw yourself out there. Your technology capabilities, your data capabilities. If you can marry that with a customer service paradigm you can create a pretty powerful proposition.

Partnership are also important. I don't know how you look at partnerships, but the reality is I think in this space of high-pace rapid change disruption, you can't do it on your own.

You've got to co-create you've got to partner. If you look back at the likes of Apple and Google and others, even those high-growth companies don't do it on their own.

They acquire talent or they partner with somebody. We view it exactly the same way.

It's not the technology; it is how you use the capabilities you have for your customers. You've got to start and finish with the customer.

SF: Spot on. For example, if you take a smartphone, the guts of it are a bunch of chips and processors and a screen. But the biggest money isn't being made by the people who make those parts or the people who put them all together into a meaningful value proposition.

In this case it's Apple or Samsung or what have you. I don’t need to own the factory which build the components - I can buy, I can borrow, I can partner and I can create a value proposition that is unique.

CS: I agree. And you’ve got to keep adapting and pushing yourself further and further.

If you want to build the fort and hang on forever, those days are gone. If you think again about Apple – Apple created this great service component with iTunes. Within a short space of time they were outmanoeuvred by Spotify and they’ve had to respond.

As banks or professional services companies - we’re exactly the same. We’ve got to create, like we’ve just done with Apple pay in Australia.

We can’t rest on that, we’ve got to find the next one, and the next one, and the next one because you can’t just build the fort and defend amid this high pace of disruption.

With that you don’t know the answers. You have to be curious and you have to have this ability to test, learn and if it works, accelerate it. If it doesn’t work – what did you learn from that? Don’t see it as a failure - see it as a way to go faster with something else. 

Craig Sims is GM Operations & Services at ANZ and Shaji Farooq, Ph.D. is President & Chief Executive, BFSI, Wipro Limited

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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