The year 2020 changed everything around us and made us realize that no matter how prepared you are, some changes are absolutely unprecedented and we can never be prepared enough for them. In the past few months, organizations have moved from the stages of reacting, responding, returning to finally transforming themselves to adapt to this new normal at work. And as things are slowly opening up, business and HR leaders are finding innovative ways to adapt to the new world order by bringing together people and technology and finding the right mix.
In order to delve deeper into how organizations can prepare for a post-COVID-19 world, we had an exclusive interaction with Suman Reddy, MD, Pegasystems, wherein he shared some insights on how technologies will evolve to make flexible work easier for employees and employers, and what investments are the most necessary to create the technology environment that will allow companies to thrive in the next normal.
‘Build for Change’ is not just Pegasystems’ philosophy but a phrase that truly defines Suman Reddy, Managing Director of Pega India. A recognized technology leader for more than two decades and a core member of Pega’s global corporate strategy team, Reddy has redefined how Indian business leaders are driving change in MNCs by influencing corporate goal setting, strategic planning and building world class software products. Reddy is credited with successfully setting-up Pega’s India operations in 2007, one of the country’s leading GICs. He built Pega India from ground-up that currently is at 1500 employees across Hyderabad and Bangalore, a third of the company’s total employee strength. As a key member of the global leadership team, Reddy has played a key role in helping the organization grow from $126 million to $840 million in revenue over the last decade. He has managed various aspects of growth from acquiring talent, building innovative products, creating an ecosystem that fosters partnerships with academia.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
How are different industries adapting to the rapidly changing business condition? How critical is the role of technology for the post-COVID-19 world?
As the countries and businesses struggle to fight the contagion and get on with normal business, industries found themselves looking into the abyss of a largely declining global economy. The contagion has impacted each sector; however, the IT sector as a whole has been far more resilient. The primary reason for this is our ability to work remotely and the sector’s comparatively better progress on the digital transformation front. Technology has been playing a vital role in operations and sustenance across the industries for quite some time, but the pandemic has yet again highlighted the absolute necessity of digital transformation and automation initiatives across the sectors. I am bullish that the range of the changes IT industry makes possible will only increase, as post-COVID-19 acceleration starts. The growth of organizations built on digital connections among billions of people, and which collect reams of cloud-based data in the process will be core to the rise and success of the sector post the pandemic.
How are you preparing for a post-COVID-19 business?
Considering the gravity of the situation, we are adopting a cautious approach on when we need to get back to our workplaces. Governments and other bodies have issued various guidelines and best practices on this matter and we are keenly following them. Additionally, we are also keeping an eye on some of the best practices which others might have adopted to strategize the next best course of action for our employees’ safety. Having said, that, we are in no hurry to get back to the offices and are keeping a close watch on the national as well as global trends.
How do you see the future of remote work and how will technologies evolve to make flexible work easier for employees and employers?
The COVID-19 situation has turned out to be a major milestone for the digital transformation of the workplace. The work-from-home arrangement is here to stay across the verticals regardless of the size of the organizations. In this respect, digitally transformed and digitally native firms might have an advantage, as they are well equipped with an array of resources to support virtual work. Organizations that have not undergone a complete digital transformation might find it challenging and must act towards it. Heralding the new work paradigm requires the management to ensure that the employees are provided with the necessary infrastructure and all necessary support. Enhanced collaborations and communication capabilities along with cloud-based business technology will be playing a crucial role in the future of the digital workspaces.
What investments are the most necessary to create the technology environment that will allow your company to thrive in the next normal?
New business opportunities for the global tech sector seem imminent and the new normal will undoubtedly require a tectonic shift in our technology as well as cultural mindset. Remote working is going to play a massive role in the coming days, and with a number of organizations having already declared it a part of their future plans, we will be seeing a lot of investments in the areas of data and network security, cloud technologies and employee training and upskilling. It is also the time to go full speed ahead of innovation, as it will be the game changer in improving the management during and post the COVID-19 era. Another critical area of investment would be to foster a culture of empathy within the organization. Remote working has blurred the lines between work and home, and it is crucial for organizations to ensure employee wellness and mental health are at the top of their agenda if they are to flourish in this new normal.
What all technologies and digital innovations are you employing to adapt to the new normal?
We have been faced with dual challenges of ensuring business continuity and safeguarding employee health and most of our solutions were aimed at addressing these challenges. Our innovations and technologies during this period have been focused on addressing the myriad challenges that government and enterprises are facing across the globe.
In April, Pega announced a Crisis Response Solutions Portfolio to help organizations solve urgent challenges resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. The portfolio contains 18 rapidly deployable solutions that help businesses overcome a range of unpredictable issues they are facing during the pandemic – such as surges in customer inquiries, policy exceptions requests, new emergency regulations, and changing claims requirements. We also assisted the Bavarian government with technology which aided them in disbursing financial aid swiftly to people and businesses suffering in the pandemic crisis. In the early phase of the pandemic, we launched COVID-19 Employee Safety and Business Continuity Tracker app which aided us as well as our clients in identifying and taking actions through live dashboards to safeguard employees from any health hazards. Additionally, announced Pega Process Fabric™, a new cloud-based software architecture designed to radically streamline how organizations drive work across distributed enterprise technologies. With minimal deployment effort, this “platform for platforms” breaks down technology silos to unify work across the enterprise and help improve user experiences for employees, customers, and partners.
A lot of employees must be working remotely. What are your biggest challenges with respect to dealing with this new style of working?
Hundred percent of the Pega workforce has been working from home since March. As mentioned earlier, remote working can be quite challenging especially for those experiencing it for the first time. Hence, it is extremely important to empower the workforce both technologically and culturally. Empathy has been a core value of our modus operandi and we are ensuring the employees are receiving all necessary mentoring and support from us. We are being extremely flexible with our employees with regards to the timings and meetings and are ensuring that people are working as per their convenient times as long as they are able to meet the needs of the organization. Our productivity levels have gone up and with the current lockdown situation, people are available at most of the times to support each other and the organization. The enhanced collaboration in the virtual work environments has truly been a revelation and has delivered great results.
How are you collaborating with all your business leaders including the CHROs/CIOs/CTOs to make sure you have the right digital infrastructure post-COVID-19?
The ongoing situation has created a need for swift adaption and innovations to ensure the business goes on as usual. Whether it is about employee safety or ensuring seamless implementation of digital strategies, everything today requires amplified collaboration efforts from the cross-functional teams. Organizations must look to create steering committees to ensure efficient planning and building resiliency, the two factors which are crucial in preparing everyone to surf through the waves of change. At Pega, we are ensuring regular interactions across the leadership teams globally, to gauge the situation better and take the best possible measures - whether it is on resource management, IT infrastructure, or employee well-being. Collaboration within the teams, functions, and external stakeholders, is the key to a successful organization.