Digital Technology
Jan 28, 2015

Enough talk: It’s time to get SMAC to work

January 28, 2015 - The convergence of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) capabilities maturity is redefining how companies do business and perform. Regrettably, all the “SMAC talk” about such transformation will remain just that – talk – for those companies that fail to “dive deep” into their own operations in order to apply the art of the possible where it matters (and only there).

New technology paradigms always send disruptive shockwaves through the C-Suite, from CEO to CFO to COO, and back. But the venture-capital-fueled euphoria that SMAC is presently inducing has so far kept executive attentions focused mostly on potential B2C client-facing applications, where all the low-hanging fruit is. As a result, CEOs often end up not getting involved in the details of technology, opting instead to delegate the role to those more tech savvy than them.

All of that is about to stop in 2015.

How the best companies will run in 2020 will look quite different from how they now do. That future starts now. The reshaping of the inner workings of their operations will begin in the year ahead. That is why so many leaders have begun asking: “How do you get our enterprise operations into 2017 with tangible results, yet also put us on a path that gets us where we’ll need to be in 2020?” Their question is motivated by the healthy desire to have “a story for my stakeholders that proves our company isn’t at risk of becoming a dinosaur” while meeting the business necessity of the next two years of business, and being able to pivot agilely as the market changes.

This shift in thinking has profound implications for the business models of those companies aiming to avoid extinction. SMAC technology promises to change everything. It will allow tech-genome-rich (i.e.,"software-defined”) companies to make inroads into a number of fields that were previously off limits to them, and successfully complete with analog incumbents in the process.

Want more concrete examples? Take GE. Right now, it is out to transform itself partly into a software and analytics company. Why? Because it knows it has more of the industrial-machine data that will be elemental to harnessing the rapidly-rising “Internet of Things” then anyone else in business today. Or consider what has happened in online retailing over the last 15 years. Specifically, ponder how Amazon could first virtually erase so many mega book retailers from the brick-and-mortar landscape, and then quickly moving on to taking out other merchandisers across almost every retail sector.

Then, of course, there is impact that IT infra (cloud services) has had. Think Uber and taxis. Think consulting firms who are increasingly losing point engagements to non-traditional on-demand consultants who use better social and collaboration tools to find each other and work together. Think of the “exponentially scalable organizations” that harness technology and smart resourcing (sourcing, outsourcing, crowdsourcing, open innovation) to trump scale and incumbency.

Our (mine, your) businesses are next.
We find ourselves at a moment in history where a massive redefinition of competitive spaces is taking place. Porters’ 5 Forces in every industry are being reshaped by technology’s ability to change front and back offices, and to either get you disrupted, or make you the disruptor. Nor is scale the force it was. Smaller competitors can greatly pain the big ones today. Think of insurer Ironshore, which shows how one can expand specialty insurance segments almost from scratch by harnessing new operating models and technology.

So what's the impact on your company’s back-to-front-office execution chain? For instance, what is straight-through-processing (STP) in an age of machine learning, or even deep learning? Computers are already better than doctors at detecting some cancer from complicated images – and the role of the basic human radiologists has been in jeopardy for some time. What does level 0, 1, 2 or 3 client support mean in this sort of world? For that matter, what do such operating models become when predictive and prescriptive analytics are able to realize 95 percent accuracy for simpler or more data-intensive recommendations such as with tech support, or with help in choosing an insurance policy or with dealing with a claim, or with giving wealth management clients real time advice? What happens now that we can have real-time customer sentiment detection, or automated personal assistants? Or when virtual reality can make your desktop become the size of your office. Or when you get real time voice translation (Skype will do beta on this later this year)? And when you can have Google Glass type technology deployed at scale in field operations (rest in peace its fashion use…)? Or when remote controlled robots can teleport you where you want…and untether you from the usual static computer?

What is your role, if you want to be part of that future? For starters, you should try to be really good at combining people, analytics, and technology and reimagine business processes with that vision.

We try to get our own clients to embrace this philosophy. That’s where proper business alignment – through, for example, adoption of a Smart Enterprise ProcessesSM framework, and focus on how companies work (as opposed to grand strategy slides) – can keep us honest, and separate SMAC impact from empty talk. That is why the focus should be on how SMAC can make those operations, those activities performed every minute by thousands of people, "intelligent."

About the author

Gianni Giacomelli

Gianni Giacomelli

Chief Innovation Leader

Gianni serves as Chief Innovation Leader where he drives and sponsors Genpact’s strategic initiatives aimed at sustaining clients’ transformation into digitally-enabled companies. He also co-leads the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) efforts to set up a Collective Intelligence Design Lab.