Even as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are taking over the information technology (IT) services world, people are still required to execute and transform projects for clients, says Cognizant CEO Francisco D'Souza. The IT services industry is facing the triple challenge of growing automation, a decline in traditional services, and protectionism in their main markets like the US. For Cognizant -- which is based in the US but follows the model of Indian companies, given that it has a large base of workers in low-cost countries like India -- being closer to client has helped win deals. At the same time, the firm says the skills required for newer jobs are also the ones that are needed to be closer to clients. "I often hear that automation, artificial intelligence, and all of these things are going to make it less important to have human talent. That doesn't mean that there isn't a role for people in technology," D'Souza told the Times of India in an interview. "If you look at digital, it is not one thing. Some years ago, I would have said digital is SMAC (social, mobile, analytics, cloud). But today, digital is so many other things, too. It is internet of things, additive manufacturing, blockchain, and so on. In each of these areas, clients have multiple choices of technology, and multiple providers of technology. So, putting all of these together for a client has become incredibly difficult."In digital, we are increasingly hiring data scientists, designers -- those kinds of skills. Sometimes, those skills may not be available in India, and may be in other parts of the world. And even if they are available in India, we may need to have those skills closer to the client because of the nature of those skills," D'Souza said. He added that while he could not talk about the headcount at the end of the year, Cognizant would continue to hire. Further, with automation, D'Souza said, there was no doubt that parts of what the firm had done in the past had been automated and would be done with fewer hours and people. However, having said that, he added that the world was becoming more technology-intensive. In February, Cognizant struck a deal with activist investor Elliott Management, which had asked the company to return money to shareholders and shift its strategy to emerging areas generate better margins, such as digital. Cognizant committed to returning $3.4 billion to shareholders and restructured the board by bringing in three new independent directors. The results seem to be paying off, with Cognizant raising the lower end forecast for the year ahead. "For a variety of reasons, we knew that we would need to take the board through a transition. At the same time, there were several things and capabilities that we felt we needed on the board. Some of those things were technology-oriented, but equally they were capability-oriented. For example, we looked at the size and scale of Cognizant’s business today. Going forward, we felt we needed to add people with experience in running large global, distributed organisations across multiple companies. So, Zein Abdalla brings that from Pepsi," D'Souza told the HT Mint newspaper.
Despite AI, you need people to execute tech for clients: Cognizant CEO
Automation, decline in traditional services, and protectionism in main markets weighing on IT sector
BS Reporter |