Top Cloud Trends and Sustainability Mantras | Rob Walker | AWS re:Invent | Cognizant

Top Cloud Trends and Sustainability Mantras | Rob Walker | AWS re:Invent | Cognizant

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[Music] I'm Steph   Strickland with GeekWire Studios, absolutely  thrilled to introduce you to our guest. Welcome,   Rob Walker. He is President of Cognizant's  Global Growth Markets. We appreciate you making   the time for us here. Thanks for coming. Hey, great to be here. For folks who are   unfamiliar, tell me a little bit  about Cognizant and what it does. 

Well, Cognizant is a global technology  company. We're about $20 billion in size, with   350,000 people globally. We're kind of one of  these companies you think, "how have I not heard   of you, given your size?" Fundamentally,  what we do is we're digital engineers. So,   anything companies are trying to do around  digital engagements, we do all the application   and data transformation, the fundamental hardcore  engineering that companies need to do to transform   their business. We're responsible for that. A little bit about where you came from. 

Well, I've been at Cognizant a little under  two years. I originally joined Cognizant to   lead the UK and Ireland business, and I recently  stepped into this new role as President of Global   Growth Markets around four months ago. Global  growth markets, we referred to that as all of   our international revenue outside North America.  As a company, we're still relatively young, and we   were very successful growing super fast in North  America. We grew probably more tactically outside   of North America, around certain accounts, certain  industry segments. But strategically for us, it's  

really important that we harness the opportunity  to help global companies transform their business.   And therefore, a key priority for us from  a strategy perspective is to accelerate our   international business outside North America. And  fundamentally, that's what I've been charged to do   in terms of developing a strategy, identifying  the industries we want to grow, the clients we   want to work with over the next few years to  accelerate and transform their businesses. 

One of the things that Cognizant does  particularly well is take the lessons   that have already been learned to make sure  that you're not reinventing the wheel, that   you are taking best practices and then creating  a unique solution for your particular clients.  How can the success of Cognizant  in North America help what you are   trying to accomplish outside of our sphere here? Well, it's one of the beauties of specializing in   certain technologies. Often, when companies use  this, it's the first time they're trying to do   something, be that drive advanced data analytics  or work with artificial intelligence, machine   learning for the first time or even just go on  a cloud journey. We've done that several times,   multiple times, hundreds of times across different  industries, and we can bring methodologies,   capabilities, tooling, and experiences to help  companies give them confidence about the speed   they can get there but also the ambition of what  is possible once you're there. By having starting  

with deep industry capabilities, which is where  Cognizant starts from, we're able to put that in   the context of the industries our clients operate  in and really help technology accelerate business   change and business outcomes for our clients. So then, how do you take that sort of   advisory-led approach and apply it  to something like cloud adoption?  Well, first, firstly we organize ourselves  deliberately by industry. So if you go back a   few years, we were a capability-led organization.  That meant that we had experts who could help you  

with Salesforce or cloud enablement or a number of  technical skills. We realized we needed to change   our model and go through deep industry expertise.  So we start with deep industry use cases and build   our solutioning and models and methodologies  around that. The second thing we do is we start   with a consultative mindset. So we've invested  significantly in our consulting capability,  

which helps in terms of modern technology doesn't  just start with a CIO or a CTO. Technology is   really owned by the business. 50% of decisions  are now owned outside of a technology company.   So if we want to be able to advise a client,  then we need a broad range of stakeholders in a   business. So we actually need to speak to someone  in sales if you want to do a CRM implementation.  

We need to speak to someone in supply chain if  you want to help do a new ERP implementation that   will help drive digital improvements in the supply  chain. So we'll really start with a consultative   mindset with deep industry specialism, and that  allows us to accelerate benefits for clients.  You've actually led me to something that  I think is very important and dovetails,   and you gave me a great example. I want to  talk about sustainability, particularly how it   applies to your aspect of Cognizant’s business.  When I think of something like a supply and  

manufacturing company, maybe trying to optimize  fuel efficiency or just reduce power consumption,   all of those things that can help create a  company that is better for the environment,   how do you see that unfolding as you look to  global markets? My perception is it's perhaps   easier in Europe and some other markets  than it might be here in North America.   What do you find, given that's where you started? Well, let me start with, I think sustainability   is the single biggest transformation of our  generation of business leaders. I think it   will transform business models fundamentally  in ways that we haven't yet managed to think   all the way through. I also have a core belief  that the solution to some of society's biggest  

changes on sustainability have to be enabled by  technology, and the combination of where we are   being a technology company focusing on digital  engineering. I think we're at the heart of   helping clients drive sustainability changes. And if I give you a couple of examples, look,   we know fundamentally that if you go  from running applications and data   on-prem, on legacy technology, to putting all  of those in a cloud environment where you have   greater flexibility of going up and down, that not  only can drive significant cost savings, it also   allows you to operate far more efficiently. And  then if those data centers in the cloud are then  

powered fully by sustainable power, so we happen  to be an Asia, let's say, where they've made   commitments that all of their cloud operations  will be driven by sustainable energy by 2025.   That fundamentally is a key enabler in  terms of how companies can reduce their   carbon footprint in terms of the way that  they run their complex modern technologies.  It's interesting. I know that for Cognizant, the  goal is net positive by 2030. It's a very lofty  

goal, and one of the ways that the company wants  to address getting there is to create that "here's   the end game, now let's design the process to  get there." That's a similar strategy that you   use for your clients. You talked about moving  to the cloud, but if you just -- it can be very   labor-intensive and ultimately frustrating for  a company that's entirely on-prem to move to the   cloud and do so successfully. Talk to me about  the processes that you put in place to help your  

clients get there with trust, efficiency, speed  -- all of those things that are really relevant.  Well, the good news is that technologies exist  today that allow you to de-risk that. So yes,   we bring huge capability around application  modernization so you can get your applications   ready to move into the cloud. We bring very  sophisticated data analytics, machine learning   and intelligence models that allow you to monitor  and de-risk the way through that. We also provide  

lots of different choices about the type of cloud  journey you want to go on, be that private cloud,   public cloud, some type of hybrid cloud.  And there's not a single solution for an   organization in terms of how they get there. I think we are beginning to see, though,   large-scale transformations. So very large  organizations beginning to take things into   a cloud that perhaps a few years ago they  wouldn't have done that. And I think it's  

because they've got confidence of not  only seeing what the industry is doing,   but they realize that what a little  bit of their business they can take,   actually once they're there, not only is it  more efficient but it makes your business   far more agile. It provides far more insight in  terms of actually the way that you can then run   and modernize your business post that. So it's  not just the prize of getting there and getting   some cost reductions. It's also then getting into  the cloud and taking the advantage of the flywheel  

effect you can get by rapidly scaling agility of  your business, the insight you can drive of that,   as well as just having far more flexible demand  in terms of the way that you scale up and down   from either data or application usage. So there  are huge advantages to being there, and I think   we're seeing far more appetite for companies to  do that at a larger scale than we were a couple of   years ago. We were dealing with the pandemic,  and businesses were struggling to figure   out how they could remain viable when their  entire way of doing business had to change.   It definitely drove a lot of rapid adoption, and  the technology was there to sort of back it up.  I want to talk about some of the success  stories. There are obviously some fun  

ones, like Formula One, but you also touched on  a lot of different industries. Can you give us   some tangible examples of things that your  business vertical has done in this space?  Yeah, well, let me just pick up the point on  what's happened with COVID. It's just been an   extraordinary three years to operate a business,  hasn't it? I still remember in early 2020 when,   frankly, we were wondering if we were still  going to have a business in three months' time.   There were some incredible things that  companies did to ensure business continuity,   to transform their business, to go completely  to remote working. And it did a couple of things  

that I think were extraordinary. One, companies,  having gone through that, realized they can make   technology leaps and do things more quickly  than they ever thought was possible. And then   you came out of a COVID period where companies had  probably delayed investment for a period of time.  It had two things: one, we can no longer delay  investment around our own digital transformation,   and two, look at those extraordinary things  we did when we had to operate our business.   So if we made some bold steps, we could get there  more quickly. And then that's why you have this   incredible explosion coming out of COVID of these  digital demands. And frankly, the industry wasn't  

ready from an availability perspective in terms  of having the right skills and the right resources   necessarily to drive that. So I think COVID has  had this really funny effect of just ramping   everything up around the pace of change and the  confidence that companies have around how quickly   they can get there and the risk they're prepared  to take around adopting new ways of working.  I think to give you a really crazy example on  sustainability, we work with a company called   Orica. It's an Australian company that  many people probably wouldn't have heard   of outside of mining or construction. So,  it's the world's largest explosive company,  

which is not a company you associate with  sustainability. But frankly, if you're going   to have to make large complex construction  or mine, you can either choose to do that in   a really efficient way or you can choose to do  that in a really legacy way. And we're working   with Orica around examining the geostructural  shape of rocks, ensuring that the drill point   when you blow things up is entirely right, the  quantity of explosives that you use is right, so   that when you do mine and you are mining, the size  of the rock is entirely right for being crushed or   being transported. And that is reducing the carbon  footprint of mining up to about 40%. So, in what  

is, you know, there's an example of an industry  that people would look to and go, that's a really   challenging space to demonstrate sustainability  improvements. But we're building technology and   platforms that can demonstrate how that company  can reduce their carbon footprint by up to 40%,   and I think those changes are phenomenal. If I give you another one, which I think   could literally change the way that we consume  food. We're working with a number of agricultural   and fish industries around the way that you  use technology to monitor the way that fish   farms operate. So, you have these huge tanks  full of millions and millions of fish. We can  

use camera technology to identify the health of  each fish. There is actually a unique fingerprint,   in the same way that we have unique fingerprints,  the scale patterns of fish are unique.   So, we can look at the unique health and welfare  of a fish. We can look at both the food and the   antibiotics that you need in fish farms around  the rate to ensure that as it falls through the   fish farm, you're not wasting food. That's the  biggest cost for fish farms. And now you combine   that with modern technology, which is all about  data, artificial intelligence, machine learning,   IoT, using cameras to combine that, you can  increase food production by 30-40% and reduce   costs at the same time. Now you think about  the impacts on the ocean of sustainable fish,  

that has the potential to change the world. And  that is an amazing example of the application   of technology in a modern way of working that  could fundamentally change the way that the   world consumes fish. Those things are just  hugely exciting in terms of the application   of technology. And that's really why I believe  technology is the key solution for sustainability,   as businesses and industries have  to adopt different ways of working.   The former agriculture reporter in me absolutely  loves hearing about that, how far we've come,   and really harvesting the power of artificial  intelligence, machine learning, technology,   the cloud, all of that to deliver those solutions. I do have to ask about Formula One, something   everybody loves. Tell me a little bit  about that and how that interesting  

partnership came about with Aston Martin. Yeah, well, for those who may not be familiar,   we are the title sponsors of the Aston Martin  Cognizant Formula One team. For me personally,   I'm based in the UK, Aston Martin is an amazing  brand to be associated with. It's the first time  

they came back into Formula One in over  60 years, so it was a unique partnership   in terms of how do you create a new team, a new  brand in probably one of the highest-performance   sports on the face of the planet. So we're doing a number of things   for them. Each car has over 250 sensors on  it, and every time it goes around the track,   that data has to be assessed in real-time. So  we're helping with the flow of data off the car,  

the way that's being assessed. The difference in  cars is fundamentally on aerodynamics, and there   are a huge number of regulations about how long  you get to develop the car. You're only allowed to   use a 60% scale model in a wind tunnel. So it's an  incredibly technical, highly regulated industry.  The more time you can get around examining the  flow of that data, the way that you govern that   between different departments, we're doing a  huge amount of work with Aston Martin about   the way they assess and improve the use of data  and doing very complex aerodynamic calculations.  

Fundamentally, it's made the car go quicker. And the other thing, which for those who aren't   familiar with Formula One, is typically a track  is three and a half to four kilometers long,   and the difference between being third in  qualification and 15th in qualification can   be half a second. That's equivalent to 50-80  meters on a three and a half to four-kilometer   race track. So the differences are so tiny  that the improvements you can make really   can transform the way the car operates. But we know with Aston Martin, it will be   a three to four to five-year journey. You  don't just rock up in Formula One and put   a car on the front of the grid with all the  regulatory changes. So we're really excited  

about the journey we can make and hopefully over  the next couple of years demonstrate that the   Aston Martin will go further up the grid and get  more podiums. We're very, very excited about that.  As often is the case in sporting  events and high-performance events,   the technology developed now five years from  now, further down the road, has applications.  Beyond just the thrill of motorsports, I do  want to ask you about some of the challenges   of cloud adoption. Right now, we've discussed  the need several years ago, and that rapidly   accelerated things. What do you view now as  a challenge that Cognizant can help overcome?  Actually, I'm less bothered about the technology  challenges. I don't think it's really a technical   complexity. The technologies exist today to  ensure that whichever type of migration you want,  

you can do that safely and at pace. The real  challenge is the human challenge. The industry is   short of resources, and companies themselves don't  have enough expertise around the cloud. Companies   don't exist for technology; they exist to delight  their customers in retail or banking or whatever   industry they operate in. That's where they're  experts, so they're not experts in cloud adoption.  

They don't have the experience, the capabilities  in what is a very, very tight labor market.  So, I think what Cognizant brings  are a combination of things. Firstly,   real confidence around transformation because  we've done it lots of times before and we know   the context for which clients operate. But then  also, highly skilled individuals the clients   wouldn't ordinarily have access to within their  own technologies. And those individuals also   operate in the industries where clients themselves  operate, so they're deeply embedded in terms of   understanding both the technology transformation  but also the business enablement, the business   outcome the clients are trying to drive. I think that combination of really sophisticated   individuals with the right skills who operate  in the industries with the right consultative   mindset is quite a unique aspect of the way  that we can help clients on their cloud journey. 

The company itself has guests. Right,  one step. One-steppers need is for you.   What does it mean as a representative of  Cognizant to be a visionary in the space,   to propel cloud adoption, machine learning,  artificial intelligence, and all of these   things coming together? What does it mean to be in  this space at the forefront of where we're headed?  Well, our tagline is 'Intuition Engineered,' and  being a typical cynical Brit, when I first saw   that, I kind of went, 'I'm not entirely sure.'  I was a bit confused by it. It was two words you   don't often see together. The good news is I've  got a marketing expert because actually, the more   I thought about it, the more I thought that's an  incredible combination of factors that we can help   clients adopt. Sometimes it's our intuition, more  often than not, it's our own clients' intuition of  

what they're trying to do with their business,  what is the business outcome they're trying to   achieve, and we can help the engineering of  that. So all the nuts and bolts that go into   making business outcomes with modern technology,  in terms of shutting down legacy technology,   adopting it into modern ways of working, all  of that engineering can deliver intuition or   a business outcome that our clients desire. I got  to really love 'Intuition Engineered' as a tagline   once I understood it and once I got over my normal  cynicism that sometimes Brits are known for.  Changing minds one at a time.  Let's talk about why it's important for Cognizant  to have a presence here and be a partner with AWS.  Yeah, well, we are delighted with our partnership  with AWS. It's been a longstanding partnership for  

us. It really is a unique way of working with  a partner to drive business outcomes. Reinvent,   for those who haven't had the opportunity to come  here, it's one of the most remarkable weeks that   exists in a technology calendar. Every single  day, there is a new announcement from AWS about   a different innovation they're driving, be that  very specific to industries and more general from   a broad technology perspective. Understanding  those transformations, the innovations that   AWS is bringing out and ensuring that we can  have conversations with our clients and with   AWS about how do we apply those changes, those  innovations into our client space make this a very   unique event for us. I've certainly had a number  of conversations with clients this week with AWS   where we're talking about jointly developing a  solution or an outcome that would fundamentally   change the way that our clients would do  business in the future, either from an innovation   perspective or greater efficiency perspective, and  that makes it quite unique in terms of all doing   that in one space in one week across multiple  clients, which is why this is an amazing week.  What's the best part of your job? Uh, the best part of my job, there are lots   of great parts of my job. I mean, fundamentally,  the thing that I get most energized about is  

spending time with clients and helping them solve  problems, because generally companies like us are   bought in to solve a complex problem the clients  are unable to solve themselves or resolve at the   pace they want to solve. And I think as soon as  you can understand the application of technology   around business outcomes, that is very, very  rewarding. But the bit I also love in our job,   and this is very important to us, is the sense  of people development. You know, we are 350,000   people. We are only as good as the person we  put in front of a client. And so, therefore,  

the importance on development, the importance of  our culture in terms of putting clients first,   that bit is hugely important for me. And I  think as a leader, the most rewarding thing you   can do is help someone develop and do something  quicker than they ordinarily would have believed   themselves. And anytime we have an opportunity to  do that, where you can look back on an individual   over the last couple of years and they go,  "Wow, that was incredible," I joke that I think   cognizant operates dog years. A year at cognizant  is worth five or six years at any organization in   terms of the access you get to learn new things,  to work with great companies. But that development   where people are doing things and teams are doing  things, working together, I find hugely rewarding.   Well, I feel like I've picked up about seven  years of knowledge just sitting here with you.  

Pleasure to speak with you. This is Rob Walker,  the President of Cognizant Global Growth Markets.   Everyone, thank you so much for your time.  I'm Steph Strickland with GeekWire Studios.  [Music]

2023-03-31 20:56

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