Digital Transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: An Interview with Cleo CEO, Mahesh Rajasekharan
Mahesh Rajasekharan is President and CEO of Cleo, a global software company providing ecosystem-driven cloud integration solutions designed for companies focusing on delivering value through business outcomes to their customers and trading partners.
Rajasekharan, who holds a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University and an MBA from UC Berkeley Haas, has been with Cleo since 2012, and from the beginning, he helped establish the company as a global leader in integration software, and shaped the company’s reputation through thought leadership, product innovation and customer-service excellence.
Today, we had the opportunity to sit down with Cleo CEO, Mahesh Rajasekharan to discuss the dominant forces of digital transformation that are reshaping the technology landscape and forcing businesses into adaptive change that’s redefining how they are advancing their integration strategy and remastering their business ecosystems.
Today, I want to focus on digital transformation. To get things started, what does the term mean to you?
For a lot of organizations, seeing the potential in digital transformation is all a bit fuzzy. The issue might simply be that the term – not the idea – caught on without necessarily being well understood by everyone using it. The result is that the term digital transformation entered the mainstream through hype and overuse rather than measurable outcomes. But, if you cut through all the noise, and focus back on what is real and achievable by the business, there is a lot of value there.
To me, digital transformation is a term that cleanly captures the new age we are entering – you might say the next great revolution – the Fourth Industrial Age. Take for instance, the dominance of digital technologies. Digital technology has come to characterize everything from product design to the way the companies are transforming traditional offerings. Then layer on top of these two factors mass customization and modern approaches to marketing and you get a sense of how pervasive digital technologies are in terms of reshaping the way businesses generate, deliver, and consume services and data. Further, when effectively leveraged by the business, digital technologies have the potential to drive significant growth which translates to increasing revenues, cost reduction and operational optimization.
What are the technologies you see on the bleeding edge of digital transformation efforts?
If you look at fundamental technologies at the forefront of digital transformation efforts, there are several categories I would highlight. Digital technologies, which were once independent, have all been unleashed – from cloud computing to artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced analytics, to the human-machine interface.
First, cloud computing really signifies a paradigm shift from a few years ago. There used to be the idea of cloud washing. A lot of businesses were concerned that the cloud was mostly hype. Today however, the cloud is proven. It is saving organizations money while providing them with greater levels of reliability and limitless scalability. Now, virtually every interaction we have relates to the cloud in one way or another, and is reflected with common strategic approaches to digital transformation including “cloud first” and “cloud only.”
Secondly, out of the cloud, there’s advanced analytics, including artificial intelligence and machine learning which are being delivered as a services. Analytics is really a better word for big data. And a lot of companies are using different styles of analytics to drive predictive and descriptive intelligence initiatives. The goal is to try and monetize data in new ways, and companies are making new and important discoveries in really creative ways.
Finally, and this isn’t strictly a technology, but it is important, is the human-machine interface. The push here is to design things for better customer experiences. Subsequently, the types of experiences created through innovative services are really starting to close the distance in human-machine interactions which is the ultimate outcome of the fourth industrial revolution.
What do you think is the biggest technology challenge that most companies face in their digital transformation efforts today?
First, let’s address the fact that there are quite a few challenges out there, so I will try to cover one we see on a regular basis.
At the top in terms of ubiquity and difficulty has to be the proliferation of special-purpose business applications. Ironically, these applications are designed to address challenges rather than create them. However, applications delivered on multiple clouds and from multiple vendors are creating a new level of complexity when it comes to integration scenarios. Increasingly, technology decisions are being decentralized. IT is no longer the sole decision maker in terms of the tools being used inside the organization. Instead, individual departments or business units are shaping requirements for the applications they need to address specific business-oriented use cases.
Now, it’s extremely critical for digital businesses to find a way to integrate these really specialized, verticalized, and niche applications to make sure that they are all connected. This implies the ability to report on the application data.
Take for example, the Salesforce CRM. The business may be using ServiceMax or Support Center for support. Now if a sales person is trying to accurately forecast an opportunity with an existing customer in Salesforce, it is essential to know whether the existing customer has an active support ticket. Without the proper integration of support data into the CRM, there is a blind spot leaving the sales person with an incomplete picture of the factors impacting their opportunity. Whereas, if the support system is integrated with the CRM, the sales person in this case would have visibility to the support activity. With this added insight, the sales person could potentially accelerate the support resolution, reassure the customer, and more accurately forecast the opportunity.
To briefly recap, the proliferation of specialized business applications signifies the need for companies to integrate them. Extrapolating a bit, this implies the need to run seamless end-to-end business processes and cost optimization processes with the ability to report on information in a conclusive way that generates insight to power more informed business decisions.
Finally, how does Cleo enable companies to face the challenges associated with digital transformation?
The ability to facilitate frictionless data interactions between businesses and across applications is proving a demarcation line between successful companies and those falling short of digital transformation goals. So, within the framework of a digital transformation strategy, Cleo helps companies digitally remaster themselves by enabling the fluidity of multi-enterprise, multi-cloud, multi-application information flows that constitute meaningful and impactful business processes.
As such, the majority of the value in a digitally transformed world is going to be realized in digital ecosystems – collections of companies, their data, and business processes – with the ability to seamlessly interact. With the ability to seamlessly interact across the digital ecosystem, you’re going create value. But the inverse is also true. In other words, value creation happens as you reshape your business into the context of a digital ecosystem in the digitally transformed world.
Cleo Integration Cloud combines integration service and technology to provide the most flexible and frictionless way to exchange business-to-business data. A leading-edge platform focusing on creating value at the edges of business ecosystems, Cleo Integration Cloud shields your business from the complexities of multi-enterprise and application integration, and further enables the real-time visibility and governance required to gain insight and control across your critical partner and customer relationships.