Birlasoft combines the power of domain, enterprise and digital technologies to reimagine business processes for customers and their ecosystem. Its consultative and design thinking approach makes societies more productive by helping customers run businesses.
As part of the multibillion dollar, diversified, CK Birla Group, Birlasoft, with its 10,000 engineers, is committed to continuing our 158-year heritage of building sustainable communities.
Shreeranganath Kulkarni, Chief Delivery Officer, Birlasoft, tells us more regarding how the company is looking at the future of work. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: How are you dealing with the Covid-19 situation? What plans have you put in place?
Shreeranganath Kulkarni: The COVID-19 outbreak is deeply concerning, and we are aligned with the world’s governments and health care leaders to ensure the safety and well-being of human lives while fighting this global pandemic. We are committed to supporting our customers’ business and to providing continuity of service.
Birlasoft has formed a COVID-19 Leadership Taskforce that meets regularly every single day, to assess the current situation. We have established a WAR room for project teams to easily reach us and use the latest information to answer questions that arise from employees, customers and suppliers to ensure we have the best response and that we all stay connected.
Birlasoft has an appropriate Business Continuity Plan in place, and we will continue to take necessary steps to ensure the safety of our employees while providing support to our customers, during this time.
DQ: Are you giving employees more control over their schedules?
Shreeranganath Kulkarni: During these challenging times, we have implemented many employee-centric initiatives to ensure that employee take control on their schedules and keep up with high-priority tasks. Large teams have been divided into microcosms to ensure business planning and project deliveries encounter no suffrage.
With a 99.6% WFH metric, employees are being encouraged to take up critical tasks within their portfolios to ensure customer confidence remains un-wavered. All teams have agreed to scheduling their work between employees and clients to optimize the online collaboration and ensure sustain productivity. We, at Birlasoft, are seeing no drop in our service levels and have ensured zero disruption; all made possible due to our employees’ commitment and drive to excel!
DQ: How are you assessing on learnings from enforced experiments around WFH?
Shreeranganath Kulkarni: The lockdowns and the enforced work-from-home scenarios have allowed us to introspect and dive deep into the perceptional value of such an engagement with our employees and customers too! We have realized that customers have been flexible to understand the concerns around COVID-19 and continue to instill trust within us.
Many of our teams are experimenting and mimicking various physical location dependent activities like meetings, events, celebration, e-connects via virtual platforms. Furthermore, we are seriously looking at balancing WfH with regular office routines, as this could become a new-norm and has its potential advantages too. This situation has given us all a few learnings around being empathetic, considering viewpoints, the importance of inclusivity and of course bringing each employee closer to each other to create a cohesive, visionary unit.
DQ: This is a challenging time for managers. What advice would you give them?
Shreeranganath Kulkarni: Managers are having their hands full, since teams are not in proximity. However, there’s a noticeable shift within team members to be responsible for their actions and activities, even with no one around to monitor them regularly.
Managers are learning that these are extraordinary times and for remote-working to work to their advantage, trusting people is essential as it leads to greater accountability and outcomes, which are at times beyond expected. Thanks to this, every employee is championing the cause for Birlasoft and helping the brand keep up with its reputation of being a “Challenger” and putting in extra efforts.
Rather than cutting any slack, the large and microcosm teams are working in sync, and providing great value. My advice to managers would be to continue doing what they do best and empower their team members to see the larger picture; where teamwork helps achieve their goals and strengthens customer’s trust.
DQ: How does work/life balance work in a crisis like this?
Shreeranganath Kulkarni: The initial days of the lockdown did find people unaware of how to deal with work/life balance. The initial few days were a challenge, however if we introspect closely, there’s only been a change in location. The balance between office duties and regular chores/gathering were always there.
Thankfully, our employees have managed quite well, and are giving us great value, along with the ability of keeping their families happy. Teams have come to an understanding of each other’s personal time, which is facilitating towards a better balance between life and work. Prioritization and planning are helping everyone in keeping motivation levels high and being safe and healthy.
DQ: What are the policy responses you would give to the MSMEs and SMEs?
Shreeranganath Kulkarni: MSMEs and SMEs are considered as the backbone of economic activity. However, due to COVID-19 worries of liquidity crunch, disrupted supply chain and a disintegrated labour force have cropped up.
However, some relief measures have been announced by the Government bodies, along with some policy waivers to help MSME(s) and SME(s) get back on their feet, once the national lockdown concludes. It is heartening to see the Government helping the median industries during this time of crisis, who are major enablers of the supply chain for manufacturing organizations.
During this time, it is also important for these industries to stay in touch with their clients and employee base to explore newer ways of delivering services. It’s a ripe opportunity to optimize the delivery structure, distribution channel and take a long-standing plunge towards accelerated product innovation.
DQ: How are you now facilitating digital work?
Shreeranganath Kulkarni: Digital is not an alternative/option. It is a way of life, and with the inclusion of new digital interventions, more and more digital natives will be born. If there was any doubt about digital work, COVID-19 and the lockdown has answered them all.
As an organization, it becomes equally important to empower our employees with the platforms and technologies to disallow any delays, mitigate risk and address challenges. Our IT infra and Infosec teams are working round-the-clock to update protocols and tech layers, to prevent fraud, data loss that could be a possibility during such a situation.
To ensure a secured workspace, all our employees and their work-related desktops/laptops are going through regular information security checks and are being provided safe and secure online collaboration platforms. Regular antivirus updates, system upgrades are being initiated virtually to put ‘digital work’ at the forefront.
DQ: How are the latest technologies going to redefine workplace?
Shreeranganath Kulkarni: If there is one huge learning from COVID-19, it must be about the readiness towards digital transformation. Organizations who have invested wisely in transformative technologies and cloud, are finding it easy to adopt to the new-norm of work-from-home.
The early adoption of cloud-tech has led to redefine the term “workplace” and soften the hard impact of lockdowns and COVID-19 for new-age organizations. A serious look is being given at leveraging new technologies at the workplace, though Birlasoft has been at the forefront of implementing many such technologies at its premises via digital kiosks at entry points, automated RFID-based parking sections and network-enabled communication rooms.
But, it’s important to take the next step towards implementing and educating the workforce on new technologies. Redefining the workplace can only happen when employees adopt technology with much vigor and hence our DigitalEdge programs, are helping towards supplementing, sustaining and enhancing employee experience, while keeping up with the trends of a modern workplace.
DQ: How do you plan for a future of ‘decent digiwork’?
Shreeranganath Kulkarni: While digital does provide a leeway into the future of work, it’s also important to note that a proper governance model must be in place to ensure that “digiwork” as a concept and its execution doesn’t hamper the core values of an organization.
The future involves adopting to the current norm of “working from home”, which is an extension of the physical workplace ethics, and means that a sizeable part of the workforce of the future could be using WfH patterns as their first line of operation. Creating an ecosystem to facilitate digiwork will start by conforming to local IT and cyber laws, maximizing potential of employees through a monitored digital framework, educating employees on digital platforms and easing their phase-in towards a workplace, powered by digital.
Just like how we empower our customers to reap the benefits of digital, the concept of digiwork can really take-off if we have the buy-in of people, robust processes and technological advancements that redefine the future of everyone involved.