Siva Ganesan, Vice President and Global Head at TCS Assurance Services Unit, blogs about applied areas of assurance for today’s digital forces.
Digital technology straddles across industries, permeates our existence, and affords us inconceivable possibilities with profound implications – from 24×7 connectivity, to latency-free, real-time collaboration and online transactions. Thanks to the internet of things, entities in the real and virtual worlds are now interconnected seamlessly, and the boundaries between them are ever more blurred. For businesses, this eradication of latency, coupled with instant digital commerce and internet of things, removes inefficiencies, but also introduces risks. There is minimal margin for error, rendering the cost of failure exponentially high, and resulting in frenetic churn-rate for overnight brands.
The digital mode of delivery has levelled the global playing field – a clear example being the rapid penetration of cellular networks, in both developed and developing markets. This profusion of mobile devices is part of a broader trend of technology becoming cheaper and more widespread. With everything online, batch and offline processes have become redundant. Today, there are five digital forces driving social and business change, and promising a more open and democratic society.
The five digital forces driving social and business change
Mobile and Pervasive Computing
The first is Mobile and Pervasive Computing. These small devices liberate us from the desktop and allow us to remain connected and transact wherever we are on the planet, whether socially or with the market. With everything online, batch and offline processes have become redundant. Providing assurance for this new world is challenging, because there is no tolerance for failure. The need – continuous assurance for mobile and handheld environments.
This leads to the second of the five forces – the Cloud, which provides access to scalable storage and processing anywhere on the planet, subject to jurisdictional differences relating to data-privacy. Distributed computing has shaken up data centres and shifted the business model for software and hardware services to that of a utility, like water or electricity. I discussed in my article ‘The Digital Default’ in TEST Magazine February 2015 issue, that providing assurance for the Cloud means tackling the challenges of reliability, availability, security and integrity, to ensure that transactions over a large distributed network are not dissipated, corrupted or diluted. The Cloud presents a clear need for continuous testing of virtualised environments and data security.
Big Data and Analytics
The third Force is Big Data and Analytics – the volume and variety of data generated every minute, thanks to connected devices and social media – driving insightful analysis and differentiation for competitive advantage. Assurance, in this context, means sustaining brand reputation and therefore customer loyalty. Enter data validation and verification for big data assurance.
Artificial intelligence and robotics
Artificial intelligence and robotics is the fourth of the five forces. Self-learning systems and robotics can deliver a highly efficient and automated transactional capability. When human activity is replaced with algorithms or robotic processes, the onus of preventing malfunction is on the assurance-provider. Managing this risk requires calibrating the correct balance between the probability of an error, and the negative impact of the error. Enter assurance in the assembly line.
The fifth force is Social Media, which is used by many companies for advertising campaigns. The power of social media to demolish barriers to participating in public conversations is one that cannot be undermined. Assuring the success of social media campaigns necessitates a return-on-investment (ROI) calculation and the end-to-end assurance of ROI. Setting the metrics for the campaign, collecting feedback from customers, and building correlations from that data against sales, while accounting for exogenous factors, is key to measuring the success of social media advertising. Assurance for social media advertising calls effective keyword research and contextual analysis, persuasive landing page content and intuitive web design – a clear case for usability and human factors – both, applied areas of assurance.
Implications for data privacy
These digital forces have profound implications for data privacy. Demarcating the line between private and public data is critical to ensuring client confidentiality and data security. Part of the solution for mitigating data security and confidentiality risks, lies in self-regulation by companies. Specifically for IT firms, protection of customer information should be top priority. Complete confidentiality has become the de-facto customer expectation – second nature to the IT industry and the information economy. The applied area of information assurance has gained importance. So long as the need for privacy and confidentiality is respected, the digital revolution promises a more open, more democratic society. Digital has become the new default mode of delivery.
As these forces merge, they present challenges such as physical safety, information security, and multiple failure points. But assurance too, with its applied areas, is rapidly evolving to manage the speed and volume of these digital forces.
An earlier version of this blog was published at #ThinkAssurance, the quality assurance (QA) and testing blog of Tata Consultancy Services.