Featured in The Financial Express – Dawn of AI era: Approach to talent is changing with deep AI integration

The dawn of the AI era is paving the way for the arrival of next-gen talent at our organizations, writes Sriram Natarajan

The Financial Express, January 21, 2024

In the pre-pandemic world, I would evaluate coding proficiency of senior developers through questions on data structures and algorithms or give them assignments on system design with scalability in mind. Now, I ask them to take a week and build the application for a Communications Service Provider’s order management system – with the help of Generative AI.

This is just one example of the dramatic change in how IT service providers want to deploy talent in the AI era. No matter which industry they serve – communications, retail, or banking – they are switching gears to apply AI across the board. Broadly, there is scope to improve customer experience by faster troubleshooting, raise operational efficiency by eliminating redundant tasks, and shorten software development lifecycles by generating code, test cases, and many more.

Already, the early adopters have invested deeply. Consider these stats: Generative AI will add $2.6-4.4 trillion in global corporate profits annually, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. Corporates, governments, and think-tanks have already begun exploring Generative AI seriously: a Gartner poll of 2500 executive leaders found 70% in exploration/investigation mode with Generative AI, while 19% had already begun pilots.

At an operational level, the new AI wave touches every instance where work can be made less human-dependant for repetitive tasks. With the advent of Gen AI over the last one year, this is taken a step further: complex tasks requiring niche human skills are now being executed through AI, enhancing service delivery with much less Cost per Output. Let me illustrate with examples.

Smart Contact Centers:  Generative AI models can translate messages from regional languages real-time,helping contact centers resolve customer issues 80% faster. This solves issues in just minutes, from what could have taken hours or even a day.

Battling order fallout: Order fallouts are a tremendous headache in the Communications industry. This means new customers do not get linked up with services like high-speed internet on time, causing negative customer experience. With Gen AI,  order fallout analysis time gets reduced by over 70%, helping teams spot bottlenecks and resolve issues quickly.

SDLC reduction: For IT teams, issue resolution, software development and testing have been highly Human Resource-intensive.  Generative AI offers huge gains across your Software Development LifeCycle (SDLC).

  • Code generation: AI-assisted code generation with developer supervision/review for high-quality, reusable code
  • Code refactoring: Improving clarity & and maintainablity of your code without affecting its external behavior
  • Code documentation: Laying down clearly what a block of code is expected to do & user guidelines on how to use it.
  • Code testing: Automated test case & script generation to accelerate test coverage.
  • IT Operations: Ticket triaging, SOP generation, Root cause & code analysis across application support and infrastructure services

The dawn of the AI era is paving the way for what I call next-gen talent. Broadly, they stand out in their ability to use advanced AI for higher productivity, faster & varied problem-solving, and crafting elevated customer experiences that require little-to-none human involvement. Here are some markers of next-gen talent.

  • Prompt engineering is now a sought-after skill. Subject Matter Experts who deeply understand problem statements, software evolution, and the working of Generative AI will be able to construct the right prompts, validate outputs, iterate effectively, and get the desired results.
  • The next-gen talent will not have to worry about gaining deep exposure to multiple coding languages and their syntaxes. Instead, a strong grasp on engineering principles and problem-solving through logical thinking will come into focus.
  • Knowledge of natural language processing, advanced programming & scripting concepts, data analysis and visualization will be the arrows in their quiver.
  • At higher levels, leaders who can incorporate AI capabilities across tasks and redefine functional goals with an AI-first approach will be spearheading change across functions.

As a global talent base for software services, India faces a huge opportunity in the dawn of the AI era. With our favourable demographic dividend and supportive policymaking, we should adopt a proactive approach to tackling disruption, kick-start strategic reskilling, and drive stronger industry-academia collaborations to ride this AI wave into a period of hypergrowth.

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