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Launch of The Loft – A Digital "Technovation" Lab



March 19, 2018

Launch of The Loft – A Digital

RRD Global Outsourcing Solutions has launched a new workspace in its primary delivery location in Chennai, India called ‘The Loft’ to accelerate the development and dissemination of technological and digital innovations for leading organizations and clients.

We reached out to Viswas Parameshiah, RRD Global Outsourcing’s Director of IT Software to get a better understanding of what the Loft is all about.

1. What is the Loft and how does it represent a change for RRD's service delivery centers?

The Loft is a unique work space that will house our most technically savvy team members. RRD Loft colleagues will include people from departments across support functions, technology enablement as well as team specific operations.

From a functional perspective, the Loft will be an incubation center for the development and implementation of new technology. Its mission is to identify, study and adapt new tools to advance the operational needs of our clients. It will serve as an active nexus for the dissemination of knowledge and insight. Our primary goal is to accelerate the transition of exploratory technology into mainstream operations for real-world client engagements.

The cross functional representation of the Loft will be especially intriguing in light of the diverse nature of our operations. Our operational leaders include professionals from the worlds of creative design, transaction processing, automation, analytics, software development and other specialization areas. Bringing all of these worlds together in one room creates a mood that vibrates with possibilities.

2. What outcomes do you envision from this initiative in the coming years?

First and foremost we want to reveal business uses for our newly emerging tools and rapidly disseminate them throughout our global operational platform.

To do so, we’re creating a culture in the Loft that encourages experimentation that can fail fast and safely. This approach to testing is not easily executed in our standard operational environment where the primary criteria of evaluation is immediate efficiency and cost minimization.

RRD’s Loft will foster a practice of theoretical experimentation where ideas are as important as day-to-day operational outcomes. From theory, we will shift to barebones working models before proceeding to proofs of concept within actual operations. Through this methodology, the Loft will become our global platform’s spearhead of innovation.

Operational practioners and senior leadership equally recognize that effective experimentation requires cross-functional representation from both a technical skill and vertical know-how vantage point. Furthermore, The Loft will incorporate the contributions of several key strategic vendors for highly specialized experiments that require unique hardware, proprietary innovations or technology.

3. How does The Loft impact your learning and development plans for the RRD workforce?

Greatly. Technology know-how is highly segmented today and we expect this problem to worsen as the scope of the digital revolution expands. The Loft will serve as a forum to educate leaders about the scope of technological possibilities to reduce missed opportunities that occur when people are not aware of viable solutions—another words, “they don’t know what they don’t know”.

The Loft will be our custom-designed destination to discover what specific new skills we need to develop among our operational teams so they are fully prepared for the future.

4. What are some examples of emerging technology that The Loft will help disseminate throughout our global platform?

We have a large operational team of nearly 10,000 employees providing support for hundreds of clients with a very diverse range of requirements. So the list of different technologies we’re pursuing to support these needs is long and impressive.

In terms of scope, we are currently seeing many opportunities for service delivery automation for our mass transactions processing functions. We are also observing interesting possibilities for machine learning, chat bots, automated predictive analytics, data visualization, speech-to-text and so on. Our challenge of the moment is to provide each innovation the full attention it deserves.

I’ve learned that when you introduce the varied technological needs of our client base with the full scope of possibilities of the Chennai, India labor market a lot of interesting things happen.

I know it’s fashionable for people to look at RRD Global Outsourcing Solutions and its competitors in Silicon Valley as the world’s epicenters of innovation. But our Chennai operations are where theoretical technology dreams are turned into at-scale operational reality.

5. Do you see The Loft as a sign of additional cultural changes on the horizon for the workplaces of India and the global workforce in general?

Absolutely. When the concept of digital technology arrived, the natural response of operations was to create a specialized information technology team to disseminate the new tools. But eventually the IT and Operations teams will merge into one. Every team will be an IT team.

The full merging of these two functions will be the natural outcome of the growing pervasiveness of technology.

Today we often see the wisdom of the old adage that warns against “too many cooks in the kitchen”. The operations manager, the technologist, the process designer, the automation developer, the solutions architect, and so on, all approach the same challenge with different hats and at times conflicting visions. We need to work towards a future in which the unique perspectives of these professions are harmonized into a cohesive whole.

6. If we look 20 years into the future, what changes do you expect to see in the workplace that we will see as a descendant of new approaches to office space in the tradition of The Loft?

Once our work culture adapts to the pace of technological change, I expect the need for a special space for technology incubation to subside. Long-term all office space will be integral to Global Outsourcing Solutions’ innovation.

Today most technology innovation is re-active to specific problems. But more and more we are seeing new technology tools arriving before operations recognizes the applicable business case. Answers are coming into focus before the questions.

In the future, operations across the board will need to be as creative and dynamic as the innovators in order to keep up with the pace of growing possibilities.

[End of Interview]

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