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ThoughtWorks Bats Thoughtfully, calls for Leveraging Tech Responsibly

Across the globe, there’s a lot of demand for data mesh, data platforms and modernising data ecosystems.
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Thoughtworks is a global technology company that provides software design and delivery, and tools, and consulting services to drive digital innovation. Every year the MNC conducts its annual technology event XConf across multiple countries worldwide. XConf India 2022 concluded recently in Bangalore on July 29.

On the sidelines of XConf India, Vanya Seth, head of technology at ThoughtWorks India, spoke to Analytics India Magazine about how the organisation leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to cater to its clients, the challenges modern tech-based companies face, how ThoughtWorks is helping to deal with those challenges, the organisation’s future roadmap and more. 

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AIM: How does ThoughtWorks use AI and ML to cater to its clients?

Vanya Seth: Our five primary service areas are data platforms, data mesh, intelligent products, data strategy and data governance. And if you look at these services, they stretch across the spectrum of organisations in terms of their data needs. We help organisations with aspects like – how to start winning with data and how to become data-guided and take decisions on top of data. We help them modernise their data platforms and bring covenants to their data in terms of standards and nomenclatures, while ensuring that the data is interoperable. 

Moreover, there often arise compliance and regulation issues and data privacy and security issues – we help our clients through these. Different organisations face different challenges. For instance, in the Indian market, you have legacy organisations with zero clue about what to do with data; on the other end, you have scaleups and startups born in the digital age. We are helping these organisations in different ways to advance their agenda on how they work with data, how they play with data, and how they win with data. 

AIM: ThoughtWorks is providing a lot of tech-based solutions. In which areas do you see the demand soar?

Vanya Seth: There’s a lot of demand for data mesh, data platforms and in modernising data ecosystems. Many clients are on Hadoop or on-prem and want to move to the cloud. They want to build data platforms in the cloud to bring that data culture into their organisation. Across the globe, we are seeing very strong patterns for data platform modernisation, data ecosystem modernisation, data mesh and AI and ML in decision-making.

AIM: What are the challenges that the industry, as a whole, is facing and how is ThoughtWorks dealing with those?

Vanya Seth: Organisations are facing a lot of challenges. They don’t have any data standards; they are not thinking about data privacy and security. Data governance has become the biggest pain point. There is data lying everywhere but not fit to be consumed effectively. One of the biggest concerns we are hearing from our clients is how to remain compliant and implement things like GDPR and ensure data security in the cloud. 

Many organisations regulated in the space cannot move their data to the cloud. They have to have data inside their own on-prem data centres, but how do they still leverage the cloud’s computing power and bring their data back? All of these are complex problems to be solved. So we are working with a lot of clients to do this right. In India, we’re working with almost all the major banks to help them become much more data-enabled.

AIM: What are the AI strategies ThoughtWorks is implementing to help clients scale faster?

Vanya Seth:We want to enable fast decision-making. In layman’s terms, AI is a way to automate complex problems that have multiple permutations and combinations such that they can’t be broken down into a set of if-else conditions for sequencing. In such areas, we use AI. Now, if there are decisions within the organisation that require that sort of computational overload, we would use AI in our strategy for the organisation. The approach is simple. You look at a large problem and break it down into smaller bits, then solve each bit using some AI model. For instance, Vakyansh — our work in the Indic languages to convert automatic speech into text – uses a series of AI models to convert speech into text, including punctuations, to make it more readable for humans.

AIM: Which are the areas where AI is being increasingly adopted?

Vanya Seth: It’s tough to zero in on an area, but I think every industry is equally excited about AI. Fraud and risk management is a critical use case in the financial space. Automatic credit scoring is another important aspect of financial risk management. In retail, managing smart inventories, dynamic pricing, strategic pricing, assessing the shelf life of a product, placement of products in aisles in a store — like which products should be at the front, etc. All of these are modelling simulation problems, and AI is here to help. 

Our engineering research service line is running completely out of India, solving large, complex problems with AI. AI is finding its way and usage across the industry across segments, whether it’s healthcare, retail, or finance. So it’s almost everywhere.

AIM: How is ThoughtWorks implementing AI to improve the organisation’s operational efficiency?

Vanya Seth: ThoughtWorks is a tech-at-core organisation. We have an entire data platform powering our business, which leverages analytics and builds it in the cloud. At any point in time, all our functions, be it recruitment, demand, capability, or development, all of these functions are data-driven. ThoughtWorks is using data analytics, data platform and AI in some cases, like forecasting for recruitment wherever it makes sense to manage our own efficiencies and be a better data-driven organisation. 

AIM: Cloud prices are rising. As a tech consultant, how do you provide an optimal solution to your clients? 

Vanya Seth: The first and foremost thing is that our teams are aware of what they’re doing. Monitoring the cloud costs is necessary. Organisations need to be vigilant about the systems and the resources they use.Moving to the cloud doesn’t mean that your costs are going to come down. On the contrary, they can escalate quickly unless you’re on top of them. So we influence our clients to think about the best way to optimise their cost, think in terms of what is the right tool for the job and provide them with an assessment of how the services are compared to the prices of these services across other cloud providers. All these analyses go into designing the best way to move forward in solving a given problem. 

AIM: How is ThoughtWorks ensuring sustainability for its customers and itself?

Vanya Seth: ThoughtWorks is part of the Green Software Foundation. We are a part of the steering committee of this Foundation. Recently, ThoughtWorks was a part of the Green Software Foundation Summit, where the representative spoke on how technology can become a part of the solution. Internally, ThoughtWorks is committed to reducing its scope three emissions by 85% by 2030. Also, many changes are happening in our organisation to reduce the carbon footprint of every Thoughtworker — reducing our air travel and our commute time. So, there are a lot of initiatives from policy, people, process and technology standpoints to reduce our carbon emissions. We have a system called cleantech service line, which creates points of view and offerings for helping clients kickstart their sustainability journey.

AIM: What is the roadmap ahead for ThoughtWorks?

Vanya Seth: Digital transformation is heavily on our agenda. We want organisations to be technical. We want to help organisations build digital products and play with the work that technology does to deliver solutions and benefit their customers. Also, responsible technology – that’s another area that ThoughtWorks is extremely passionate about. As technologists, when building systems, we have this mindset that everything is good, but there are a lot of unintended consequences. So the idea is, how do you create an equitable tech future such that technology does not have negative consequences on the population. Also, how to account for invisible factors in the design strategy development process. So that’s what responsibility is about, and ThoughtWorks is extremely passionate about it.

AIM: What message would you like to give to your readers?
Vanya Seth: I think technology is an enabler. Unless we know how to leverage technology responsibly, we’ll always be on the back foot. So I would say that leverage technology and think about being an organisation with tech at the core. Leverage technology in whatever you do – whether it’s data or emerging technology. However, think responsibly as well. Technology with responsibility is the message that I want to pass on to other leaders.

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Zinnia Banerjee
Zinnia loves writing and it is this love that has brought her to the field of tech journalism.

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