Cognizant CEO: Company to Continue AI, Analytics Investments

Cognizant will continue to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics as it looks to expand the scope within its three digital practice areas – Digital Business, Digital Operations and Digital Systems & Technology – and take advantage of growth opportunities, according to company CEO Francisco D’Souza.

“Within Digital Business, we’re focused on investing heavily on interactive and on AI and analytics,” he said Nov. 16 in New York at the company’s first-ever Investor Day.

Across all three Cognizant digital practices, the company is focused on investments in six advanced digital capabilities, he said. In addition to interactive and analytics/AI within Digital Business, Cognizant is concentrating on intelligent process automation and industry/platform solutions within Digital Operations and core modernization and digital engineering within Digital Systems & Technology, according to D’Souza.

This is a time in which “technology is having a really profound impact on many, many parts of the economy,” he said at the start of the event. “Today’s digital technology, which brings together software that learns, plus massive processing power and enormous amounts of data, are creating more engaging customer experiences, they’re eliminating industrial age inefficiencies and really amplifying human productivity,” he said.

He told attendees: “This fast-moving digital buildout is disrupting many aspects of commerce, of government and society, and presenting significant opportunities for our company.” Cognizant’s management team is “passionately dedicated to winning in the marketplace and we’re energized by these prospects,” he said. The company is helping clients pursue digital initiatives, while “we speed our own pivot to digital to seize the substantial market opportunity ahead,” he noted.

Across the various industries and geographies Cognizant has a presence in, “we have tremendous headroom for growth in areas where we already have strong presence with proven capabilities, with experienced teams and with market credibility,” he said.

To date, Cognizant has “seen solid growth of our digital offerings” in healthcare and banking industries especially, he pointed out. But he said: “We believe that we can achieve similar levels of market penetration and scale in many of the other industries that we serve.”

To that end, Cognizant added 21 clients so far this year that it considers strategic – more than 80% of them outside of banking and healthcare, he said, noting that other sectors the company serves include technology and information, media and entertainment.

“We believe that many, if not all of these industries, are large enough to support multi-billion-dollar businesses for Cognizant, and we have a strong position in each of them to support that ambition,” he told attendees.

“All of this puts us right in the middle of” the financial technology (“fintech”), as well as the “health tech, the biotech and the smart product revolutions,” he said. Therefore, Cognizant’s “market opportunities are only going to get larger as digital continues to permeate and transform every industry,” he predicted.

Cognizant also sees “significant market upside” in growth outside the U.S., he said. The company already “achieved market leadership” in North America, but its businesses outside the U.S. crossed the $3 billion mark for the first time last year, he pointed out.

“By replicating our North American market share in our core global markets, we see a potentially addressable fivefold opportunity for growth over the next five to seven years,” he said, adding: Cognizant “has been investing heavily across Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America, where many country markets have already become significant growth engines for us.”

The company already expanded its client roster through those continued investments and several countries can become $1 billion businesses for Cognizant “early in the next decade,” he said.

The six key technology capabilities cited by D’Souza that serve as the core of Cognizant’s digital strategy represent a combined $500 billion-plus market opportunity for the company, according to Malcolm Frank, EVP of strategy & marketing.

Providing more details about Cognizant’s AI initiatives, Frank said the company now has more than 20,000 data, analytics and AI technology specialists, more than 500 data scientists and more than 6,000 AI, machine learning (ML) and cognitive experts.

“There’s a war for talent in this market,” he said of the AI space, adding: 
“People who know AI cold are massively concentrated in probably a dozen-dozen and a half companies around the world and we’re one of them. And we need to continue to press on the accelerator on that front.”

AI, meanwhile, is “no longer the domain of debates [although,] in some places, people still debate [whether we’re] going to be working for our robot overlords in 20 years,” he told attendees. AI is also “no longer about science projects,” he said, pointing out the technology now is “really just the next-generation productivity tool.”

Cognizant is bringing analytics, AI and ML across various use cases in multiple industries it has a presence in, he said. As examples, for targeted marketing and personalization, Cognizant offers ML and natural language processing, while for customer service transformation, it offers intelligent response agents and chatbots, according to the company.

Cognizant is also helping some auto makers with autonomy, but Frank said: “There’s a faster-moving space, which is around robotics” and assembly lines. IT automation, meanwhile, presents a “great double win” that “we strongly encourage our clients to do” because the client gets automation benefits in IT, while its IT staff learns tools and can start to deploy them across their organizations, he said.

We are, meanwhile, now “evolving into the fifth wave of corporate IT,” he went on to say. This fifth “digital wave is by far the biggest” and it’s “moving so much faster” than the prior waves (mainframe from 1960-1976, minicomputer 1976-1992, distributed PC 1992-2001 and Internet 2001-2017), he said, adding: “We’re probably in the second inning of this baseball game.”

There is a lot of “turmoil and change” being seen in the communications, media and entertainment sector “due to digital,” he also said. Netflix is now “going after bigger prey” than Blockbuster and “targeting the “media goliaths,” he said, noting Netflix now has more subscribers in the U.S. than all of pay-tv combined and “they’re just getting warmed up.”