Event Summary


Summary of Day 1, Sept 15th, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic, along with factors both new and old, have reshaped 2020 in ways no one foresaw. Now, decisions made in response are likely to redefine the status quo and steer the world’s direction for future decades.

Confluence 2020, Infosys’ annual thought leadership conference, brought together experts in a broad range of fields to discuss technological disruption, globalism, social justice, nationalism, and the current recession. The speakers and panels of industry leaders launched the conference’s first of two days. Hosted virtually from the Infosys’ Hartford, Connecticut Innovation Hub, the event drew more than 1,000 participants from around the world. Participants were welcomed by state’s governor, Ned Lamont.

CEOs, executives, and public intellectuals examined the factors that led the world to this point, how businesses and governments have managed the pandemic, and what is needed to move past this financial and medical crisis.

Globalism versus nationalism

The world’s global order has been marching steadily forward, founded on the assumption that all humans share the same core experiences, values, and interests, said Yuval Noah Harari, a historian, philosopher, and best-selling author of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.”

Harari, now a lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said this liberal global order has its faults but is superior to any alternative. The 21st century is the most prosperous, healthy, and peaceful time in human history, he said. Starvation now kills fewer people than obesity. Violence kills fewer people than accidents. And despite COVID-19, epidemics kill fewer people than old age.

Harari said it’s now worth asking whether the global order has any future at all. The current pandemic has given a boost to the nationalism that was already ascendant, he said, as governments increasingly restrict the flow of ideas, goods, money, and people.

“Walls are popping up everywhere,” Harari said. “On the ground, in cyberspace, and inside the mind… COVID-19 threatens to put the final nail in the coffin of the global order as countries blame each other for the disaster.”

Some nations, he said, envision a “network of walled but friendly fortresses. The key problem with this vision of course, is that fortresses are seldom friendly. …All previous attempts in history to divide the world into clear cut nations have always resulted in war and genocide.”

Without a global trade network, Harari said economies will collapse. And global trade is not possible without setting rules. He said those factors should convince nationalists that globalism is a necessity rather than an enemy.

“The pandemic has only emphasized the vital need for global cooperation,” Harari said. “Mortality from infectious diseases has gone down dramatically because the real antidote to epidemics isn't isolation, it's information and cooperation. The big advantage of humans over pathogens is our ability to cooperate effectively. A virus in China and a virus in the U.S. cannot swap tips about how to infect humans, but Chinese and American scientists can share information and cooperate to beat the pathogens.”

Harari said this global cooperation is needed not only to fight COVID-19 but to address even more pressing problems. He said the three existential threats to humans are nuclear war, ecological collapse, and technological disruption.

“No nation by itself can prevent nuclear war and ecological collapse,” Harari said. “And no nation by itself can regulate disruptive technologies like AI [artificial intelligence], for no nation controls all the scientists and engineers in the world. …It would be wise to protect the global order, but humans don't always do the wise thing.”

More speed, less risk

This pandemic has forced companies worldwide — even the most advanced ones — to rethink what is possible and how quickly it can be accomplished through digital acceleration.

“The benefits of what’s going on in digital are evident,” said Salil Parekh, CEO and managing director of Infosys. “You can see that in the way that customers of large enterprises are looking upon itthem and the way that market valuations are moving for digital enterprises. This is really making us see that speed is what is critical for you, for all of us in the market today.”

That is a reflection of the company’s Live Enterprise effort to become a more resilient, responsive organization that can evolve at the speed of the surrounding world.

Starting in mid-March, when much of the world shut down, Infosys moved with “extreme speed” and executives focused on employee safety (both physical and mental) and seamless delivery of client services, Parekh said. Infosys increased its network bandwidth tenfold and increased remote access infrastructure by 4 and a half times. Soon, 99% of Infosys employees were working remotely.

While technology and infrastructure are important, Social Capital played a significant role in Infosys’ resilience in the face of COVID -19.

"As we move through the medical crisis and it's behind us, we will re-engage in working from office locations," he said. "We need to build social capital again. It’s the glue that has really helped us get through this."

However, Infosys will offer greater flexibility where people work. That’s particularly important as the workforce grows through Infosys’ localization strategy. In 2017, the company committed to hiring 10,000 US workers. 13,000 were hired. Now Infosys has committed to hiring another 12000 in the US with similar goals for Europe and Australia.

Infosys has doubled down on AI and automation as important tools for efficiency, internally and for clients. Also, cloud computing has become one of the most important parts of any digital transformation as more work moves online. That led to the creation of Infosys Cobalt, which includes 200 industry solutions and 14,000 cloud assets.

“This is what gives you speed, and this is what gives you a method tofor reduceing risk,” Parekh said. “These are pre-tested components and industry solutions.”

One leading semiconductor manufacturer used Infosys Cobalt to improve plant process efficiency and harmonize business support processes by 30%. The company was also able to use real-time insights to predict and prevent equipment failures, Parekh said.

A major oil company used Infosys’ AI and automation services to create double-digit percentage in ticket automation, ticket elimination and DevOps services productivity. The result was a 250% return on investment.

"We are absolutely convinced that digital acceleration is here to stay and will be even faster as we go ahead," Parekh said. "Cost efficiency and automation are absolutely critical, especially in this difficult economic environment."

Making the new normal work

Companies worldwide are recalibrating how they operate and create new opportunities, said Ravi Kumar S., Infosys president.

"The pandemic in many ways represents a real but narrow window of opportunity for us to reflect, reimagine, and reset the world for better as we get to the other side of the crisis," he said, introducing a panel on workforce changes.

Infosys research collected data to help understand the new hybrid model, showing at which points working from home has created the most productivity, collaboration, and sense of wellbeing among employees. Those figures, however, can differ among companies.

Mike Madsen, president and CEO of Honeywell Aerospace, said the staff that could work remotely was limited. The company’s factories continued to operate effectively and safely. However, other employees who were at home could work without distraction. He said the important part of managing that transition was for “leaders to communicate priorities and bring clarity to the work that needs to be done.”

The rise of the virtual worker does create new exciting possibilities, Madsen said. The talent pool is now global and doesn’t have to revolve around the an office location.

Barbara Humpton, president and CEO of Siemens USA, said two-thirds of her workforce shifted to their homes while the rest remained in the field. As we move beyond the pandemic, the workforce will continue to have the flexibility to work from home two or three days per week.

“There's a real opportunity to reinvent and rethink, given that we have these tools,” she said. “While we've been thinking a lot about the new normal, I've been telling everybody to think of it as the ‘now normal’, because it's changing.”

The changing environment is also altering how companies view the bottom line. She said Milton Friedman’s emphasis on generating shareholder value isn’t dead. It’s just that it’s not enough.

“Businesses do generate value for shareholders, and that's a huge part of what makes the engine run,” Humpton said. “But I think what the pandemic has shown us as well is that it takes the entire ecosystem to keep that engine running in a healthy way.”

Timothy F. Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner at PwC, said his company already had a young workforce and culture of flexibility entering the pandemic. The company was ready to shift to 100% remote working overnight.

“They knew how to work together digitally and interact with our clients,” Ryan said. “And it has sped up how we work with them, leveraging automation, sharing data. We were on that journey, where both our clients and us both ended up working remotely at the same time.”

Ryan is also co-founder of CEO Action, an organization advocating for greater diversity and inclusion in corporations. That initiative, created in 2017, puts PwC and other participating companies at the forefront of today’s social movements around race, diversity, and inclusion.

The future is cloud

Cloud computing isn’t new, but it has become one of this year’s most essential technologies. David Wilson, senior vice president and head of global alliances at Infosys, moderated a panel on cloud trends and where the technology is heading.

Kumar said he looks at cloud as a broad foundation built on three pillars: creating agility, driving innovation at scale, and increasing resilience.

“We believe that if you want to orchestrate and bring the ecosystem to all our clients, we need to build reusable assets,” he said. “We've created a large community of cloud innovators in our company. …They are walking the corridors of our clients, looking at day-to-day problems.”

Shawn Wharton, CIO, trading and shipping IT&S at BP, said he was reluctant to start theirhis cloud journey three years ago. “Ultimately we made it a priority,” he said. “Originally, like a lot of people, we were focused on cost.”

However, that has evolved now that “second and third order benefits that are evolving quite quickly” beyond just automation and monitoring.

Janet Kennedy, a vice president at Google Cloud for the North America Regions, said cloud is important, but it’s not always operating in isolation. "AI and machine learning are how businesses are running in the future," she said. "The customers are really driving that."

For example, Verizon is using contact center AI to reimagine the customer experience. Also, Mr. Cooper Home Loans has used AI and machine learning to train 100 pages of mortgage documents to speed up the experience.

Internally, Google is using AI to push forward the company's environmental goals. The company has been carbon neutral since 2007 but is now aiming to be carbon-free for the data centers and buildings by 2030.

Economics of uncertainty

After great prosperity, the global economy this year dropped to one of its lowest points since World War II. Todd Buchholz, former White House director of economic policy for President George H. W. Bush, said the current financial crisis should not be called a recession, which is typically caused by too much borrowing and excess speculation. He said the current situation is more like a Great Cessation.

“This Great Cessation was brought on by COVID, by the government instructing people to close doors, pull down the shades, and just stay inside,” Buchholz said.

Despite the dire economic situation, he said there is good news. The economy should recover more quickly from a cessation than a deep recession. Half the jobs lost in this crisis were regained in just three months. It took two years to reach that level during the Great Recession. However, he did note that some industries, such as travel and airlines, are still struggling.

Also, markets have recovered quickly from drops related to past epidemics, such as SARS, Buchholz said. Another positive sign is solid performances by companies linked to automotive and credit card debt. “Those stocks have more or less come back,” he said. “If you see them roll over or underperform, that is a sign that consumers no longer have the wherewithal to keep the recovery coming.”

Even with these financial struggles, Buchholz said U.S. residents are in good financial shape. Companies like Amazon have created price wars that keep costs down for consumers. The gig economy has filled in gaps in the marketplace. And people have a much higher standard of living than in earlier decades.

Buchholz said his optimism will hold as long as inflation doesn’t increase. With interest rates near zero, central banks are limited in how to attack inflation. He said he is also concerned about the high level of the U.S. federal debt and has advocated for 100-year government bonds.

While much of the attention is on the short-term economic crisis, Buchholz said he wants to refocus the conversation on the long-term.

“It’s not interest rates,” he said. “The world is in a race for IQ points. Whichever town, city, country, or company harnesses intelligence will prosper most in the 21st century. That's one thing you can do for your community: Get Involved In Education.”

Even with the vast struggles of 2020, these experts in history, business, technology, people, and economics found moments of optimism. The uncertainty of next week — let alone future years — heightens anxiety but offers the opportunity that a better world can emerge from this crisis.

The report has been conceptualized and published by Infosys Knowledge Institute

Summary of Day 2, Sept 16th, 2020

The world turns to technology as a solution for its problems, from those on the global scale to those that just affect a household. Yet, it was people that emerged as a dominant theme for the second and final day of Confluence 2020, Infosys’ annual thought leadership conference.

The event was held virtually and hosted by Infosys’ Dusseldorf Digital Innovation Centre, with a welcome from Andreas Pinkwart, minister for economic affairs, digitization, innovation and energy for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. More than 3,000 people gathered digitally to listen to legends from business, and even tennis, discuss the intersection of technology and humanity. They considered the problem solved and potential problems caused. And speakers recounted how their organizations managed the current pandemic and what is needed to overcome the effects of this ongoing crisis.

Winning through disruption

Nandan Nilekani, chairman and co-founder of Infosys, said the world has weathered many troubles in recent decades, from the Asian financial crisis to the dot-com bubble to 9/11 to the Great Recession.

"This crisis, COVID, is something which is completely unprecedented," he said. "In one swift move, all of us have been completely taken out of our comfort zone. ...This is both a professional crisis for our companies and a personal crisis for us."

As a result, the pandemic has pushed the world into a new digital era.

"It is very clear now that digital transformation that was going to take months and years is now going to be pushed into weeks and days," Nilekani said.

“If companies are not digitally native in every possible way, then it becomes difficult in this world,” he said. “We have seen how companies that are digitally strong have not only survived, but gained huge momentum.”

Here are six technologies that Nilekani said are shaping businesses right now:

  1. Cloud — The race to the cloud has been one of the most important tech trends of 2020 as remote working rates skyrocketed. In this highly competitive area, Infosys is working with many providers and every type of service (public, private, hybrid) to “harness the full power of the cloud.” Infosys recently announced its comprehensive new Cobalt cloud solution to help clients move their data off-premise and find insights within the terabytes and petabytes.
  2. Open source —When Nilekani joined the Indian government and designed the world’s largest digital identity platform (1.3 billion people), he used open source software. “We never regretted that decision because we've got a population scale infrastructure with very cheap costs,” Nilekani said. Today, companies increasingly recognize the power of open source software and consider it an option for all parts of the business. However, the transition often requires a partner to help make the software enterprise ready.
  3. Data — The volume of data has increased exponentially, and so have the types of data. Applying artificial intelligence to all that information — often flowing in real-time — has created new capabilities for organizations. “It's very important that enterprises globally have a strategic view of AI and data and actually create the plumbing and the platforms to leverage it at scale,” Nilekani said.
  4. Cybersecurity — Online risks are growing as more business takes place from home, instead of inside corporate networks. Besides cybercriminals, the danger also includes corporate espionage and state actors. “Cybersecurity is not something which is a one-off,” he said. “Every time you make an advance, the other side, the dark side comes out with new things. It’s an ongoing process.”
  5. Modernizing the core — Many large corporations are still trying to decide what to do with core systems that have been running for decades. “How do you unbundle them?" Nilekani asked. “How do you take monolithic core systems and make them into microservices. This is a big challenge.”
  6. User experience — Workers expect the same consumer-level experience at work that they would get with their own personal devices. “We have to make the user experience of our enterprise applications, for our employees and our consumers, very user friendly and highly intuitive,” Nilekani said.

Many of these trends aren’t new but have taken on a greater urgency this year. “All these things are happening simultaneously,” Nilekani said. “The challenge is how do we go from where we are to where we want to go, and do all these things at the same time.”

The speed of decision-making is particularly important now due to the nature of the current challenges, Nilekani said. “The COVID crisis is nonlinear. If you miss catching it by two weeks, all your hospitals will be full,” he said. “The climate crisis is nonlinear. If the Arctic melts, it will create all kinds of second and third order implications that you cannot recover from. And the whole digital technology of social media is nonlinear because it's faster to spread fake news than real news.”

The only way to manage that nonlinear world is through greater agility, speed, and resilience, a focus at Infosys for the past several years. That internal transformation allows Infosys to better guide its clients.

"We want to be the change that we tell you," Nilekani said. "We don't want it to be a PowerPoint. We want it to be real things that work for you. …Fundamentally, we have tried to become our definition of a live enterprise."

The great digital acceleration

A meme circulated this year that asked the question: “Who led the digital transformation of your company?” The answer was not the CEO, CTO, or CIO; it was COVID-19, said Infosys President Mohit Joshi.

The corporate winners and losers this year were chosen based on their preparation for digital transformation and how quickly they were able to pivot. “Digital acceleration is clearly going to be a key theme across the board for all of us, for the next many, many years,” Joshi said.

The Infosys executive moderated a panel about digital acceleration and how companies reacted to COVID-19.

Aarti Shah, senior vice president and chief information and digital officer for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, said the early days of the pandemic were particularly complicated for her company. Executives had to protect the safety of their workforce, help 30,000 employees work from home, and ensure that operations were not disrupted.

The stakes were higher than just money. Shah said the company has the “responsibility to make sure that we have a continuous, safe supply of medicines, because around the world, we have 40 million patients that depend on Lilly medicines every day.”

The company also fought the pandemic directly by setting up testing centers and labs, and researching medicine that might help treat COVID-19 symptoms. Eli Lilly recently announced that a new experimental drug significantly reduced levels of the coronavirus in patients and reduced the chances they would be hospitalized.

Although technology plays a critical role in COVID-19 response, Shah said organizations should keep sight of the human element throughout this crisis.

"We all need to double down on empathy," she said. " IQ is very important and has helped us in the moment, but to sustain us, the EQ (Empathy Quotient) part is going to be very important. ...People are the foundation of the house we all live on."

John James, managing director of Vanguard’s Institutional Investment Group, said the initial reaction to the pandemic was to focus on managing risk, protecting employees, and “driving the business forward.” Vanguard is the world’s second largest asset manager.

One of the biggest challenges was communication. “We've traditionally been a face-time company, but we moved into a different leadership model,” he said. However, the new, massive digital transformation partnership with Infosys gave Vanguard the technology that allowed it to move more quickly. Jones called it a “gift.”

“It enabled us to move so much faster,” he said. “We've been able to contact more than 1,200 clients in the time that we would have previously been jumping on planes, with a lot of inefficiencies. …It’s been transformational for our company, and I think it will change us forever.”

Despite the financial upheaval, Jones said about 95% of Vanguard investors have “stayed the course.”

Jacob Jofe, venture capitalist, strategist, and partner at Index Ventures, said his firm found hopeful results from a recent survey of tech employees and college students. Despite the economic crisis, 75% of respondents were optimistic about startups and half said this was a good time to launch a new business.

“We were excited that the entrepreneurial spirit is so alive and well,” he said.

However, many people are increasingly concerned about how data is used, Jofe said. And that has convinced some of the best entrepreneurial talent in the market to work on privacy issues and solutions.

"Privacy is the new customer experience," he said. "Consumers are beginning to care much more deeply about that and expect that privacy will be at the center of their experience."

Reimagining customer experience

COVID-19 has forced businesses to not just rethink their technology and workplace strategies but recalculate their customer relationships. Martha King, a managing director at Vanguard and soon to be an Infosys executive vice president, said customer experience trends have accelerated because of the pandemic.

“Consumers expect immediate, personal, and empathetic experiences,” she said, leading a customer experience panel. “Now more than ever at Vanguard, these shifts have played out through digital and human interactions in new ways. … Companies are being judged on the care they show for customers, employees, and community.”

Lisa Bisaccia, executive vice president and chief human resources officer for CVS Health, said the pandemic’s arrival did not slow her company’s work. There are three major businesses within CVS, all of them health-related and deemed essential services during COVID-19 shutdowns.

A critical challenge, she said, was determining how best to assist each set of customers, through connectivity and creativity. “We had to serve them differently,” she said. “We had to meet them where they were. We had to think of different ways to make sure they got their essential medication, that they got the health care they needed.”

These solutions included everything from plexiglass barriers and contactless payments in CVS stores to more home visits from the company’s Coram specialty infusion business. The demand for prescription deliveries from CVS pharmacies increased by 500%. CVS also owns the insurance company Aetna.

Throughout the pandemic, CVS also used its pharmacy drive-through as COVID-19 testing centers. By late summer, the company had administered 3 million tests. The company’s health care footprint is expected to increase further as CVS opens 1,500 non-urgent, non-acute care health hubs by the end of 2021.

As the pandemic started in the spring, U.S. telecom companies also found a central role in responding to the system shocks.

“We are at the core of connecting society, which was never more important than during the onset of the pandemic,” said Sorabh Saxena, executive vice president of customer service and operations for AT&T Business.

He said the philosophy of “leading with listening” helped the company understand what was needed, through advisory councils and millions of surveys. The result, Saxena said, is a requirement for more speed, simplicity, and flexibility.

“Those are the three things that always stand the test of time, no matter how the technology shifts,” Saxena said. “It's no longer about launching just products or an inward focus on what's important to the corporation. It's an outside view of what's important to the customer.”

2021 boardroom priorities

The current medical crisis, economic displacement, and digital acceleration are forcing corporate leaders to balance long-term strategies with immediate decision-making priorities, said Salil Parekh, CEO and managing director of Infosys.

“These are big themes that are driving everything around the world,” he said. “The boards and management are consumed with immediate issues, such as revenue loss, reduced profitability, disruption of the business model, and cash conservation, cash generation.”

To discuss some of those approaches and frameworks, Parekh spoke to Ursula Burns, the former CEO and former chairwoman of Xerox. She has also served on other major corporate boards, including Exxon Mobil, Nestlé, and Uber.

Burns said many companies focused initially on reducing costs and day-to-day survival. “In the beginning, we were just worried about keeping the lights on,” she explained. Now, corporate boards need to be most concerned about business model disruption.

“This is where the management team and the CEO, with the help of the board, has one of the most important roles and at the most important time,” she said. “This is not about how do I get enough cash…but to actually see through all of this fog and confusion, to try to determine what will be long lasting. What will the world look like?”

These are critical conditions that will determine the winners and losers of the future, Burns said. “Not because they have a lot of cash, but because they make the right calls about investments, where they are going to emphasize, where they're going to pull back.”

This requires intensive board and C-suite collaboration and clear communication. "I was always very aware that I could not fool people," she said about her time as a Fortune 500 CEO. "The truth is the most important thing.”

Ultimately, corporate leaders need to make assumptions about how the world will look following the pandemic and then take action. Successful companies are speeding up, while failing companies are slowing down, Burns said.

“It’s [pandemic] giving people permission to move in directions and at a speed that they were not comfortable with doing before,” she said.

This will also force more companies to confront the human cost of this digital acceleration as certain types of jobs are eliminated. And much of the dislocation will happen at the worst possible time, she said.

“The bill is going to be the human effect,” Burns said. “Business leaders have to discuss with their governments, with their employees, with their shareholders, how to treat the people that we've dislocated.”

Parekh agreed that these workforce factors is particularly difficult ones to balance.

"Financially, it's clear, but socially, it's obviously much, much deeper," he said. "In that context, governments will take different paths."

Burns, however, is skeptical about governments’ ability to manage this widespread displacement. In many ways, she said, businesses are better positioned — and often have the needed incentives — to address these consequences. She said they will have to become quasi-government institutions.

On a more personal note, Burns advised executives to follow their passions. She said those who do the job only for money can get by temporarily but will eventually hate the position and do a bad job.

“Passion, hard work, and competence gives you the opportunity to survive through recoverable mistakes,” Burn said. “It’s really important to understand that you learn every day, and that you really put your head down and move forward.”

Cybersecurity challenges

The current maturity of cybersecurity enabled entire workforces to move from the office to home, but these strategies still need to evolve, said Vishal Salvi, chief information security officer for Infosys.

“We initially thought that this was going to be a sprint, but it's turned out to be a marathon,” he said. “There's significant pressure on the CISOs to drive the future architecture and the strategy towards building more robust, long-term security.”

Just a few years ago, the CISO and cybersecurity drew little interest from corporate boards. Now, in a global Infosys survey, half of respondents said their boards were taking an active role in shaping cybersecurity strategy.

Nicole Ford, CISO for air conditioning manufacturer Carrier, said communication with the board is a critical part of the job. That includes helping boards understand the threats, calculating their risk tolerance, and building a rapport.

“How do you build the right level of trust with your board to ensure that when something does happen, they know that you're going to take the right steps and the actions to mitigate the threat,” she asked? “As a CISO, you really make sure you are tuned into the board’s goals and objectives.”

CISOs also must work with boards to create a cybersecurity roadmap and provide frequent updates. “The threat landscape continues to evolve,” she said. “Staying connected with your executive leadership team and your board, to make sure that they understand the changes and what the impact will be on your business, is extremely important.”

Digital transformation can also offer opportunities to make sure that “security is baked in” through the concept of secure by design. “It really gives us an opportunity to ensure that cyber is at the forefront and not an afterthought.”

Jim Woodcock, CISO of insurance company MS Amlin, said one of the most important lessons he’s learned is to connect the dots for corporate leadership.

“Build a clear picture, and connect business risks to the technical threats and vulnerabilities,” Woodcock said. “Then actually demonstrate how your program is going to address the threats and the vulnerabilities.”

Buy-in from the top leadership, along with creativity, is also needed to help build a culture of security, Woodcock said. “You don’t change the culture by playing a video and getting a few people to answer some questions,” he said.

At MS Amlin, they used “Lunch and Learn” sessions to help employees improve their personal online security. The security mindset then filters over to their work lives.

Woodcock said a CISO should also be willing to ask for help when needed. “Nobody wants to see you fail,” he said. “Your board members, your executive team will help you.”

Tennis aces

Data is one of the important underpinnings of tennis, said renowned tennis strategy analyst Craig O’Shannessy. “We play a game over incredibly big distances, but it’s the razor thin margins that matter the most,” he said, hosting a conversation with tennis stars Venus Williams and Andy Murray.

O'Shannessy quizzed the two tennis greats about the numbers hidden beneath their success, particularly in major tournaments. Williams, who was appearing from Rome, has won five Wimbledon titles and never lost a match in those finals. Despite that dominance, she won just 52% of the baseline points.

“It’s just enough,” Williams responded to the data. “A win is a win.”

A similar dynamic happened when Murray dominated the 2012 U.S. Open; O'Shannessy described him as a “beast” in that tournament. Yet, Murray won only half the baseline points.

“Sometimes it’s difficult, when you're out there, to assess exactly what's going on,” Murray said. “You’re playing each point as it comes.”

Murray is also one of seven male tennis players who have won more than 53% of their points. That slim advantage has been enough to fuel one of the great tennis careers.

Today, players, coaches, and even fans all have unprecedented access to data that was out of reach just a few years ago. Infosys is among the tech companies creating AI solutions for tennis tournaments and organizations. The results allow participants and fans to get a granular understanding of many of the game’s nuances.

Detailed stats were not widely available when Murray started as a professional, but now, that data makes a difference.

“If you use the data and statistics right,” Murray said, “that difference, between winning 49% of the points and 51%, can get you a slight edge by knowing where your opponent might serve on big points or what the most successful patterns of play are. That can change a bunch of matches during the year.”

William said players now have a much greater ability to analyze both their opponents and themselves. “Now it’s not just what you do on the court, but it's how you prepare before the court,” she said. “Before my Wimbledon finals early on, I didn't have any access to those sorts of statistics.”

However, that didn’t stop Williams from excelling at an early age. In her first professional match, the 14-year-old Williams nearly defeated Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, the world’s number two ranked women’s player.

“My dad always said he was happy I didn't win that match because it would have been too much pressure,” Williams said. “But I remember distinctly going to the airport the next day thinking I should have won that match, and I should not be going home. I still had high expectations for myself.”

Williams went on to win a combined 23 grand slam titles and five Olympic medals. Also, she has 12 wins over her sister, Serena Williams, who is also one of the sport’s greatest players.

Murray is a three-time grand slam winner, and in 2013, he became the first British man to win a Wimbledon title in 77 years. He was knighted in 2017.

However, as a young professional player, he said the pressure was difficult. “Everything that was put on me at a young age, it stopped me from enjoying the sport,” Murray said. “That’s something that, especially over these last few years with the injuries, I wanted to make sure that I enjoy the sport more.”

Murray is also known for his outspoken stance about gender equality in tennis. When he started as a pro, he said he never thought about working with a female coach. It wasn’t a consideration among male players, he said. Later, Darren Cahill, a former professional tennis player, suggested that Murray look more closely at women coaches.

That led to him working with Amélie Mauresmo, a former number one ranked player. She became the first woman to coach a top ranked male player.

“One regret I have in my career is that I wish I'd won a grand slam when I was working with her,” Murray said. “When I lost in a big tournament, she was always getting questioned. I never heard that at all when I was working with male coaches. It was always me that would get criticized.”

As a teenage phenom, Williams was supremely confident and focused entirely on winning tennis tournaments. Later, she started using her platform as a star athlete to speak out against discrimination, whether its racial bigotry or gender inequality. She was the first Black woman tennis player in the Open Era to be ranked number one in the world.

"Growing up, I just wanted to win Wimbledon," she said. “You don't grow up thinking that's [activism] going to happen. It's just something that you fall into. Anytime I see an injustice, I'm happy to speak up…I'm sure there will be a lot more fights, and I'm willing to stand on the right side each and every time.”

Catalyst for change

Last year, Infosys’ three sprawling Confluence conferences were held in Barcelona, Melbourne, and Scottsdale, Arizona. Thousands of people from around the world flew to those sites to meet in person to discuss the future of technology and business.

This year, the global pandemic not only changed the format of Confluence but colored the major keynotes and panel discussions. Even with all the talk about machine learning, digital acceleration, cybersecurity, and tennis, COVID-19 was never far from center stage — or center screen.

In his valedictory address on day two, Pravin Rao, Infosys’ chief operating officer, spoke about the pandemic’s impacts to “lives and livelihoods.” However, it’s also forcing many to become more resilient, agile, and responsive.

“It's acting as a catalyst for change: economic, corporate, societal, and even personal," Rao said. "The scale of change and the speed at which it is happening is unprecedented. It has forced us as leaders and as enterprises to reimagine every aspect of our business, who we are, and the impact we want to create.”

Just as the reality of the pandemic was ever present, so was the insistence that the world that emerges can be a better and more hopeful one. Now, that opportunity is waiting to be seized.

The report has been conceptualized and published by Infosys Knowledge Institute