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Man vs Machine: A Case of Wipro*

CASE STUDY, HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
ET Cases - GSMC, 10 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Amitabh Deo Kodwani - Faculty, IIM Indore

Case Preview

Man vs Machine: A Case of Wipro

 

“The future is uncertain. At least for the 3,000 software engineers whose tasks are about to be replaced by an artificial intelligence (AI) tool at Wipro”

– Editor, huffingtonpost.in


Indian Information Technology (IT) industry was undergoing tremendous changes and automation was one such thing that sets tongues wagging in this lucrative  sector. However, the big question was how much deeper this ‘automation’ will penetrate the IT industry, which operates in a market chock-full with cut-throat competition and stiff margins. IT companies were feeling the ‘pressure’ to protect their margins and thus they decided to adopt hyper-automation in order to improve profitability. In this direction, the so-called ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) was supposed to change the way IT companies were managing their day-to-day affairs. Wipro, one of the India’s leading IT firms became the first Indian IT services firm to launch the AI platform called “Holmes” (Heuristics and ontology-based learning machines and experiential systems). This AI wizard was set to automate various ‘fixed-price’ projects and in turn was supposed to free up to 3,300 engineers from  the “mundane” software maintenance jobs. The news created a panic among the IT engineers. On one hand, the IT companies such as Wipro were trying hard to create a sense of engagement among their employees and, on the other hand, this panicky news was creating a sense of uncertainty and in turn affecting employee’s engagement and commitment with the company negatively. The challenge was how to strike a good balance between use of hyper-automation and managing people effectively and strengthen manpower planning process in such a way that employee morale, motivation, commitment, dedication, loyalty and engagement does not get affected with more and more use of automation. Also, how to minimise any resistance in the organisation and ensure employees do accept this automation......................

The Company

Wipro Limited (Wipro) was an Indian multinational IT consulting and system integration services firm located in multiple countries with headquarters in Bengaluru, India. The company was incorporated in the year 1945 as “Western India Vegetable Products Ltd.” and in its initial phase, the company was involved in the manufacturing of vegetable and refined oil...............

Automation at Wipro

Intelligent robots will lead to “the rise of the useless class” of humans, and become one of the most dire threats of the 21st century, potentially replacing human jobs.

– Yuval Noah Harari, historian, lecturer and author

In the name of hyper-automation, Wipro, India’s third largest software company, had initiated a project called “Holmes”, its AI wizard, to automate certain projects and this in turn was expected to free up 3,300 engineers. ‘Holmes’ was described as “a rich set of cognitive computing services for the development of digital virtual agents, predictive systems, cognitive process automation, visual............

The Need and Benefits of AI

It was a perennial dream for most of the IT firms to reduce cost without adding proportionate manpower. Though the Indian IT companies had moved up the value chain, the revenues were still linked to headcount. There was a gradual change in this trend since 2014-15, when Indian IT services firm started adopting emerging technologies such as AI and Robotics..........

The Challenge

“Technology is destroying jobs at a faster rate than we had imagined”

– World Economic Forum Report, 2016

“If a computer is 100 times better than our brain, will it make the world perfect? Probably not, it will probably end up just like us, fighting.”

– Steve Wozniak, Apple Co-founder

Though the implementation of AI had various advantages, it was accompanied by various challenges too. These challenges were related to social, political, economic and motivational impacts on organization, society as well as to the country. The biggest impact was expected on the job market as the general line of thought was that this automation drive would kill jobs done by the people.............

Assignment Questions

The instructor can ask students to prepare their views on the following questions in the light of information presented in the case, and come to class prepared to defend their views:

I. What were the major challenges faced by the Wipro? Analyse in the light of present environmental changes across the sector as well as globe.
II. What benefits Wipro may get after implementing Holmes? Are there any disadvantages to the company as well? If so, please highlight.
III. ...........

Exhibits

Exhibit I: Benefit of HOLMES

Teaching Note Preview

Man vs Machine: A Case of Wipro

 

Synopsis

The case study illustrates the increase in use of technology at the workplace and the impact of the same on employees as well as organizations. The case also illustrates the issue of integration between Man and Machine/Technology at the workplace.

Wipro, India’s third-largest IT Company has developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based software platform called “Holmes” (Heuristics and ontology-based learning machines and experiential systems). Wipro decided to reduce a big chunk of its existing workforce by automating some of the projects with the help of Holmes, its AI wizard. This would help Wipro which has a workforce of around 1,10,000 to replace people with machines, which would free a good number of engineers from “mundane” software maintenance jobs, resulting an expected saving of around $46.5 million. However, the challenge is its impact on the manpower planning, hiring as well as employees’ motivation and engagement. The dilemma in such cases are how to go about it in such a way that it does not affect employees negatively and ensure a smooth integration between people and technology.

The case study highlights the practical repercussions of replacing traditionally human-managed jobs with the new advanced technology-based on AI, that too, at a company which is more known as an employee-centric organization.

Case Positioning and Setting

MBA programs/PGDBM programs – Human Resource Management course – To discuss various issues related to Talent Acquisition, Manpower Planning, People Management, Recruitment and Selection.

Expected Learning Outcomes

The main purpose of this case study is to expose students to a real-life setting for which they can plan a good manpower planning process keeping the changing environment context in mind. Also, they can understand the role of redeployment in such changing technological advancement at the workplace.

The case study can be used to expose the students to understand the integration of technology and people, its challenges and effective implementation. The case is proposed to achieve following teaching objectives:

  • • Discuss the integration of technology with people, in the light of automation (AI) replacing people
  • • Discuss the manpower planning process in the changing scenario
  • • Discuss the possibilities of redeployment of manpower, when they are no more required due to the implementation of AI
  • • To discuss the challenges for HR managers in implementation of such change

 

Assignment Questions

The instructor can ask students to prepare their views on the following questions in the light of information presented in the case, and come to class prepared to defend their views:

I. What were the major challenges faced by the Wipro? Analyze in the light of present environmental changes across the sector as well as globe.
II. What benefits Wipro may get after implementing Holmes? Are there any disadvantages to the company as well? If so, please highlight.
III.......................

.......................

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Product code: HRM-1-0059, HRM-1-0059A

Abstract

**IIM RAIPUR – ET CASES Award (GSMC 2017) - For Having Interdisciplinary Scope

Award Winning Case Study

This case study discusses the extensive use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the growing popularity of such disruptive technology in the IT sector in India, where unemployment, and surplus manpower are prevalent. The case study focuses on Wipro Technologies, India’s third-largest IT Giant. Wipro has decided to reduce a big chunk of its existing workforce by automating some of the projects with the help of “Holmes”(Heuristics and ontology-based learning machines and experiential systems), its AI wizard. This would help Wipro, which has a workforce of around 1,10,000 to replace people with machines. Besides, this would also free a good number of engineers from “mundane” software maintenance jobs, resulting in a savings of around $46.5 million. However, the challenge is its impact on the manpower planning, hiring as well as employees’ motivation and engagement. The dilemma in such cases is how to go about it in such a way that it does not affect employees negatively and have a smooth integration between people and technology.

The case highlights the practical repercussions of replacing traditionally human managed jobs with the new advanced technology based on AI, especially, at a company which is more known as an employee-centric organization.



Pedagogical Objectives

The case study is proposed to achieve following teaching objectives:

  • To discuss the integration of technology with people, in the light of automation (AI) replacing people
  • To discuss the manpower planning process in the changing scenario
  • To discuss the possibilities of redeployment of manpower, when they are no more required due to the implementation of AI
  • To discuss the challenges for HR managers in implementation of such change

Case Positioning and Setting
MBA program/PGDBM program – Human Resource Management course – To discuss various issues related to Talent Acquisition, Manpower Planning, People Management, Recruitment and Selection


* GSMC 2017, IIM Raipur



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