5 ways to make the most of digital disruption

Pratap S Gharge, President and CIO, Bajaj Electricals Ltd, on how to ride the disruption wave to your benefit. By Shweta Gandhi

Pratap S Gharge joined Bajaj Electricals in 1985, and has followed a long and arduous path up the IT ladder, successfully positioning himself as the President and CIO of the company today. His 32 years of experience have seen his grow from strength to strength. In his current role he is actively involved in strategising technology adoption at Bajaj Electricals while also enabling business processes. He was recently awarded as a Digital Icon at CIO Power List 2016. Here he tells us how CIOs can utilise the opportunities digital disruption offers.

1. Partner with business colleagues
“Digital disruption is one more opportunity for CIOs to get into the business and partner with business colleagues to expand horizons. Traditionally, operational technology decisions were taken by business colleagues, and after the decisions were taken, if they were facing any problems, IT colleagues would help them. Instead of following that reactive approach, IT should create a different kind of vertical that manages this form of operational technology (as well as other smart tech products) in a better and secure way so as to better contribute to business. The way to ride the disruption wave is to adopt and start engaging with the business team; start educating them to do some small pilots rather than not doing anything.”

2. Involve the security team
“Today, as technology is converging and becoming more digitised, most of these operational technologies are also becoming software driven and IP-enabled. This inclusion is making products prone to security threats. Even IoT, which makes products smarter, is IP-enabled, and this is creating another landscape of threats. As mobile is becoming pervasive, companies are using mobile apps to communicate and enhance customer experience. Being in the IT field, CIOs are in a better position to practice information security. That’s why IT’s security team should get involved with all those business projects that are making products smarter. Security should be thought of at the time of designing the product to prevent any catastrophic after-effects that may occur when the product is being used by end consumers.”

3. Educate business partners
“Digital disruption is opening up a new area of competence that CIOs and their teams need to keep developing and take charge of. If  CIOs are partnering with the business, they are also making the business aware about this disruption. This will help businesses stay relevant in this fast-changing, technology-driven world. With the multitude of conferences, we IT members and leaders are more exposed to digital disruption than those in the business vertical. We know well in advance what is headed our way and it makes us more responsible for creating awareness inside the company. We need to create a sense of urgency so that the organisation is ready to face the digital disruption wave. So engage your top management team and business colleagues, and make them aware of the different possibilities of adopting IoT and digital tech in business operations.”

4. Get an innovation project budget
“If they haven’t already, CIOs should ask for an innovation budget to create a small team that works on innovative projects that use the latest tech. The budget for innovation projects should be kept separate from traditional IT budgets, to prove to business that this can also add value. This approach can help rather than the traditional ROI-based approach. However, since these are new things that are evolving, it is possible that you may fail in the initial attempts, but I believe it is better to fail faster and learn something out of it than not try something new at all.”

5. Reduce risk by keeping projects small
“To avoid risk, keep the project sizes small. That’s one effective way of managing risk because there are chances that it may collapse, since it’s a project using new technology with new initiatives. The organisation’s culture also needs to permit failure otherwise it becomes difficult for the CIO and his team to prove any ROI for such projects. Furthermore, if there are any penalties associated with business, there may be a tendency to not start a new project at all. That company will remain an observer of digital disruption. So, instead of being a simple observer, we should start by taking up small and manageable projects to steer clear of risks.” 

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