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6 key learnings to help CIOs stay ahead of the game

Pankaj Kumar Pandey, Senior Vice President – IT, IDBI Federal Life Insurance, talks about the strategies CIOs must incorporate to avoid becoming redundant. By Shweta Gandhi

Striking the right balance between his technical and functional role is very important to Pankaj Kumar Pandey, Senior Vice President – IT, IDBI Federal Life Insurance. Working in a user company, Pankaj says his main priority is to enable IT in a way that his company is able to increase sales and reduce operational cost.

To do that he had to dig into the trenches when he first joined IDBI Federal Life Insurance in 2013. “IDBI Federal being a late entrant in the life insurance market (in year 2008) had to compete with many other established players that had already achieved a certain level of technological maturity,” says Pankaj. “We prepared and worked on a comprehensive roadmap. We have created a sound IT infrastructure with total server virtualisation. All core systems are in place now, with new steps taken into the digital and mobile application spheres. Right now we are working on enabling the sales force through mobiles and tablets. In the next six months, the entire sales force will be on mobile, and after one year majority of new business should come through mobiles and tabs. We have also initiated work on predictive analytics and are expecting major business value out of it,” he adds. His contribution was recently recognised at CIO Power List 2016 where he was awarded as a mobility icon.

Here, Pankaj shares his learnings as a CIO in today’s constantly-evolving world.

#1 Don’t be taken in by the attractiveness of new technology
“There are many technologies available in the market and almost every day a new technology is coming up. Many are very fancy and attractive; most IT departments adopt them only to create a buzz in the market. As a product approach, and as value for money, CIOs should avoid falling into that trap. Tech is always secondary when compared to business value. We should only implement those technologies that will give business value.”

#2 Adopt an integrated approach
“The CIO’s job is not BAU (Business as Usual) only. BAU is a small part of a CIO’s role. IT as a function in itself will not get any value from any organisation—IT has to be there in every function, in every department. As a CIO, you need to understand the business and you need to be close to the business. And you always have to think ahead. Business users may not be considering what you as a CIO can see and anticipate—you have to look at the organisation holistically, how to give the organisation an integrated approach that’s enabled by technology.”

#3 Don’t be a victim of disruption
“Many trends like IoT, cloud, big data, analytics, social media and others are bound to bring in digital disruption. Technical excellence will create value only when we are able to increase revenue or cut costs. If we are not able to do that, then we should not go for the technology. For example, IoT is a wonderful technology but is it suitable for each and every business? Every CIO must try and govern himself and not implement technology just for the sake of it. Similarly, cloud is a great technology that has so many benefits, but it comes with its disadvantages too—cost, security, regulatory issues being a few of them. We have to identify those areas carefully where the new technologies can be adopted with advantage to business.”

#4 Keep your ears to the ground
“A CIO has to look into the now and the future where the market is concerned. You can’t keep yourself confined to one area, otherwise you won’t be able to lead the business. As a CIO, you have to show a path. You have to keep yourself updated about what is happening around you, in other countries, what is happening in your economy and how it is going to change. Whatever technology was relevant five years ago may not be relevant today—and this is not only because of a technological change, but also because of a demographical change. So we can’t see anything in isolation.”

#5 Create a value-based plan
“The CIO’s role is changing—it is not only about purchasing hardware or software and managing day-to-day operations. Unless a CIO creates value, he will become redundant. Keeping an eye on this, you have to create a plan wherein you create value for your organisation in the next two years. And this is another challenge—with everything changing so fast in technology, you can’t really think beyond two years. But there are certain things that will last long so you can plan for those. You have to see how you can utilise disruptive technologies to create opportunities for your organisation.”

#6 Keep innovating
“Innovation in a user company has two meanings. You have to create in terms of your organisation’s needs and you have to bring something new to the table—whether you are going to use a technology differently or intelligently. As a CIO you’re not expected to invent a new technology. You’re going to explore the technologies and see what you can smartly incorporate from them. There are so many technologies available in digital transformation, so you have to see how you can amalgamate them and create a unique product or service. A CIO needs to look for and find these opportunity areas. With the market being super competitive, what you are thinking of has probably already been thought of by others. If you introduce something new in the market, within few months the same may be adopted by others too. So this is a continuous phenomena. Distinguishing yourself is in the market and thinking outside the box are the hallmarks of a successful CIO. 

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