7 Ways CIOs can become strategic business innovators

Anil Garg, Head – IT, Dabur India Ltd, shares things CIOs can do to secure a seat on the board.
By Pooja Paryani

Anil Garg has spent over 35 years in the IT industry and is a veteran at building and managing large scale IT setups. He has spent a large part of his career with Dabur, where he is the Head of IT, and has been instrumental in their digital transformation. He was recently recognised for his efforts at CIO Power List 2016 where he was awarded as a Transformation Icon. Anil’s passion for IT goes back 40 years, when he was the 101st   person to receive a formal degree in Computer Science from an Indian institute (MTech, BITS Pilani, 1977). A firm believer in team building, Anil shares ways CIOs can become better business leaders.

1. Always have a ‘teach me’ approach
“We have induction programs every time we hire new employees (we have management trainees from IIMs and/or A grade B-schools). Key function heads of the company interact with these MTs. Whenever I speak to them I’m always asked one question: ‘How do you keep yourself updated with technology as you studied a long time ago?’ And I tell them: ‘Yes, it’s something I have to grapple with. Many a times I’m not able to acquire the knowledge that you think I should acquire due to my job responsibilities. However, I don’t really have to be up to date.’ Their next question is: ‘How do you use the updated technology then?’ I tell them: ‘That’s why you guys are here. You will teach me’. This gives employees the motivation to work with more enthusiasm as they have the responsibility of also teaching a senior. They see your humbleness and your relationship with them becomes stronger. We need to ensure that we use our experience to add value to their knowledge.”

2. Be a business manager not a technology head
“All my business functions heads involve me in their planning because they want my views and feel I can add value to their plans. Partnering with business is very important. Technology and business have to go hand in hand or else the organisation will never be able to meet the set goals and achieve success. Your IT and business understanding will make you a better leader, able to build a powerful team with your knowledge and expertise. The team in return will believe in you.”

3. Stop saying ‘I have done this’
“To be a successful leader you need to stop this attitude of letting people know what you’ve accomplished. I never send any communication to any employee or team leader about my achievements or tasks accomplished. In my view the only mantra to handle change management is ‘Find the right owner’. So you need to set the ownership right. I ensure that business people own the business benefit projects. If I own the project, the business teams, who actually take forward the operations issues, will dump things on IT. But if I give them the ownership they will take it on themselves and solve the issues. Always handover the responsibilities to the right person. This de-risks the project and ensures faster adoption and realisation of the business benefits perceived.”

4. Change the organisational culture to achieve digital transformation
“Digital disruption creates a basic conflict with the organisational structure and the traditional way of doing business. It’s the biggest stumbling block in the way of digital transformation. For example, say I build a technology for a retailer to directly place an order with the distributor and bypass the salesman. But the way the organisational culture is set, the sales force will be worried about incentives and will resist the disruption. So it’s the responsibility of the technology head to partner with other business heads to ensure that the technology disruption is supported with a complete transformational program that first changes people’s mindsets, changes the overall processes, educates people about the disruption, changes the culture and protects their interests, and thus helps them adapt and lead the way to success.”

5. Organise training on digital transformation
“Along with soft skills training, team leaders and HR should organise courses where individuals start understanding the impact of digital transformation. They should be introduced to the benefits of that technology so that they can be part of the changing organisational culture and their value to the organisation is retained.”

6. Craft a content creation code of conduct
“Today, as a large number of the population is dependent on content available on the Internet, it becomes our moral responsibility to provide the correct content. Since the government has not set any code of conduct on this, we have to make an internal code of conduct to be followed while creating and uploading the content. And it should be available in a way that the audience can depend on. Today end consumers do take decisions depending on the content available on the Internet.”

7. Accept the growth of the team as your responsibility
“I organise regular sessions for my team on non-technical subjects; like ‘Talent versus attitude’, ‘Emotions management’, etc. It helps them to be prepared for the future and be better at their jobs because, unfortunately, engineering colleges (especially private colleges which are now producing majority of new entrants in the IT field) these days only focus on teaching about technology and coding, but not on work basics. If the institutions fail to educate them on this part, it is our responsibility as leaders to teach them and bring out their leadership qualities. Some department heads don’t do this because either they feel insecure about these boys or they feel it is not their role. However, if you become a part of someone else’s growth and achievements, they will remember you always, and be thankful for it. This is also our social responsibility towards our team, which make us succeed in our professional endeavours. So we owe it to them.” 

Categories:   Lifestyle, Work Buzz


  • Posted: September 14, 2016 17:24

    Pankaj Rathee

    Wonderful. I am fortunate to work with him. This is his life's experience which he shares with us and that is of immense value to people like us. God bless him.
  • Posted: September 16, 2016 04:39

    Shashikant Vyas

    Very thoughtful leadership traits! It’s my fortunate that I have worked with him. His enriching real life experience always been guiding light. He is courageous leader in opting niche innovative technology for business transformation. His humbleness, reading the mindsets, change management skills, focus on individuals personal development and teaming qualities are inspiring one. Thanks sir, for sharing 7 essence of leading the transformation journey.
  • Posted: September 21, 2016 04:33

    Vijay Bhaskar

    Excellent stuff from an experienced & iconic leader. This gives a right path to the coming generations to tackle the career with enthutiasm and motivation.

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