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‘CIOs also have to be disruptive strategists and marketers’

Sanjiv Kumar Jain, Group CITO, Spark Minda, Ashok Minda Group, on how CIOs can leverage the power of IT to drive business benefits.

A seasoned technocrat with over 28 years of experience, Sanjiv Kumar Jain has been instrumental in driving initiatives in IT strategy, IT security, IT infrastructure designs, and business continuity planning in power, shipping, manufacturing, and infrastructure domains. For his contributions to the field, he was recognised as a Unified Communications Icon in CIO Power List 2016. He talks to us about the changing role of IT.

How is IT helping to achieve the priorities for your business?
“For any business, it is crucial to address the customer’s requirements of cost-competitive products with quality, just in time deliveries and product innovations. The business itself demands technologically advanced products with competitive prices and the best quality. IT is helping the business through automation of business process, visibility of operations, and quality monitoring systems. Along with faster decision making and dissipation of information, IT has conceived better communication methods across business units spread all across the globe.”

Where do you see your biggest opportunities for IT transformation, and how are you tackling them?
“Biggest opportunity for IT transformation is digitalization and automation of operations and business analytics. We are working with businesses to automate their processes so that manual interventions can be minimalised thereby leading to an error-free provision of online information to the stakeholders to take quick business decisions.”

Cloud has been the buzz word for a while now. What are some of the challenges CIOs face when adopting cloud? Were there any challenges you faced?
“Cloud certainly is the new trend and demand of the current IT setups. But adoption of cloud still has some challenges, like the migration of a legacy system with large data size from on-premise to cloud, the justification for cost already incurred in data centres, infrastructure and dual IT infrastructure maintenance. There is a challenge in the availability of sufficient bandwidth from remote locations, and uptime commitment of connectivity from ISPs. Currently, we have moved our non-critical loads to the cloud, hence did not face any issues.”

Is cloud a suitable option for large as well as small enterprises?
“The on-demand self-service, rapid elasticity, ease of entrance and utilisation and simplified maintenance make cloud a suitable option for large as well as small enterprises. But the selection of the services, SLAs, lock in period, security, type of cloud solution, public, private or hybrid, needs to be analysed in detail along with what type of load you are shifting and the impact if services are not available for a couple of minutes to an hour.”

Would you say cloud adoption is the first step in a company’s digital transformation journey?
“It depends on business to business whether cloud adoption will be the first step in the company’s digital transformation journey or not. For start-ups, cloud  adoption definitely reduces the  upfront capital expenditures dramatically,  but for the existing enterprises this will be a parallel exercise as the volume of data and nature of application will play a significant role in adoption.”

What are some of the ways IT has enabled business growth at Spark Minda?
“IT has enabled in computerisation of business application in commercial, production, R&D, along with MIS generation. A reliable messaging system with accessibility from anywhere on any device has helped users take timely decisions. Implementation of near to real presence video conferencing system has helped in workforce productivity improvement as people have to travel only in cases where it is unavoidable and physical presence is required. Mobility, digitalization of documents, DMS, design simulation using advanced software, ALM, and PLM implementation has helped business in focusing on their core functions.”

Should CIOs be putting business transformation before digital transformation?
“For established enterprises, business transformation and digital transformation go hand in hand. Sometimes business transformation drives digital transformation and sometimes digital transformation leads to business transformation. For example, e-commerce has made traditional businesses also to go in for online models, and e-wallets have forced the banking system to adopt business transformation.”

What are the biggest challenges for a CIO today?
“Biggest challenge for the CIO is to keep pace with the technological needs of the business, so as to meet the market demand in a cost effective manner. Gone are the days when business used to wait for days for implementing a solution. Now with e-commerce based business, customer’s needs order fulfilment on JIT is always crucial. Retaining talent, skill upgradation of teams, and securing data assets from new security threats every day are some of the challenges, along with keeping the lights on round the clock 365 days for IT services.”

What do you see as the next big tech trend in the manufacturing segment?
“With industry 4.0 wave taking up, the whole model of manufacturing is going for a 360-degree change. Automation of manufacturing processes, technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology and quantum computing are going to revolutionise IT implementation and the role of IT as a whole.”

As a CIO what have been your key learnings over the years?
“Working in IT for more than two and a half decades I have seen a dramatic change in the IT field from EDP department to information technology. Key learning as a CIO is that you have to be an industry-disrupting strategist, marketer not just a tech wiz. The role has changed from service provider to partner in leadership to see the long-term direction of the business and unleash the power of technology to help the organisation achieve their objectives and goals.”

What are some of the key skills CIOs should possess?
“Current CIOs have to have multiple skills, as I said earlier, he also needs to be a strategist, a marketer. Agility is something we as CIOs need to develop in today’s ultra-agile business needs. We have to be agile in thinking, action and adoption. A CIO has to put up IT initiatives in business terms, or talk the language of the business, think about the enterprise’s products, customers, markets and competition, and understand how to translate strategic thinking into execution in conjunction with the business leaders’ thoughts and goals.”

If not technology, what alternative career path would you have chosen?
“If not technology, I would have been in supply chain management which was my passion.” 

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