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Key steps for CIOs to navigate digital transformation

Anubhav Rajput, Vice President and Head of Information Technology, Max Bupa, tells us how a CIO can develop a holistic transformation strategy. By Satyaki Sarkar

Anubhav Rajput drives the digital strategy at Max Bupa, incorporating emerging technologies into the business plan to maximise customer experience and ensure the company’s future. His earlier stints at IBM, Tata Communications, and HCL Technologies have given him insights in to a wide range of functions from product development and delivery to information security and digital communications. In this interview he tells us how a CIO can play a pivotal role in driving transformation in his organisation.

1. Start by welcoming change
“Digital transformation isn’t really an option or a choice any longer, but rather an inevitable phenomenon. Each and every organisation will have to adapt to it and embrace it in the years to come. There will be some who will do it sooner, while others will take their time. A number of organisations will take new initiatives rapidly and become hugely successful, while others will start initiatives, fail, and then start going again, become cautious and observe others first. However, there simply cannot be a single organisation that can stay back and resist this change. The important thing is to accept the change and embark on the journey with an open mind. This is part of the technology revolution. So a CIO should look at how this transformation can benefit the organisation and think of business first and technology second, because despite being what it is, digital transformation has more to do with revolutionising business than with technology itself.”

2. Analyse, then execute
“There are two modes that we can classify organisations into nowadays. The first are the new-age, dot com era organisations like Myntra, Zomato, Uber, etc. Typically, their strategy is to look at big bang kind of approaches. These organisations can readily estimate and digitise their entire value chain at one go. Their business model is more innovation-based. On the other hand, the rest, including established insurers, are ones that have been around for years. For huge organisations like this, the best start is to test the waters first. Our first steps towards digital transformation revolve around identifying key achievements and core projects that can be benefitted. We cannot simply put the cart before the horse. We have to start small, undertake small projects and ventures, get them ready and in place, and then look at the long-term game. The entire move has to be research based, taking into account ROI, best methods and technologies to adopt, problems and solutions. The move has to be backed by tangible numbers.”

3. Raise awareness among upper management
“Almost everyone is aware of digitisation, in that they know it is happening, it is an important phenomenon, and they should be doing something about it. However, majority of people still remain unsure and confused about what to do about it. In order to make the process easier to understand and to get a better grasp of it, a CIO needs to participate in multiple platforms and forums, where he can learn and also disseminate insights, hold informative discussions, and analyse successfully launched projects in detail. To push through any change a CIO needs to get upper management on his or her side. And that’s only possible if management is educated and informed about the merits and potential of digital transformation. So a CIO needs to be constantly aware of the latest updates in the technological world. He needs to share links, case studies, and facts with management about developments in their sector and initiatives taken by the competition. There will always be a few early adopters who will be open to new developments in upper or middle management. The best practice is to start with them and use their support to gain the confidence of the rest.”

4. Define the selection parameters
“The problem with technological advancements nowadays is that every day or two something new keeps coming up. This not only makes it impossible to adopt each and every new module the moment it comes out, but also to train and maintain a team that will be ready to handle it. For example, a company that spends considerable resources and time in developing an app finds that by the time it is launched others have already moved two steps ahead, implementing completely new and fundamentally different technologies that have come out recently. In this scenario, an IT head cannot ignore the ROI and simply go back and justify that spend. Thus, the only way to handle it is to curate and choose the best from the lot that will have a considerable impact on the organisation, and keep one’s team familiar with such technology, developing and nurturing them over a period of time, making changes as and when necessary. It is more about identifying the best changes to adopt, figuring out their right use cases, and constantly updating oneself as and when relevant.”

5. Focus on the big picture
“Any kind of change always comes with new challenges and difficulties. In this age, the most important challenge is that you always need to be able to move fast. The ability to take quick decisions, identify problems, and have the foresight to know what to adopt and what not to is incredibly important. People tend to become passionate and emotional about several aspects of their work. However, the lesson here is to always adopt a pragmatic point of view and be able to look at the big picture. One must be able to identify at the drop of a hat the places where he will not be able to get as much of a return on investment as he had hoped for and weigh options to figure out the best ones to adopt. So an IT head has to have the right amount of appreciation for business challenges as well as technology centricity.” 

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