Leveraging IT as a strategic tool

Ritesh Chaudhari, Head of Service Delivery (India and Pakistan) and Head of Innovation Management (Europe-India-Middle East-Africa Region) – Integrated Business Solutions, Henkel Group, on how a company can leverage IT for maximum benefit. By Shweta Gandhi

Ritesh Chaudhari is a techno-functional IT head who started his career as a banker. He has experience in managing IT and shared services across various sectors: BFSI, FMCG and the manufacturing industry. Prior to Henkel, Ritesh had a successful startup experience at Bharti Axa Investment Managers where he joined as a founder member and contributed in growing it from a startup to a national-level organisation.

Over the years, he has acquired experience in managing organisation-wide change and transformation, re-engineering business processes and pushing business innovation led by IT. He now handles the Integrated Business Solutions (IBS) Service Delivery for India and Pakistan operations of Henkel Group, while also taking care of Innovation Management for IBS-SD for Europe, India, Middle East and Africa region of Henkel.

In what ways can IT be used to better a company’s performance or growth?
“The most important factor is how well you know your end consumers—you have to think like them. What are their needs? How much are you aware of the market dynamics? IT is a support function within an organisation, and if you have to make it strategic, you have to come up with solutions that help your end users the most. Growth can be achieved by whatever makes life simple for the consumer.”

What are some of the ways to capture the market using IT?
“Using analytics, establishing digital connect with customers and constantly improving upon them besides also adopting new technologies like IoT to make services more proactive while serving customers’ needs.”

How can an organisation integrate new technologies into service models?
“Internal IT organisations are good at understanding the end-users’ needs. Moreover, generally service partners or vendor partners are good at providing their respective solution(s). Their solutions are adaptable, ever evolving and well maintained, because they keep innovating in their respective domains. For a win-win situation, an IT organisation needs to identify their end-users’ needs and find the right service partner and establish the right model of in-sourcing and out-sourcing.”

Does this integration help bring about a positive change and impact?
“Yes, it does. I would say there are three evolved service models for technology today —infrastructure, cloud and SaaS — which can be incorporated in an organisation right now. A mature mode of delivery is required for such situations, even if it means having a mix of all three models. Bring in the right model of outsourcing and in-sourcing which your company needs and make sure your core team is not losing out on time by being involved in day-to-day monotonous activities—let the technology do it for you. That’s the only way you can focus more on the consumers’ needs.”

How can a business align its IT strategies with its business strategies?
“There are two ways to do so. First, put your feet in the customer’s shoes. What is their overall satiety and requirements? What’s the latest trend in the market? Use these data points and establish an ongoing engagement with business stakeholders to arrive at IT strategy and tactical plans in alignment with business strategy, vision and values of the organisation.”

Do you think the way to exploit technology is by analysing how the work gets done and then providing tailored steps to employees?
“Yes, that is one of the ways forward. Only by understanding how a certain piece of work is done can you further simplify it with the help of technology—and simplification is quickly adopted by the user community. With technology, we also have to provide employees with the right information at the right time for them to take timely decisions. Also, many times we have people who become too overwhelmed with tech stuff. They want to achieve great things, but the end user may not be ready. The important part is to be balanced. You have to be constantly helping the end user. The easiest way to do that is by providing simple solutions that are easy to handle. The support model should be strong. Plus, you should have agile delivery.”

How can one use IT against competitive forces?
“This is exactly where IT plays a strategic role—when we talk of external facing technology—it’s all about looking at additional engagement, training, simplifying and using IT as a platform to improve engagement. Technology plays a quick role, and with factors like mobility and social media, it’s become even more important to have various levels of engagement that can act as a differentiator against the competitors. For technology within the organisation—it can help by improving the efficiency of the organisation as against the competition and analytics can help management take rational and fact-based decisions.”

How can one use IT to bring about an internal change in the organisation?
“IT can change and simplify the organisation’s processes, which in turn also brings change in to the daily routine of the people in the organisation. By properly leveraging technology and innovation one can improvise the bottom line and top line of the organisation. Greater the change realisation for the organisation, in a positive direction, the deeper the engagement of business with technology and the cycle continues for the good!”

How can IT be used to leverage consumer marketing?
“End users are different for every organisation—there are a different set of users for B2B and B2C companies. Digitalisation helps improve efficiency of our product and service offerings and also improves engagement with our end customers and brand building—which is where our marketing efforts are channelised.”

How can the IT department impact society at large?
“IT can help you in terms of social responsibility. In our organisation, we are currently not scrapping old computers. We refurbish them so that they are in working condition and then we donate them to educational institutions. We even provide IT lessons, and have received some really positive feedback. The idea is to give students access to computers and knowledge—if the housekeeping boys who work in our organisations are taught how to use a computer, their means of livelihood can change!” 

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