A power packed and insightful Q&A session took place today between Priya Dar, CIO, and Head of Digital Practice of Godfrey Philips India Ltd. & Abhishek Rungta, CEO of Indus Net Technologies on LinkedIn. Some very important aspects of Digital Transformation for businesses came into focus. Here is the detailed version of the discussion.
Q1. Digital is a multi-disciplinary function. It needs a deep understanding of business, technology and communication/marketing. And the challenging thing is that each of these functions is already existing in most enterprises. Therefore, it becomes a challenge for them to structure this right. We see multiple roles like CIO, CTO, CDO, Head of Digital. We also see that many enterprises have dysfunctional structures, overlapping roles and at times gap in the structure, making the digital journey very slow. What is your suggestion in terms of structuring the team for effective digital transformation?
Very true. Digital is a change that has and will impact all facets of a business. It is no longer limited to only the CIO function, however, CIOs need to play a very important part in this change. A strategy is paramount – what do you want to do with this wave of digital in your organization knowing your pain points irrespective of what everyone is doing. All leaders in the company have to be aligned towards this in a collaborative manner. Having multiple people driving the same agenda or a single person is not the question- a collaboration between CIOs and business heads is paramount. We need to look for people who understand the business side to join our teams. CIOs know technology, the ones who understand business are the ones who will lead digital practices in their organizations.
Q2. Everyone has a different definition of digital in today’s world. We see everyone i.e. data center, server company, a software company, SaaS company – as a digital company. What is your definition of digital and digitization?
Digital is a way of life now – all big and small companies are rebranding themselves to be a digital company. To me, anyone who provides a digital solution to a problem that the organization has Is a digital company. The solution can be cloud hardware or a small mobile application – it has to cater to my issues in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Q3. What are your major digital initiatives? What outcome of your initiatives will make you a satisfied CIO & Head of Digital? How are you measuring them?
We see IT as an enabler to business right now. For a very long time IT was a back-end office for enterprise processes but for the last few years, we have worked with front-line functions like sales to bring automation in these functions. This year we are looking at capitalizing data in a big way. Our strategy is “create-collect-cash in” – we need to build applications which create data, we need a repository to collect this data and then we need tools to cash in this data. We are driving dashboards instead of reports, self-service analytical instead of dependence on IT, collaboration within dashboards, data-driven decisions which ultimately lead to tangible business benefits. The measure will also be purely business outcome instead of an IT one.
Q4. How do you suggest, any CIO or business leader can achieve Digital Success?
One of the main things I have learned on this journey is that the new digital wave has nothing to do with the back-end systems. The ERPs, Appraisal, leave management, expense etc which were the main pillars of applications in an organization are not pillars of “digital’. You have to look at the front end processes and automation around them. Customer interaction, digital marketing, sales automation are the new pillars. Also with the advent and acceptance of cloud, the delays of procurement of servers are gone so you can start right away. Keep in mind – every initiative will not be a success – be ready for setbacks, learn from them and move on.
Q5. How do you keep yourself on track with so much distraction, noise and fast pace of technology change? Do you have any guiding principle that keeps you grounded while you steer one of the most important functions in a modern enterprise?
Technology is changing at a fast pace. It is growing horizontally as well – the new age things like cloud and then edge computing, AI/ML/DL, smart cities, customer experience tools. With so much happening it is hard to not feel the noise and distraction but I try to have clear goals. My goal for this year is to build an ecosystem around data in GPIL. I know we will have failures along the way but if we keep focus and know where we are going – the result will come. My team is my motivation – together we will succeed.
Q6. Do you foresee IT/Digital function becomes profit centers instead of cost centers anytime soon? Any suggestion for practitioners?
I think that the true impact of IT should be measured by efficiencies, results it brings to the company irrespective of whether it is a cost center or profit. Yes, with the world becoming digitally connected, IT can become a profit center. A simple case could be for a group of companies e.g – instead of having multiple IT departments there can be a single IT department which “rents” their resources, processes, governance, management. For a lot of companies however the profit might not be quantifiable in numbers – this could be in increased efficiency, streamlined processes, data-driven insights, tools etc.
Q7. You have led ERP projects in your career. And today, you lead digital as well. Do you think Digital platforms will replace ERP? Or will ERP companies transform themselves into Digital platforms? What is the key difference between the old-world ERP and the new world Digital platforms?
ERP companies will transform into digitally enabled systems with less time to deploy and less cost and better processes. Old world ERP were just platforms which were customized by the local teams to cater to local processes – with the new wave of systems the processes will be transformed before the implementations take place. This will ease the management and governance of these systems. I think a lot of plug and play applications will be used, one won’t be bound to an Oracle or an SAP for this – you use what you like and integrate them on the cloud on an opex model.
Q8. What will be your advice for an SME organization (20-100 cr turnover) who want to evolve beyond his accounting and inventory management software? Which function shall he digitize/automate first? Should they go for ERP implementation? And why?
In this day and age, the front line is driving automation. Start there. Sales, marketing, supply chain – there are so many simple and cost-optimal solutions available in the market esp with cloud infrastructure and reduced time to market – that it is easy to see benefits quickly however you need to be focused on what you need to achieve.
Q9. What is your single piece of advice for young CIOs/CDOs, who look up to you as a mentor for 2018?
While technology is our core, understanding business is paramount. Collaborate with other teams within and outside your organization to bring automation benefits to the organization.
Q10. What keeps you motivated?
My family, my team, my peers who are doing amazing things, User expectations, Amazing support from everyone around me…. I am blessed.
We humbly thank Priya Dar, for her time and the wonderful insights she shared.
We are coming up with a series of LinkedIn Q&A session between Abhishek Rungta and industry stalwarts. Stay tuned for more.