CIO Strategies: Tackling The Hurdles
Keeping pace with change
When it comes to information technology, change is a constant
and obsolescence is inevitable. A look at how IT managers deal with the overwhelming
pace of technology change
Change is good. In fact, it's one of the few constants. But an institution
(more likely one from the Banking sector), that invested a few crores of rupees
in state-of-the-art infrastructure, won't easily accept the fact that a part
of its IT infrastructure is obsolete. The fact is, technology changes at a fast
pace and vendors offer new solutions or upgrades every few months. The question
is are enterprises still willing to invest in the latest technology if it makes
business sense? Remember, the days of free technology spending are long gone.
Businesses may upgrade technology to keep up with changes, more notably expansion.
But it is important not to let other (external) factors influence that decision.
Usually, enterprises would prefer to stick with what they have as long as it
fulfills the immediate business needs.
L. Sundarrajan, Sr. Vice President, Corporate Information Technology, Aditya
Birla Group affirms this. "I think this (technology change) is more from
the vendors' perspective. Vendors keep offering new technology and say it can
do a lot more. But it really boils down to what one requires. That's why we
have a long-term plan for investing in technology."
According to Sundarrajan, when the Aditya Birla Group evaluates new technology,
it considers issues like TCO derived over a five-year period. It carefully considers
the business benefit derived from the proposed technology, year-on-year.
Sundarrajan says, "Technology change or obsolescence is not the real issue
as it is under our control. We can decide what to buy, when to change and how
to derive business value at different stages/phases."
Vijay Kumar Magapu, Executive Director, Larsen & Toubro Infotech Limited,
shares the same opinion. He believes that one should hold on to existing technology,
sample the new technology and be assured that it's going to bring in business
benefits, before implementing it. "Technological change is driven by actual
change but more often than not, it's hyped-up by commercial interests. It is
important to stay with yesterday's tried and tested technology, properly establish
today's technology before disturbing everything and spending on tomorrow's hype.
Our experience has been that staying a little behind the cutting edge and far
behind the bleeding edge of technology is a sound policy for most organizations."
Generally, most CIOs are curious about the experience of using a new technology,
before they adopt it themselves. They talk to vendors and other companies that
have actually used the technology, so as to get a clear picture of the pros
But even before that, it is essential to be aware about the technology fundamentals
and related concepts. That comes from reading, attending technology seminars,
and from discussions with technology consultants.
"The CIO has to keep himself informed using independent sources that give
an unbiased opinion. The crucial factors to be considered while making a choice
are upgrades, customization requirements, the technology vendors' credibility
and sustained performanceand their ability to support the change management,"
says V.K. Ramani, President (Information Technology), UTI Bank.
It is also important to continuously keep pace with developments around the
world and evaluate these from a business perspective.
"The challenge is not just in identifying the technology. It's also about
bringing it into your organization and realizing the benefits," says Jason
Gonsalves, General Manager, IT & Costing, Goodlass Nerolac Paints.
Organizations like Goodlass Nerolac Paints have a cell that continuously studies
technology. The management then decides which technologies will play a key role
in its business.
C. Kajwadkar, Sr. Vice President, NSE.IT talks about a CIO's "knowledge
obsolescence". He believes an IT head's knowledge can remain current if
he spends reasonable time reading participating in core technical discussions
inhouse and in workshops and seminars (such as Network Magazine's Infrastructure
Strategies and Technology Senate annual events).
Most organizations follow a definite pattern for upgrading IT infrastructure.
After the business objectives and plans have been outlined, the CIO gets down
to short-listing technologies and plans upgrades that would enable that business
plan. Clearly, these are business-driven decisions.
At NSE for instance, all upgrades are planned in advance. "All upgrades
are on a planned basis with projections of business expansion. Some of the upgrades
happen as a part of the obsolescence policy," says Kajwadkar of NSE.IT.
Some companies will choose to upgrade only when there is a significant shift
in the business or if major changes occur within the organization.
For instance, LG Electronics India Pvt Ltd (LGIL) does not have a fixed upgrade
cycle. "We do not have any fixed time cycle for upgrading. But if a technology
or business need arises we act on it very fast," says Arindam Bose, Head
- IT, LGIL.
At Air-India, upgrades take place both on a routine basis, as well as to meet
In some cases, upgrades are delayed due to lax organizational policies. The
private sector, which is highly competitive, will willingly invest in new technology
to stay cutting edge. Conversely, at PSUs, the technology upgrade cycle meanders
slower than a lazy stream, thanks to bureaucracy, budget constraints, and yes,
"Technology is changing at a rapid pace and it is a struggle to keep a
few paces ahead of 'obsolescence.' In a PSU, even though one is aware of the
benefits of the new technology, implementing it could become a long-term process
because of the various formalities," says S. Mukherji, Director-IT (O),
Keeping the pace of technology change in mind, it is up to the CIO to choose
what works best for his organization today, without forgetting about the latest
technologies and developments. After all, technology no longer plays just a
support function. It is now a business enabler and in many cases, the pulse