Top of the CIOs mind
If there are ten commandments that apply to the CIO tribe,
these are the ones, says Prashant L Rao with inputs from Deepali Gupta
If youve ever wondered whats on top of the CIOs mindother
than how he or shes going to get by on a tight IT budget that iswell,
you need to look no further. This year, we decided to use the IS survey to find
out what CIOs were thinking abouta lot!
Not surprisingly, data security and integrity was top of mind. Data security
is a no-brainer, but integrity is a much overlooked aspect of corporate IT.
Without clean data, your shiny new ERP system is so much rubbish. GIGO and all
that. Business intelligence? Without data integrity, it doesnt have a
leg to stand upon. Thats why 56 percent of survey respondents across verticals
voted with their feet to make this their number one IT priority.
Dig deeper and you find that BFSI is most serious about this aspect of IT. Two
out of three CIOs in this vertical rate data security and integrity as their
primary concern. At the other end of the spectrum, you find telecom with only
17 percent of respondents voting for it. Other verticals toe BFSIs line
with roughly half the respondents rating this aspect as the biggest concern.
Not so close behind, occupying the runner-ups slot, is redesigning or
rationalising IT architecture. This ones all about the ongoing adoption
of ERP and its derivatives by India Inc. Before deploying any EWA, a company
has no choice but to rework its IT architecture. Without changing processes
and cleaning up data, youre not going to gain anything from putting a
shiny new application in place.
The auto components and telecom folks are the ones who are most interested in
redoing their IT architecture. BPO and services companies are the most satisfied
with the way things are.
We have redesigned the IT architecture to consolidate and centralise our
operations. The implementation of the same is under progress. We have networked
all our satellite labs using VPN, and Reliance is providing the VPDN services,
says Radhakrishna Pillai, CIO, SRL Ranbaxy.
Managing customer relationships or improving customer service comes next on
the agenda, which means that CRM is on the corporate radar. There arent
any surprises over here with BFSI and telecom being the sectors that are most
worried about keeping customers happy. About half the respondents in these two
sectors are gung-ho about managing customer relationships. Again, its
no surprise that government/PSU organisations are least bothered about customer
relationships. The number of respondents from these sectors citing this as an
IT priority is zero.
Web services and e-commerce make for strange bedfellows. That said, the former
can power the latter. In any case, one in four respondents picked this as a
priority. This is pretty much why e-commerce in India isnt really going
like gangbusters. Here, in an uncharacteristic display, government and PSUs
lead the pack with no less than half these organisations giving e-commerce a
thumbs up. Considering that the Indian Railways online reservation system
is Indias biggest B2C venture, thats not too hard to swallow. BFSI
and BPO follow with 29 percent of respondents in both these segments being bullish
on e-commerce. Telecom, surprisingly, doesnt evince much interest and
nor do the oil/power folk.
Optimising return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO) are
the two most touted means of measuring returns on IT. Again, about a quarter
of respondents across industry verticals deem these as important. Here, telecom
is the biggest believer in these measurements with two-thirds of respondents
in this industry vertical voting with their feet in its favour. BFSI and BPO
have about a third saying aye. FMCG, auto components and government/PSUs are
not very interested in measuring returns on IT investments.
Pillai of SRL Ranbaxy feels that ROI should be measurable and that its
important to optimise ROI from every IT investment. SRL Ranbaxy is setting up
a VoIP solution over its existing VPN that was primarily implemented for data.
Similarly, its Web server was used to host one application for three years.
Now the same server hosts more applications.
On the other hand, Sunil Mehta, Senior Vice-president and Area Systems Director,
Central Asia, J Walter Thompson, is of the opinion that ROI/TCO is important
but its not the top priority for his organisation.
Disaster recovery and business continuity come next by a whisker. Here, BPO
companies take it more seriously than the rest with 36 percent citing DR/BC
as an IT priority. Next come BFSI with 27 percent and services with 26, which
are rather low numbers. Is India really so safe that companies feel that they
dont need to invest in DR?
Automating or optimising the supply chain gets just under a fifth of the punters
voting for it. FMCG/retail and oil/power tie for the top spot with 31 percent.
Auto components is close with 30 percent. Manufacturing has a surprisingly low
number of 17 percent. This is an area where companies need to investparticularly
manufacturers and retailers who live or die based on how good their supply chain
CIOs traditionally take new technologies with a pinch (or pound) of salt. We
asked them what they thought of grid computing, Web services and RFID. Interest
was decidedly lukewarm with about one in five citing these as a priority. RFID
is not a big deal for us as our assets are limited, says Sunil Mehta,
Senior Vice President and Area Systems Director Central Asia, J Walter
Services bucked this trend with over a third of firms in this sector enthused
about new technologies. Services companies are known for innovating in terms
of IT architecture (take the case of courier companies that have cobbled together
IT systems that tie online interfaces onto existing systems to help customers
track their consignments across continents). Pharmaceutical/chemical companies
are the most enthusiastic about fresh technologies with no less than 38 percent
of respondents indicating an affirmative response to these. RFID is on
the cards but we can not just go for the sake of technology and it should be
affordable. RFID based temperature monitoring sensors and Diagnostics specimen
identification tags etc are usable and will add value to our operations. I have
a wait and watch approach towards RFID, says Pillai of SRL Ranbaxy.
Out with the old and in with the new. That sentiment heartens almost a fifth
of the respondent base as they prepare to get rid of legacy systems and replace
them with the latest that IT has to offer. A third of government/PSU organisations
plan to rip and replace, as do one in four manufacturers.
Sales force automation isnt very popular overall with
only 15 percent of respondents voting for it, but in FMCG/retail, SFA is quite
the favourite (better than one in four) as it should be. FMCG stands to benefit
more than any other sector through SFA tools. A case in point is Godrej Industries
which is extending its Sampark distributor management system to gather data
from retailers using PDAs or cellular/SMS. The augmented system will be deployed
in six to eight months across the companys supply chain. Pharmas
next with one in five respondents being gung-ho about SFA.
Prashant L Rao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Deepali Gupta can be reached at email@example.com