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Issue of March 2006 
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Using IT to build relations

Ashank Desai, Chairman of Mastek, talks about how IT helps build relationships, not just with customers but also with employees, and explains how IT can drive business and help tap unseen opportunities

Ashank Desai

One needs to use IT before one can tell others to use it. That is why we use IT from top to bottom—right from customers and shareholders to our own employees.

Mastek believes in transparency for everybody. For this, we use IT as the backbone and the Web as the tool. We have successfully applied technology for day-to-day processes like travel approvals, leave applications, and payrolls, which are all available on the web. At Mastek, we use IT in the following ways.

The Mastek Model

The first, most important part is to increase efficiency in our processes. We have built many applications in that area.

We have built systems to capture the outputs of various projects. This helps us measure efficiency, outputs, and results. These are then brought to the MIS level so that we can manage projects more efficiently. In the large projects which Mastek handles, information systems play a key role in the whole process. This is why implementation of those processes including services needs to be monitored continuously.

The second part is to provide information to our customers. This gives us transparency and helps improve our relationships. It helps us have better control, smoother relations and high levels of customer satisfaction, which helps us achieve better efficiency.

The next aspect concerns the top management. This deals with our financial data and the latest data related to the week’s progress, revenues, and cost. These are available on our website.

To Reach Out

A service-centric company like Mastek needs to look at all the facets of business and give importance to customers, employees, and shareholders. IT plays a crucial role in this endeavour. IT is like the backbone for providing all the services, which we try to achieve through two tools, i.e.Mastek.com and Masteknet.com.

Mastek.com is our website for everyone who wants to check Mastek’s results. In this site, we keep updates of the different results of our projects. Through this, we inform our shareholders and customers of various company updates and the results of internal meetings. For our customers we have customer websites with dedicated pages for the information related to them. Providing all this information on such a regular basis would not have been possible without IT.

Masteknet.com is our internal website which helps us maintain relations with our employees. For example, we have monthly meetings and annual meetings where all ‘Mastek’eers meet and are updated about the company. The new employees perform group activities like skits and at the end of the day, there is an online poll to get views about the day. We also conduct employee satisfaction surveys through the web. This helps us evaluate the moods of our employees on a continuous basis.

We also have a unique concept called Aaj ka Mastekeer in which an employee is selected each day and asked about his likes, dislikes and his views on Mastek. I read these and respond to them, which is all possible because of the Web. Therefore, we extensively use IT for relationship-building with both customers and employees

We also have a unique concept called Aaj ka Mastekeer in which an employee is selected each day and asked about his likes, dislikes and his views on Mastek. I read these and respond to them, which is all possible because of the Web. Therefore, we extensively use IT for relationship building with both customers and employees, which helps us increase productivity in all areas.

To Identify Opportunities

The internal IT systems function plays an important role in developing new solutions in the following ways.

First, the IT function helps build key capability—to understand business processes and reengineer them to improve process efficiency and effectiveness. This capability is first honed on our internal systems and then leveraged to propose and build new solutions for customers.

Secondly, we have developed a global portal architecture for Mastek, which can be extended to build similar portals for global customers that have operations distributed across many countries. The portal provides features for communication and collaboration from anywhere in the world.

We also work closely with partners like Microsoft and Oracle for adoption of their latest tools and technologies within Mastek first. The lessons from these exercises are useful to reduce technological risks when designing and building solutions based on new technology for customers.

Mastek needs to comply with regulations not just in India, but also wherever it operates globally. IT enables compliance through system features like providing robust security and access control mechanisms for separation of authority. It helps build audit trails at the key steps in transaction processing, rule based alerts, exception reporting, tracking of agreed service levels, and so on.

Most of our customers are from the western world where privacy and data protection are of paramount importance. For example, the IT infrastructure supports information security and is compliant with the strict BS 7799 standard.

To Learn From Experience

One of the major areas where IT has contributed in increasing productivity is reuse of components and frameworks. The components and common functions developed by IT are shared with project teams for their use.

This not only avoids reinventing the wheel but also improves quality since the team will use a pre-tested code. Another area where IT makes a difference is to increase personal productivity of the employees.

A programme is underway that will boost office productivity by introducing standard templates, smart documents that pre-fill certain information, making available multiple channels of communication such as e-mail, chat, discussion forums and sharing of application screens

Currently a programme is underway that will boost office productivity by introducing standard templates, ‘smart’ documents that pre-fill certain information, making available multiple channels of communication and collaboration such as email, chat, discussion forums and sharing of application screens.

This will be done in an integrated manner to share knowledge across the organisation. We expect significant gains from these initiatives in the next two quarters.

Single Vision

In our offshore service delivery model, we use methods like scorecards and dashboards to track the team’s progress. It helps both the project team and customers share this “one view” of the project’s status ensuring complete transparency. This has been the most significant enabler for the success of our offshore service delivery model.

As told to Sneha Khanna

 
     
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