CIOs Hold The Key To India's Future: Murthy

by Amit Tripathi    Aug 22, 2004

It is befitting in the context of the Indian IT behemoth, for Infosys to tweak an age-old saying, by breathing fresh life into it. Truly, a man is known by the company that keeps him. The idea of starting a ’Infosys’ began as an experiment in wealth creation, according to Infosys Chairman of the Board and Chief Mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy.

In an exclusive with CXOtoday, Narayana Murthy, spoke on a range of topics that spanned from Infosys’s evolution to tackling attrition of IT staff from enterprises.

What blueprint can you provide for the CIOs in India?

I strongly feel that CIOs should be given more visibility in an enterprise. The management must make sure that CIOs report to CEOs. If possible, CIOs should be included on the Board of Directors. On the CEOs part, they must understand the power of technology and allocate additional resources. In this context I believe that more market competition would act as the necessary trigger for increased spending on IT.

How should IT heads of SMBs acquire the best possible technologies, relevant to their enterprise, in limited budgets?

For SMBs, prioritization should be the watchword in the usage of technology. In this context, creating models for Return On Investment (ROI) is extremely important on the part of the IT decision makers heading these Small and Medium Businesses. Choosing the right model that leverages technology and resources to the maximum should be the key component of their approach.

Attrition is no longer a problem associated only with the IT and ITES industry. Enterprises that are moving towards new technologies and hiring new faces, are witnessing similar circumstances. How can CIOs retain talents?

There has to be a multi-pronged approach, both from the CEO as well as the CIO of organization. They need to create enthusiasm and excitement among those talents. Many enterprises have in fact adopted a differential approach in terms of the salary and perk structure. Not only that, meritocracy (qualification, value, performance, and ability based evaluation) needs to be pursued.

How did the idea of Infosys come up?

Our effort was to break from the Leftist mindset. Thus Infosys started of as an experiment in making wealth by using academic excellence and transparent processes. I feel that what is crucial for any enterprise is good ideas, a good team, and a good value system. We were fortunate to have a great team right from the beginning. We also established value systems in our setup where employees had freedom to come up with ideas and implement them. Since the beginning, we had been following the dictum of forming a ’mutually-collective-expertise’ within our organization, which resulted in the right individual driving the right segment.

What would you change if you had to start building another Infosys from scratch today?

As I look back, I find we had been conservative in our initial years owing to the fact that industry then, was reeling under too much of government control. That is one thing which I would like to change if we were to start again.

How has the technology evolved and changed over the years?

We have been witness to the use of low capacity disks for storage. Today it is networking that forms the backbone for business. But just a couple of decades ago networking technology was almost unavailable. Earlier we developed and deployed softwares for large mainframes.

Today, the Internet has almost carved a niche as the de facto standard for conducting business. But there is a change in the approach given the fact that e-commerce today invariably follows one or the other viable business models. This is what interests the venture capitalists of today to fund new start-ups. It is exactly the same reason why dotcom based ventures and web commerce is on the upswing again.

How can legacy systems be defined in today’s fast changing scenario and why do they still continue?

Legacy systems can be best classified as technologies that are old but still viable than those currently in practice. Twenty years ago systems were based on the IBM 1401 Data Processing System, while in the 90’s, applications were basically executed on mainframes. Today, Unix machines running Java based applications are classified as legacy. But legacy systems will still continue especially in the Indian scenario, as long as corporations see benefits from them, unless and until a better business model or paradigm shift intervenes.

Finally, what message do you extend to the CIO audience in India?

The role of the CIO is extremely important in enhancing the efficiency of Indian corporations. Since technology is increasingly playing the pivotal role in an enterprise’s roadmap, CIOs are going to play an even more crucial role, and therefore would receive greater appreciation in the days ahead.

Tags: Q&A