Disruptive technologies are opportunities for CIOs

by Darinia Khongwir    Jun 17, 2013

Anil Khatri

Anil Khatri is the head of IT for SAP South Asia and is the face of IT to all internal customers of SAP and is responsible for the field operations of the company. He focuses on driving key global initiatives including location strategy and vendor consolidation. He talks to CXOtoday on why CIOs need to be more visible now than ever before.  

How has the role of the CIO changed over the years? What are the key factors?

The CIO needs to engage with the customer – internal and external. They should be instrumental in driving business goals. CIOs should be participating in activities to get them closer to customers, analysts or influencers. They can use various channels like social media—it is a very powerful media in driving innovation and evolution through various channels of engagement. The CIO ought to be accessible to all the external stakeholders rather than shying away from them.

Some of the activities that can get the CIO closer to his customers are writing blogs, getting in touch with customers and meeting them often, should be accessible to your customers via social media like Facebook, Twitter basically, where you can collaborate with these communities. Be available to them not only to inform them of your roles but also how you can help the external customers of your organisation to be successful.

Previously, CIOs were more inwardly looking and devising ways how to make their own businesses more successful. I think steps have to be taken to ensure that you meet not only you internal customers’ needs but also how to make your external customers’ business more successful.

How should CIOs ideally tackle disruptive technologies such as Cloud, Social Media, Mobility and Big Data?

Disruptive technologies are big opportunities for any CIO. Much of our existence is in the digital world—right from work, play and socialising. The amount of data being generated is astonishing. And at SAP we believe that the confluence of these events is golden opportunity for any enterprises to rethink how they do their business. And our goal is to help them do their jobs better. We live in a dynamic world and it is important for us to pay close attention to these consumer trends. The lines between the corporates and the consumers are rapidly blurring. Let’s look at mobility for example. We have empowered our salesforce by enabling them with devices like tablets and smartphones. They can access our applications, which are on the cloud, interact with customers using social media. We have given them and also now we are giving them all the data together powered by real-time analytics and SAP HANA on their iPads. With this, we are touching all disruptive technologies and using it to our advantage, not only for our internal but also for our external businesses.

Being a CIO of an IT company, what are the unique opportunities and challenges you encounter?

The CIO of a tech company has to play a three-dimensional role. The first is to be the best functional CIO. So, you need to have your operational excellences, you need to drive transformation through benchmarks and ensure your vendor portfolio and everything related to budgeting has to be in good shape. No compromise on that.

The second dimension is business transformer. Today, without IT, you cannot do automation. You cannot expand in geographies and introduce new channels. So, IT plays this very important role in business transformation and a CIO has to take up this challenge in transforming these business plans into action.

The third is to be a strategic CIO. He should use his strategies to really innovate and drive the learning curve of the organisation.

Most of the CIOs are caught up with being just a functional role. But they also need to bring this up a notch and transform the business and also be a strategic advisor for enterprise leaders.

Are there any best practices you share with your global counterparts?

Yes, indeed. A CIO needs to be externally visible and available. CIOs ought to move out of their offices and talk to their customers and their customers’ customers. Have external clients see the other side of the business and make them successful.

The second thing is IT has to come out of this underground or basement kind of approach. So even within our own organisation, we need to be coming out and sitting in the forefront. In 2010-11, we built a mobility solutions centre for our internal and external customers. Bottomline is CIOs are no longer just support and backend functions anymore. You need to be out there visible, externally and internally and walk side by side with the business.

Acquiring quality talent is of prime importance for a CIO. What is your experience?

Talent is the key. You can’t succeed if you don’t have talent in our organisation. I look for people who drive innovation and build smaller teams. With smaller teams you can invest in the skill sets of the people. And CIOs have to play an active part to communicate this within their organisation and also to talk about their internal successes and accomplishments and this helps them attract the right talent.

If you are able to communicate what you are doing internally and goals and transparently share your successes and build smaller teams that innovate together and are given a free rein to innovate, you get successful results faster. And once that happens, you get this the rush of success and once you get the taste for it, you will be able to attract more talent towards it.