IT managers are under pressure to deliver more

by Shweta Verma    Jul 29, 2013

Vijay Sethihero motocorp

With IT becoming a strategic part of every corporate setup, the expectations are also changing. Earlier IT managers had to face huge resistance at every step, but today employees are proactively giving tech ideas and are demanding specific solutions. How can the IT department brace itself to meet these demands? speaks to Vijay Sethi, Vice President & CIO, Hero MotoCorp, to find out more.

How has the IT function in organizations evolved over the years? What are some of the key changes that you have seen?

There is so much of change in technology, user requirements, and user perception, user expectation that the role that IT now plays in most companies and the role of a CIO are undergoing a huge transformation. There is also a huge change in outlook towards IT initiatives in an organization. For example, just 10-12 years back there used to be huge resistance from users to ERP implementation in most companies. People were not willing to move to computerized data and integrated systems and many considered such initiatives to be a threat to their jobs. So, IT departments and CIOs were spending lot of time in convincing or requesting users to use systems, provide data for testing, come for training etc.  Today the situation is just 180 degree from that and from a push it is more of a pull now. IT departments across organizations are under pressure to deliver more. People in the organization come up with newer and newer ideas for automating their work or getting more analytical reports.

What have been your major challenges as a CIO?

Challenges over the last couple of years have moved away from being primarily technical and change management related challenges to more of managerial challenges like ensuring leveraging of IT tools, ensuring ROI on IT investments, management of ever increasing user expectations, increasing usage of technology tools deployed, managing rate of technology change in the organizations, ensuring compliance etc.Today, knowledge of IT now exists in all functions and departments in an organization and one can come across lot of people with IT background in functions other than IT. This is creating a huge positive pressure on IT departments to ensure that they are able to meet changing expectations of the new generation but at the same time it helps in very early adoption of technology.

How do you deal with these changing expectations?

Looking at the user expectations today, the CIO needs to ensure that IT department is much more nimble and fast as project completion is expected in days and weeks whereas earlier the timeframes were generally in quarters or even years.Another challenge that a CIO faces today is to build a highly effective IT organization with the right kind of skills. While CIOs need to ensure IT teams have good business knowledge,  project management skills and communication skills, CIOs also need to ensure that IT team’s approach, behavior and IT processes/ policies etc. donot become bureaucratic. So, in nutshell, I feel the role of CIO in an organization has become much more strategic today.

CIOs have to constantly align IT with the business goals of the organization. How do you approach this?

I am always amazed at this question – what is business. Is business something else and IT something else. Is not IT also part of business? We align only if they are two different things. I think business alignment of IT is something that only IT people think of. I am yet to come across any IT department which says it does not align its initiatives to what other functions – say HR or sales or manufacturing. The only issue that does happen in lots of organizations is that IT function is not aware of what the priorities of other functions are or are informed at the last minute of IT interventions that some other function may require.

How do you tackle such situations?

This is where a CIO has to play a role by having regular interactions with other functional heads. A key enabler for this is the ‘trust’ which CIO and his team have to build with other functional leaders and their teams. This trust cannot be built overnight and a number of factors including quality and timeliness of deliveries, professional approach, and knowledge of team play an important role in determining this.For me at Hero MotoCorp, a big advantage is that I am also part of the management team of the organization and all the priorities and plans of various functional areas are discussed in those meetings. Another thing I ensure is regular meetings and interactions with people at various levels in the organization. We discuss various initiatives and the IT team members work closely with other functions even to define new processes.

Do you also insist on regular skill building programs for your team?

Yes, there is a huge focus that we give on development of the IT team – not just on their technical skills but also on business skills and knowledge. This helps a lot as in most of the projects – IT team and members from relevant functions work as one team.

Are Indian companies ready to adopt emerging technologies like big data, mobility, cloud etc.?

As I see, there are a couple of IT trends that are changing the way organizations are working today, the major ones being social media, mobility, big data and cloud. These are not just words today but are becoming part of IT landscape of lot of companies. It is not just CIOs and IT teams that talk about these trends but also end users at various levels as people are becoming more and more aware of possible benefits and value that these could bring to the organization.On the question of Indian companies being ready to adopt – my view is simple. The question on these today is not ‘if’ or ‘when’ but ‘what all‘. The companies have to adopt and there is no choice, as CIOs cannot buck this trend. CIOs need to look at the business case, look at the culture of organization, consider other aspects and make a road map for adoption.

Does your organization plan to leverage any of these tools?

We at Hero have already embraced all these four and are working on a well defied road map for them. E.g. we today use public cloud, private cloud and community cloud. We have a huge presence on social media and regularly do big data analysis including sentiment analysis. Most of our applications and workflows today are mobile enabled and we also have enabled video conferencing on mobiles and tablets. Few other areas that are picking up are M2M (Machine to Machine) communication. People have now started exploring M2M and it will be one area to watch out for in automotive sectoras we move forward. MDM (Mobile Data Management) and MAM (Mobile Application Management) are the othertwo areas for one to exploit the power of mobility.