By N.K.Verma, GM-IT & CIO, RCF Ltd
Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers Ltd. (RCF) (NSE:RCD; BSE: 524230) is a Mumbai based Public Sector Undertaking in India under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. The current market capitalization of the company is Rs.3,715.62 crore.
A CIO’s Dilemma
Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.--Sydney J. Harris
CIO of a large organization is often caught in the horns of a dilemma due to varying demands and at times conflicting expectations of management and users from IT systems and infrastructure towards accomplishing business objectives. There is no denying the fact that the ultimate measurement of efficiency and effectiveness of IT systems at the end of the day is defined by cost optimization and maximization of returns. This gets further complicated when the decision makers minutely scrutinize the investment proposals in absolute terms of Return on Investment (ROI) with hardly any space for long term anticipative benefits that would in all probability accrueif the project takes shape as originally chalked out.
One has also to grapple with the issues of adopting the best business practices after Business Process Reengineering wherever feasible or yield to demands of business users who had been following certain procedures for ages and find themselves most comfortable with. It is one of the toughest task for a CIO to convince the business users that whatever procedures they had been following all those years was not exactly the best way to do things and something different being recommended is.
Today’s IT leaders have to spend more time and spare more energy for innovation and business strategy, unlike in the past when role of IT was often repetitive information processing and consolidation. For decades the IT system groups were normally headed by someone with excellent computer programming knowledge and application development skills, but now we find that many of the CIOs are neither hardcore programmers nor did they begin their career as computer professionals. In my interactions with CIOs from a wide range of industries, I come across people with professional expertise in different business verticals but have a very good understanding of technology trends and can see how new technologies can be leveraged to boost all around growth and development.
A CIO can bring about extraordinary improvements and do wonders if he enjoys tacit support of the management, as innovative concepts and technologies get infused seamlessly. Sometimes CIOs find themselves very oddly placed in organizational hierarchy with no representation in the board, as the board members representing different functional domains do not consider a CIO as one of their own and is often left to fend for himself whenever any investment proposal is put up for approval. This works both ways, sometimes the spirit of innovation and craving for excellence is dampened, whereas for many this makes them more resolute to survive and excel under adversities and prove themselves, which in turn earns them the respect of the seniors.
Traditional data processing and computerization were broadly defined by infrastructure, applications, information and sourcing. But the modern paradigm of information technology encompasses absorption and adoption of several innovative and disruptive technologies that have brought in sea changes and transformed the business processes forever. Technologies including Public and Private cloud, Social networking, mobility, and analytics which originated from evolution and propagation of internet, have stormed the IT landscape and have been widely acknowledged as essential for remaining competitive and relevant.
Technology changes in IT are not gradual; they normally take quantum leaps and are often disruptive, necessitating fundamental changes in thought processes and the infrastructure that has been laid out with provision for future expansion and expected growth. Disruptive technologies bring with them entirely new concepts and architectural framework that render the existing infrastructure simply inadequate and at times useless. With proliferation of Internet, service delivery through cloud has stormed the IT ecosystem and some of the technology buzzwords like Social Media, mobility, analytics and cloud computing, which were doing rounds for some time, have now become ubiquitous and all pervasive.
Once the information flows across a wider geography through the network and cloud, the traditional perimeter is dead. Securing networks and protecting vital information, with many mobile devices connected into the system, has become an unenviable task for a CIO. There is always a cat and mouse type race on between the security experts on one hand and the hackers on the other, constantly trying to outwit each other. Despite all the information security risks attributable to cloud implementation, the cloud is here to stay and mayenvelop the entire IT ecosystem sooner than later.
I always believe a CIO can be very effective in meeting the expectations of the business and yet remain popular among his peers, co-workers and senior management. It requires good understanding of business and dedication to make things simpler for the users who actually are benefited when IT makes their job simpler, interesting and productive. Creating a pedestal is very essential for a CIO to convert his innovative ideas into implementable and acceptable solutions. The innovations are appreciated if the person behind the innovation is affable and is seen as a Good Samaritan. We all know that technology can do wonders, if managed appropriately, but can as well magnify inefficiencies if handled slovenly.