IT: Serious Business

By Suneel Aradhye, CIO, RPG Group & KEC International

Suneel Aradhye, CIO, RPG Group & KEC International

RPG Enterprises, established in 1979, is one of India's fastest growing business groups with turnover over 18,000 crore. The group has more than fifteen companies managing diverse business interests in the areas of Infrastructure, Tyre, IT and Specialty.

Managing IT as a business has become critical and necessary for every organization's success; gone are the days when it was merely a back-end support function. Business complexities of growing and globalising businesses have percolated in IT as well due to continuously changing paradigm of technology, enlarging business scale, complexities of multiple languages/geographies etc. IT is becoming more and more strategic, intensely operational, hard to staff and as such complex to manage. For successful running of IT as a business, multi-skilling of teams in the technology division is becoming imperative, some of which have expertise in project, change and stakeholder management, continuous improvement, people development and long-term planning. Therefore, IT leadership has to transform itself to run IT as a business.

IT as Marketing/Sales Manager: Like every marketing and sales function, IT also has to develop strategy to predict business requirements, create demand for new, relevant technologies/products and get buy in from stakeholders for investments, which would all require engagement with stakeholders at various levels. Understanding how a business is and shall evolve in future is necessary.

IT as Vendor Development & Procurement Manager: With growing speed, scale and expanding business geographies, creating a right combination/model of service providers and selecting right technologies is the key to success. This requires a good amount of networking and vendor development skills apart from technology/processes capabilities. Considering the fact that significant stakes are involved, procurement at right prices with right financial models from right partners for good after-sales services is essential. IT has to not only keep the operations running with seamless identical experience all across but also focus on continuous evaluation of upcoming technologies, developing proof of concept, assess scalability and fitment for long term, and deployment all across. Strategic relationships with right technology partners are essential for the same.

IT as Finance Manager: IT is all about "Investment in Technology". Most companies these days have substantial spend on technology. Long-term planning, annual and further granular budgeting, deals structuring, contract management, cash-flow planning, ROI projections and tracking actuals, etc, have all become essential and require fair amount of financial knowledge as well.

IT as Human Resource Manager: IT services are delivered by people—a number that only keeps going up as businesses grow. And, it is all about intellectual capital and often the deliverables are subjective. Only happy employees and service providers can deliver wholehearted good-quality services. Choosing the right people, creating the right team/organisation structures, assign clear roles/responsibilities, keep them motivated, manage attrition, etc, all require substantial soft/engagement skills. Developing a right organisational culture has become another role for today's CIO.

IT as Change Manager: "Change is the only constant in life"; business is ever changing and so is IT. However, change brought by technology often results in changes to business models, job realignments, need to learn new skills, etc. Success of most IT initiatives is determined by how effectively the change is managed by the organisation. Often businesses fail to appreciate the magnitude of this task. As such, effective communication, alignment/rallying of key stakeholders and the whole organisation behind transformational initiatives are all getting added to the role of an IT manager or CIO.

The technology function has transformed from being a business-enabler to a business in itself. IT is now responsible to deliver desired business outcome and not just a technology initiative. While the responsibility has gone up significantly, resources too are being made available; and it is for the IT and new age CIOs to embrace the opportunity and transform oneself into a business leader.

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