By Ms. Maninder Kartik, CIO, Whirlpool of India
Established in 19 July 1960 as Kelvinator India Ltd., Whirlpool of India Ltd is a leading manufacturer of home appliances. The company is primarily engaged in manufacturing and trading of Refrigerators, Washing Machines, Air Conditioners, Microwave Ovens and small appliances and caters to both domestic and international markets. They also provide services in the area of product development, information technology, accounting and procurement services to Whirlpool Corporation, USA and other group companies. Headquartered in Pune, the company has a current market cap of Rs. 9.135.27 Crores.
Management and Leadership
For any organization of today, the heart of differentiation is anchored on its digitization journey. With a multitude of digitization options evolving every day, IT leaders have to deal with (a) balancing new technologies to connect with consumers, (b) collaborating efficiently to connect the value chain, (c) managing investment life cycle processes, (d) choosing appropriate support systems - both internal and external - and (e) ensuring IT security. This calls for a paradigm shift in the operating styles of a typical IT team - a shift from a reactive, issue driven style to a proactive, business partnership style. Thus, it is imperative for an IT team to have a comprehensive understanding of the business to become more effective partners. IT leaders have to relentlessly drive this thinking within their teams, the 'Language of Business' has to replace IT jargon, and the outcomes showcased within the organization.
The second challenge for CIO's is to nurture the 'core' while outsourcing non value added or 'commodity' processes for management to focus on the right mix that are aligned to corporate goals. An apt analogy is with personal health regime: to be fit and agile one has to be light and nourished. In IT, we need to shed detrimental fat while building the muscles we need.
Current technology trends in the industry
In today's context, I see Mobility poised for exponential growth. We are expected to have ~ 900 M mobile users by 2020. The rapid growth in Smart phones is seeing an unprecedented rise in the use of social media and e-Commerce, driving the need for innovation to meet expectations of the 'digital consumer'. Organizations are already connected with distributors, consumers and suppliers in some form or the other. However, the traditional terminology of having 'an ear to the ground' should now be replaced by 'a touch or click to the ground', a technological change that empowers executives to experience what's happening on the ground, in real time. Business Analytics that sit on top of this backbone ensures that decisions are invariably 'smarter' and 'faster'.
Flexibility - the panacea that corporations were looking for over many decades - is now a reality with Cloud Hosting solutions. It starts to free expensive real estate space and infrastructure which is replaced with technology-led, efficient, need-based solutions, allowing companies to scale up and then scale down, depending on the situation. This nimbleness allows IT to resonate at the same wavelength as their business peers.
'Automation' of yesteryears integrated information flow between different processes in an organization. 'Digitization' of the future will establish peer level information exchange between physical items and humans. The 'Internet of Things' as it is termed, will create a unique ecosystem of information that will give organizations a deeper insight into consumer preferences and product needs, thus creating multiple opportunities for business growth. The 'Internet of Things', combined with the convergence of social, mobile and cloud computing is already giving rise to an ever increasing virtual asset for an organization - Big Data - which provides unprecedented insight into the future of an organization. Therefore, like honey bees who intuitively know where the next drop of nectar will come from and automatically guide the hive, IT must be the beacon in an organization for the 'next big thing' in business.
Unique strategies adapted by Whirlpool of India
Whirlpool of India has used IT to increase efficiencies and transform key business processes. At Whirlpool, we are continuously building and nurturing the 'core' while leveraging our IT partners to drive all other processes that support the core. We have invested in technologies that support sales analytics, collaboration and capabilities in e-Commerce. Our global portfolio of technological solutions and IT security are leveraged by local IT teams which adapt them to deliver solutions that deliver the best value to the local business, making the global IT portfolio truly 'Glocal'. In the last one year, we migrated our communication platform to Google. The capabilities in Google have enabled a truly collaborative work environment, bringing teams together across time zones and geographies, creating an exceptional Winning Workplace. Google applications on cloud platform have a quicker turnaround time and have facilitated agility in decision making.
Its future road map
We are fortunate that we have vital consumer information for almost every product that we sell. This offers potential to connect this vast consumer base with Sales, Marketing and Product Development for insights to develop new products and processes, or enhance the overall consumer experience, thereby creating a competitive edge for Whirlpool.
In the developed world, 'The internet of Things' is a reality. This technology is now connecting consumers, product designers, service engineers, marketing and sales teams to collaborate and innovate in ways that till recently was impossible. Its evolution in the emerging markets such as India will be faster than we can imagine.
The future of IT Strategy in an organization is continuously evolving. It has to amalgamate new technologies into current business realities while keeping in mind reliability, efficiency and scalability. It is increasingly getting closer to the consumer where competitive intensity is measured in nanoseconds and where room for error is unaffordable.