Move Ahead Or Keep Managing DATA CENTER

by T G Dhandapani CIO, TVS Motor Company

A part of TVS Group, TVS Motor Company Limited (BSE: 532343) (NSE: TVSMOTOR) is a leading manufacturer of motorcycles, scooters, mopeds and auto rickshaws. Headquartered in Chennai, the company currently has a market cap of Rs.4,064 Crores.


Over the past three decades, corporate CIOs served primarily as stewards and guardians of IT infrastructure. IT has traditionally focused on building reports about events occurred in the past. Later, with the boom of ERP, CIOs were expected to enable and automate the processes and bring process efficiency. At this stage, the focus of CIO was mainly on process integration and enabling the organization to control and reduce manpower. This focus though solved many issues, was more internally oriented and drove marginal improvements at high cost. Complex ERPs demanded experts to solve even minor transaction problems that should not have existed. CIOs were heroes in fixing those issues. With consumerization of IT, the businesses expected CIOs to simplify the solutions and pave way for visual enrichments and mobility. iPhones, iPads, Galaxies and Tablets threw new challenges to CIOs to simplify IT. The system should be easy to use without any major training. It should be as simple as ATM that anyone can use it and at the same time in a fault tolerant and secured way. This expectation gave way for mobile computing; many things that could not be achieved through normal computing could be solved through mobile computing.

Plethora of data generated in ERP gave room for analytics. Reports developed for day-to-day management were hygiene matters and CIOs were expected to get some insights out of data. It gave room for analytics and organizations experienced some break through using the analytics. But again, analytics are mostly used to look backwards.

However, the capabilities of IT and expectation from CIOs are much more. IT will be far more instrumental in predicting future opportunities and strategies based on statistical information. As a result, IT will become much more important. Shifting from a backward-looking to a more forward-looking role will require IT to change its view of data. For this, a CIO has to understand data in a business context and has to acquire new skills for managing and understanding the data. Today, CIOs on an average does not have those skills. In other words, they must learn to perceive data in a way that is similar and to the way that the business perceives data. As CIO develops more expertise and a deeper understanding of data analytic techniques, the organizations will begin to see a stronger integration of IT and the business.

In its earliest days, IT was known as Management Information Systems (MIS). Over time, MIS has evolved from a purely reporting function into a fully-fledged corporate department that oversees virtually every business process occurring within the modern enterprise. Despite its enhanced scope and larger budget, CIOs still exert relatively little influence on the development of business strategies. The modern CIO has full view of the business from product development to accounting or from supplier relation to customer relation or from shop floor to top floor or from human resource to industrial relations. There is almost nothing that the IT has not embraced. CIO knows what is happening and more importantly "what is not happening" in any function of the organization. He can also be a conscience keeper for the business and also a strategy influencer.

Modern CIOs' KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) also changing from time to time. "Uptime and availability of computing systems" is pushed three levels below and CIOs started measuring "business value generated". Modern KPIs are "number of innovative projects delivered successfully and patents earned". For the first time in its history, IT has the potential to transform itself from a cost center into a profit center. For the CIO, the upside is clear: when you lead a department that makes money for the company, you get a seat at the table when strategy is discussed. Cost saving in IT though appreciated, will not bring recognitions in the Board. Even 10 percent over spent in IT budget brings half a percent saving in total cost; it is material for the business.

Looking at the big picture, business orientation, solutions to improve top line, contribution to bottom line, creating new business opportunity are the new expectations, and the CIO should rise to the occasion otherwise shadow IT will swallow him and he will remain merely managing datacenter.