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Learn, Unlearn & Relearn

By Annie Mathew, CIO, Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Pvt. Ltd.
Monday, April 20, 2015
By Annie Mathew, CIO, Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Pvt. Ltd.
Setup in 1974, Mother Dairy is a wholly owned subsidiary of National Dairy Development Board of India.

As a CFO once told me, the CFO and the CPO are the two arms of the CEO/MD who help her steer the organization towards glory and prosperity. By the same analogy, I would say the CIO serves as the eyes of the chief executive to bring visibility and clarity. The CIO helps the CEO make sense of the plethora of information under which the CEO can get submerged. To sieve information out of the structured and unstructured data and make it interpretable and actionable is one of the primary tasks of the CIO.

What are the concerns that keep the CIO awake at night? What factors drive technology decisions today when a 5-year road map appears too long term? The IT road map is built to meet the stated objectives of the business road map. An IT road map is defined for a 3 year rolling cycle, augmented by an annual review with the business to prioritize projects based on revised needs of the business. In my experience, most companies have a backlog of projects to achieve minimal objectives of risk and control management, employee productivity and cost optimization.

The biggest concern of the CIO is that she is not moving fast enough to embrace the new developments, that the IT skill sets available are not keeping pace with the change in technology and that enough thought is not being invested in how to redesign the business to take advantage of new opportunities. Mobility and Internet of Things are going to radically change the way information is generated or handled. The CIO and business have to identify areas of maximum impact. While organizational fitment and readiness are key factors in deploying any new technology, being risk averse is detrimental in today's fast paced world. However, are we deploying a technology because of a herd mentality or does the organization really need it? Does it address a pain point, will it fulfill a strategic need or is it the latest fad? To cut through the sales pitch and empower the business optimally is a crucial role of the CIO. The need for security and for building awareness about security is also a prime concern.

More often than not, the project need is articulated by the business and is rarely originated by IT (at the most, IT guides the business by building awareness of trends), but the onus of ensuring successful implementation somehow migrates to IT. IT has to play a strong role in identifying and managing project risks. A major risk is that it only achieves automation. I believe it is the role of the CIO to facilitate the change from automation to empowerment. For instance, deploying a retail POS application might only end up as an automation effort if a responsive mechanism is not setup to monitor and react to market conditions. To look for enhanced usage and to facilitate innovative ways of using currently deployed technology is another expectation from an effective CIO. One of our projects involved daily auto-debit from our customers' (booth concessionaires and distributors) bank accounts based on actual billing in SAP. This simplified the entire collection process for the company and for the customers' which depended on daily cheque collections; and also reduced the working capital requirement.

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