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April - 2010 - issue > CIO Profile
It's-the-Age-of-Seamless-and-Collaborative-Technology
Vimali Swamy
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
‘Seamless collaboration of technology and openness in its adoption’ is what Laxman Kumar Badiga is betting on in near future. As the CIO of Wipro Technologies, he is trying his best to drive these initiatives within the organization. “The next big thing to happen to the IT industry according to me is collaboration with all the technologies coming in place and being seamlessly adopted across all verticals,” says Badiga. Exemplifying his thoughts, he talks about mobility and cloud computing, the current buzz in the industry.

Cloud computing, today, is not pervasive as every vendor has his independent way of deploying it. But in the long run he is looking forward to the setting up of standards so that it can be deployed uniformly by all vendors. And it would be the winning companies who would be driving this than others. Similarly, compared to ten years back, what mobile was and what one can do today with it while on the move is completely different. People everywhere can access uninterrupted computing via mobile devices and laptops. Collaborating mobility with technologies like cloud computing will result in adding a whole new perspective to one’s business and enable companies to seamlessly stay connected to their clients, and add value to them. Similarly, there are several things one can do with new technologies, especially in the services area, and CIOs are seeing the beginning of it.

Over the past decade there has been tremendous growth in the technology sector and the greatest challenge for CIOs globally is to observe the various evolving technologies and methodologies and see what can be applied within the organization to leverage business.

There are always best practices across industry and it is important to realize how we can pick one of them and apply it efficiently in the industry. “At Wipro, we have three main businesses - consumer care, developing hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders, and IT services (this being the largest of the three). Being in the IT industry and having serviced numerous customers, we observe what is driving our customers and adopt suitable procedures and technologies to add value to them and also within our company. Simultaneously, we observe what is happening in other industries and spot the best practices in the industry and integrate them in our business,” says Badiga. The simplest example he gives is of Toyota. When Toyota started with lean manufacturing nobody thought that it could be applied for software too.

“Wipro was probably one of the earliest services companies to drive the adoption of lean manufacturing processes in software. We not only used it to improve our own software delivery process globally and succeeded but also passed it on to our customers as well,” he reminisces. Similarly, shared services with BPO perspective were created. The team figured out how one could create a factory model to provide shared services to multiple customers. Both these initiatives were duly recognized and awarded by NASSCOM. On the same note, even technologies can be adopted from other industries.

Badiga also talks about RFID technology which is best used by the retail industry for inventory tracking and management in stores. He believes that RFID can be adeptly used in the services industry as well to improve security, to track the movement of employees who travel to client locations, and more. There is so much happening across verticals and it is such out-of–the-box thinking and learning from peers that reflects a CIO’s forte, he says.

But probably the biggest challenge that the CIOs all around have faced and continue to face till date is ‘security’. “As one of the top service providers in the country, we serve a multitude of clients across various geographies and security is a huge problem that we face. Being a global company, several thousand employees of ours who work at client locations have problems as the client network is not open to them,” Badiga explains. Customers tend to develop closed networks and are weary about allowing others to connect to them. This may be good in terms of security perspective but in the broader perspective like seamless connectivity to the onsite employees, this is challenging. Thus, one of the top priorities for Badiga is to continue to drive the development of seamless connectivity between their and the client’s networks without compromising on the security factor.

Similarly, another thing that nags him is social computing and the openness it allows - not from the usability but from the security perspective. How does an organization include it in its network without risking security? While it is good for employee satisfaction measure, how can one control the security for both the clients and the organization? These are two challenges that Badiga is striving to get a solution for.

With the recession formally having coming to an end, there are several things that Badiga is raring to do within Wipro. One of these is driving the concept of ‘Green IT’. He has been driving a lot of processes within the organization for reduction in carbon emission and usage of renewable sources as much as possible. “Our main priority is to deliver infrastructure services — including facilities with automation — to drive energy savings and improve the environment. This includes building management systems, LEED (Leaders in Energy Efficient Design) certifications for facilities, access management, consolidation of datacenters, and virtualization,” he explains. Currently, the company has managed to achieve 30-35 percent reduction in power consumption and carbon emission. He is also striving to make the office as much paperless as possible. Other steps in this stride include converting food waste into biogas, using wind and solar power wherever possible, and more. Their goal is to reduce our carbon intensity by half by 2015.

What irks Badiga often is how he could use IT to maximize the green campaign. An added dimension to this is using IT to drive the green campaign. At present he is insisting on the use of unified communication, such as video conferencing, to avoid global traveling and create an efficient transport system that can reduce the transport costs per employee. At present, Wipro has managed to reduce the transportation costs by 30 percent by using efficient systems to schedule and route the paths for transport. “This not only reduces cost but also reflects on our green charter,” he smiles.

With close to 27 years in Wipro, Badiga has climbed the corporate ladder steadily to rise to his current role as a CIO four years ago; and there has been a lot that he has accomplished. But looking back, the most cherished achievement he remembers is the time when he headed the development and launch of the first packaged software from India in the 1980s at Wipro. Within three months’ time, the product was the most sought after one. “Also, when I joined the company it was horizontally focused, and I began to push Wipro into service verticals. I provided a global team of more than 90,000 with IT infrastructure, with consistent delivery management solutions for global delivery, and now we’re able to scale up to an additional 20,000 employees every year,” he beams.

Before he concludes, he talks about the three golden rules a CIO must bear in mind:

Be aware of what your customer wants and how we can effectively give them that in the best possible way.

With different technologies evolving, observe what will drive the future, spot what the trends are, loom out for standards, and bet on them. Spot the trends early and see how you can make it work for you.

Be close to the industry and observe what the dynamics are and see what you can do to drive towards what you are doing.
But one mantra he swears by and offers as an advice to others is ‘Customer Service and Satisfaction’. At the end of the day, everything revolves around these three words.
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