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June - 2010 - issue > CIO Profile
Social-Media-Convergence-Key-Enabler-of-Customer-Oriented-Service-in-Future
Vimali Swamy
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
It is often said that recession is where the opportunity is. The economic downturn of last year may have been a big blow to the majority of businesses, but the bright side is that it has paved the way for CXOs and entrepreneurs alike to scout for new avenues both in business and technology. But the biggest challenge lies ahead of the CIOs to strike a balance between the business growth and maximum utilization of available resources. Sanjay Lall, VP and CIO, SimplexGrinnell is excited at what lies ahead. SimplexGrinnell is provider of access control, security, CCTV, fire alarm, audiovisual, and PBX telephony with worldwide installation and service facilities.

“The last two years have been extremely challenging for every CIO in the industry. While there was the need to have a constraint over one’s resources, the business had to keep on growing. It was important to maintain the interests of the stockholders and have consistent numbers on Wall Street Journal quarterly,” explains Lall.

Today, with a reasonably stable market and with many new developments in the area of cloud computing and virtualization that offer a myriad of services at low cost, it is the ideal scenario for him to set processes for the company. With the data security now possible on ‘cloud’, he believes that IT is moving in the right direction - commoditizing the technology partners. As information technology shifts from being a standalone product to shared services, it’s time CIOs focused on using IT to improve customer service.

“With the social media gathering traction, there is a boom in the amount of information available over the Internet. It is time, we focused on analyzing all the data and utilizing intelligent solutions like cloud computing and virtualization to make the customer experience superior,” says Lall.
This can be easily achieved by capturing all the knowledge that is out there and productively converging social networking and making the employees better informed. But at the same time one ought to keep in regard the security at data and network level. In all, IT will become the broker in every endeavor a business wants to partake.

Today, Lall is busy building a team that is focused on the needs of the business. He is looking at IT as the key enabler for putting SimplexGrinnell at the pinnacle of market growth by cutting costs and leveraging the company’s business. His goal for the next five years is making SimplexGrinnell the undisputed leader in its market segment so that it is renowned globally. For this his first step is to develop operational products that converge IP with standalone devices; so that he can drive technology to optimize infrastructure and aid in business improvement while lowering the costs.

The strategic minded CIO, with over 20 years of varied global IT experience, has been wielding the helm at SimplexGrinnell for the last four years. As one who wanted to create a technology oriented career, he started out as technology developer at Coca-Cola. But the ten year stint he had at the company cleared his vision. Though he was working on IT, he was still working for a company that was in consumer oriented business. It was then that he realized that he did not want to get caught up in technology for technology’s sake. It is vital that one understands the dynamics of the business one is working for; and he changed track from a career in technology to management. In the past years Lall has had leadership stints at several billion-dollar companies including Steris Corporation, Suntory Water Group, General Motors, General Electric, GTE, and Coca-Cola. In an effort to round up his experience, he also served as VP, Operations at Chutney Technologies, a startup, for nine years.

To him, it is important to learn from one’s peers in the industry. “It is important to be aware of what is happening in the industry adjacent to you. You may be surprised at how you may absorb some of their processes within your own organization and benefit from it,” he says. Some of the companies he looks up at are UPS and American Express who have created a fine imprint when it comes to customer oriented services. “I am looking at applying collaboration of technologies and using the analytics intelligence to leverage our customer’s experience with us. This is something I have learnt from my peers,” he explains.

A high performance leader, Lall enjoys nurturing the people working under him. He ensures building a strong team that can step into his role at any given time. This requires interest honesty, transparency, and leading by example, he believes.

Looking back, he is happy at what he has achieved and extremely values his stint at a startup. He believes that one must always try being an entrepreneur at least once in his lifetime, for it is then that one truly understands and learns the importance and useful utilization of time, capital, and resources. The startup he worked for provided services in the infrastructure space. “We developed software for data caching that helped optimize the infrastructure of an organization. The best lesson I learnt there is that whenever you ask a customer to pay for something you ensure that it is of value to him. Customers never invest where they see only a little value, so one must always keep a self check on one’s business,” Lall fondly reminisces.

To his peers and entrepreneurs he has a simple thought. One ought to have a positive outlook as the path to success is never straight. Be ready to take risks but always have belief in one’s decisions. If in dilemma, seek a mentor, discuss every turn, and more importantly be open to critical feedback.

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