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May - 2010 - issue > CIO Profile
Cloud & Mobile Computing The NEXT FRONTIER
Vimali Swamy
Friday, June 18, 2010
Bask Iyer is excited for times ahead. As the CIO of the $35 billion corporation, Honeywell, he is looking at making the maximum of what is in store — mobile computing and cloud computing. He bets that these are the next big thing to revolutionize the industry a few years down the road. "As a CIO, my primary task is to keep the technology trends in line with the company’s business and I see a lot of potential in the convergence of mobile and cloud computing for both internal practices of the company as well as for clients by opening avenues for new products,"he says.

From scaling up infrastructure to providing services on-the-go there is a lot one can offer with these new technology advancements. As for Honeywell, Iyer is looking forward to being able to service business which were not in their client radar earlier. “Due to cost constraints, specifically capital investments, some of our potential customers may not have been able to use our products and services but with cloud computing the scenario is bound to change. They can now deploy our software over Cloud and SaaS making it is cost effective,” he says.

Another trend that he sees catching on like wildfire is the adoption of Open Source technology. He believes there are many interesting products from Operating Systems to databases and apps in open source platform. He finds them very good cost and quality wise for both small and large products. Iyer has also been observing many fellow CIOs who have seen the need to breakaway from legacy software and applications.

In his current role, Iyer is responsible for increasing productivity and improving the effectiveness of Honeywell’s IT, while safeguarding Honeywell’s critical information, intellectual property, and physical resources. He also implements an effective global operating service model by deploying new technology platforms and the core tools necessary to drive Honeywell’s businesses and strengthen IT’s role as a critical business partner throughout the company. In addition, he also leads the Honeywell IT Council, which sets the direction and focus for the function.

Despite all the change happening around, Iyer is focused enough not to ignore the fundamental building blocks of the company’s business. Honeywell has been doing cutting edge technology work in multiple fields and Iyer plans to align the new developments to enable company’s existing business processes. “What we want to do in terms of convergence of technologies is give our scientists and engineers the tools that will help get their job done efficiently,” he explains.

Exemplifying his statement Iyer talks about new tools such as high performance computing clusters, super computers, virtualization of labs by remote technology access and more.
While Iyer finds these changing times exciting he also feels that these in turn have also become the major challenge for most CIOs. The rate of technology change has been dramatic and while a few like Iyer are excited, most executives find this roller coaster ride ‘scary’, wondering about what is in store tomorrow. The challenge is to keep one’s business up to date with the changes and in some cases try and be pioneers in bringing about the wave of change. But Iyer believes that for those who have a passion for it there is nothing that will stop them in succeeding in these times. “One just has to have the discipline to go through process and change management to take a large company forward and keep in line with the advancements. This means you have to take a few swings and risks. As a CIO if I want to stay afloat then I have to think like an entrepreneur and take a few risks here and there,"says Iyer.

The kind of process Iyer has set about in the past few years at Honeywell is a testament of his modern day approach and support of new technologies to improve the company’s business while keeping intact the company’s core processes. From a time when ROI only meant cost containment or cost avoidance, Iyer feels CIOs have matured to look at it in a different light. “I call IT an enabler for enablers. Every company has certain enablers and at Honeywell we have three enablers — Functional Transformation, Velocity Product Development (VPD™) and Honeywell Operations Systems (HOS).

So positioning projects which achieve these business goals is probably where we need to do our investing. When we installed a high performance computing cluster costing several millions for one of our business units we were able to reduce the production time by 30 percent. To me such an investment is justified,” tells Iyer. It is this kind of specification CIOs are looking today to make their business decisions.

At present his prime focus has been bringing all the processes on a single ERP platform across all business verticals so as to increase the organization’s efficiency. “We are continuing the journey in what we call Functional Transformation that is helping the company save tremendously. If one looks at all the support functions in Honeywell, we have cut down our costs by half but at the same time improved efficiencies,” says Iyer. Also being a multi-billion dollar company that services several industries, it is important that it work on a common platform and hence it has set up the initiatives like HOS and the ERP systems it deployed have been huge enablers.

What excites Iyer when he looks at product development is the whole approach of how to invent, innovate create products, develop a flawless product launch and then manufacture and bring in productivity, that is an area ripe for IT and automation opportunities. “We have done a lot of work in that segment and we dabble in there. Once we start tapping opportunities to improve Product Lifecycle we will have a goldmine of opportunities to make the most of. In the area of customer relationship management, we are dabbling few other businesses, we are looking at launching an initiative to bring CRM globally just like our ERP system," he explains. These are two areas Iyer feels the need to explore.

A believer in teamwork, Iyer follows an easy to approach relationship with his team. His mantra to keep his team and himself motivated was something that he learned from his chairman — "Yesterday’s news wraps today’s fish". Iyer constantly tells his team that what they did yesterday was good but today is a new day so it is important to get a jumpstart. Fad-free management with sense of humor and direct approach is hisstyle of leadership.

He attributes his successful management skills to playing Cricket in school days. "This taught me the importance of strategy and teamwork." Also he believes that his days in college have had a large impact in shaping his career. "For my graduation, I could not get into any of the top colleges and the one which I attended was a public college and very rough. But it taught me a lot of street smarts. I believe that if one wants to survive in this competitive world he would need many other skills than just good education and intellectual superiority. You need to know to tackle people of all kinds and this requires street smarts else you will get hurt," he says.

From his wide cross industry experience, that includes leadership positions in GlaxoSmithKline Beecham, Johnson & Johnson, CTS, Honeywell in Asia Pacific and more, he has many thoughts that he wants to share with entrepreneurs. According to him, startups need to look at Cloud Computing very seriously as he thinks it will enable software developers very well. Also another area to focus is continuing globalization with help of cloud computing. One need not have data centers in specific regions rather all the outsourcing and monitoring can be done from remote locations via Cloud. He also advises them to jumpstart at mobile technology especially in emerging region India and China where this is more pervasive. They ought to target the enterprises and consumers with mobile apps and other related technologies. For Iyer these are what will form the next frontier.

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