Interview with Kanchan Ray, CTO of Nagarro: Balancing Trade-Offs and Harnessing Technology for Business Growth
Ray shares valuable insights on the intricate balance between trade-offs and decision-making in the technology industry. With a focus on aligning technology with business strategies, harnessing emerging trends, and driving value from data while ensuring governance, Kanchan provides valuable perspectives on the evolving role of a CTO. Additionally, he delves into the future of technology talent post-COVID and the alignment of open source with cloud ambitions. Join us to gain insights from a seasoned technology leader on navigating complexities and optimizing resources in a dynamic digital landscape.
Being a CTO in an industry how do you balance trade and all things come into play?
At Nagarro, we have multiple CTOs spread across the globe specializing in domains encompassing both technology and business. All our CTOs evaluate risks, costs, innovation opportunities, scalability, and compliance considerations to make informed decisions that drive our organization forward while optimizing resources and mitigating risks. I feel that collaboration, communication, and the ability to adapt to changing technology landscapes are key skills for a CTO that can be used to navigate the complexities and trade-offs in this role. Balancing these trade-offs requires strategic thinking, a deep understanding of technology, and the ability to align technology decisions with business objectives.
Being in the digital transformation space in the IT services industry, one of the key aspects I regularly prioritize is aligning with business strategy for us and for our customers. To achieve this, I need to understand the industry landscape, competitive dynamics, and the organization's goals to make technology decisions that support and enable the overall long-term business strategy.
The other major balancing act for me is between technology innovation and trends. Staying abreast of technology trends and innovations is crucial for a CTO, which helps to balance the adoption of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, or the Internet of Things (IoT), with the organization's needs and available resources. Assessing the potential impact, risks, and benefits of new technologies is essential in making informed decisions for any CTO.
How do you see technology talent going forward after covid?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the technology talent landscape. In 2020, across the IT industry when people were sent to work from home with laptops and Zoom – today they are no longer the same workers, as they navigate attending virtual family gatherings, participating in online weddings, and facilitating remote education for their children. These changes have propelled the virtual world into the mainstream.
Most surveys are predicting a huge global deficit of technology talent – ranging from Agile, and AI to cybersecurity. In the post-COVID world, I see the following trends:
- Talent will come from anywhere and won’t necessarily be limited to “elite” pockets of Tier 1 or 2 locations. We see that technology has untethered talent from geographical locations as remote working becomes more mainstream. This works in favor of both employers and employees. Employers can tap into the talent pool of any location, even from different countries, and at the same time, talents can choose to work from anywhere across the globe. This separation of the workforce from the workplace heralds a new era where companies will have to build their company culture outside the building.
- The talent requirement in the post-COVID era has also coincided with the rise of next-generation AI and that aspect can’t be ignored at all. Just like business and technology transformation strategies, companies will need to focus on talent transformation strategies. Upskilling and reskilling will be key and most CXOs I have talked to have indicated their need for more talent in data analytics, AI, user experience, DevOps and automation, cloud, and cybersecurity as their top priorities. I imagine a lot of talent will gravitate towards these technologies.
- As someone who spends a lot of time on Teams calls, I feel that video calls are a great equalizer. Everyone has their faces in the same box on the same screens, eliminating the advantages of in-person meetings where someone could have the benefit of being at the right place at the right time. The remote way of working provides a level playing field, presenting a unique opportunity for companies to focus more on diversity and inclusion. For employees, it also means focusing on soft skills as well as on how to be “visible” digitally.
How the Notion of open source aligns with the cloud ambitions?
Open source is mostly about community and the hyperscalers are joining these open source communities, intending to change the status quo and support cloud adoption. Many of the container services are built on open source software too. For open source technology stacks to co-exist in the cloud, it has to deliver a simple experience for the users and at the same time bring in unique value propositions. Another aspect of open source software that needs to be kept in mind is cost efficiency and on-demand scalability. Open source software often adheres to open standards, fostering interoperability with other systems and services. The cloud provides a platform for integrating and connecting various open source components, enabling seamless interoperability across different applications and services.
The complex balancing act data leaders face today, how to drive value from data without losing sight of good governance?
On the one hand, most organizations need to leverage their data effectively to gain insights, make informed decisions, and drive business innovation. On the other hand, they must ensure data privacy, security, and compliance. Finding the right equilibrium between these two aspects is crucial for sustainable and responsible data management. Another emerging issue that has come to the forefront recently is how organizations use their data ethically.
The first clarity the data leaders need to bring is on the meaning of value for the organization. Financial value is the most obvious and direct value and can come via incremental top-line or bottom-line impacts. While focusing on these obvious values is important, deriving other values that can have far-reaching impacts in the future should also be part of the approach. A data strategy for any organization must be a very pragmatic way to enable their business strategy, with iterative delivery and tangible KPIs.
The first clear understanding should be about the data assets the organization has. This should include all assets across the value chain – for example, data sources, data pipelines, APIs, ML models, reports, etc. Often, we see organizations only focusing on one or two of the above rather than taking a holistic view of data.
Once a clear data strategy is defined with proper KPIs and milestones that articulate the expectations of the business clearly, the organization needs to focus on data governance, data privacy, data policies, compliance, and ethical use. It is very important to build a data culture in the organization which ensures everyone is thinking about data at every stage of the value chain. The data leaders should collaborate with stakeholders across the organization, including legal, compliance, IT, and business units. Regular communication and engagement with these stakeholders can help ensure that data initiatives are aligned with governance requirements and mitigate any potential conflicts.
How can organizations optimize their technology stack and SaaS spending on applications through the adoption of Product Analytics?
By leveraging product analytics, organizations can make data-driven decisions when evaluating new SaaS applications or managing existing subscriptions. The most significant reasons for wasted money on SaaS and cloud services are unclear ownership, automatic renewals of unused licenses, and the lack of visibility of overlapping SaaS subscriptions. There are simple steps an organization can take with product analytics that can help them lower the SaaS cost.
Product analytics provides visibility into the adoption and usage of different features within applications. By analyzing feature-level data, organizations can identify which features are most valuable to users and which are underutilized or poorly received. This information helps in optimizing feature sets, focusing development efforts on high-value features, and potentially avoiding unnecessary feature overlap with other applications. Product analytics also allows organizations to monitor the impact of technology stack optimizations over time. By continuously tracking usage, adoption, and user feedback, organizations can iterate on their application portfolio, address emerging needs, and ensure that the technology stack remains aligned with business objectives and is cost-effective.
The first strategy is to make the SaaS stack visible, which can be achieved by taking stock and making an expenditure inventory which will include all expenses, contracts, and the number of licenses the organization has. Doing so allows the business to see what they are using and why. Moreover, taking regular stock of SaaS usage and spending is highly recommended for any organization. Another important aspect is to promote organization-wide adoption of apps and productivity by champions. Team champions for specific products and software can be learning points for employees wanting to know more about the product as well as SaaS optimization.