From being considered as a pure technologist in his earlier avatar, the role
of the CIO has evolved and undergone a transformation. In his new avatar, the
CIO is now a business leader; and the change is for the better. The CIOs
transformation has in turn created new opportunities for him to influence
business outcomes and in some instances also take on direct responsibility of a
function. While few CIOs remained loyal to their functional domains within an
industry segment, some believed that moving across industries presented better
learning and opportunities.
My journey as a CIO has taken me across industries and verticals and each new
opportunity has brought a new paradigm, a new domain to learn and contribute to.
Over a period of time, the realization was that mid and back-office functions
typically remained similar irrespective of their industry, while customer
interactions and customer facing applications varied dramatically by industry.
My journey in retail started three years back with Shoppers Stop, HyperCity
and Crossword as the three main business units. The primary activity for all of
them was to sell to a customer, the merchandise and its treatment in the store,
and the back office had significant variations across formats. A fashion store
works very differently as compared to a hypermarket, which is unique when you
look at a bookstore.
Later on I took on an expanded role from being the group CTO for Shoppers
Stop to being the group CIO for K Raheja Corp. This brings along with it
construction, commercial and residential complexes, malls, hospitality and a few
other business operations. All of them at various stages of evolution on the IT
roadmap and usage of technology; the directions were largely aligned with the
needs of the industry and there is an expectation to leapfrog ahead.
While the key considerations for any group CXO would be similar; the terms
may change depending on the context. Some of the critical considerations for a
group CXO is creating a unified framework while recognizing individual
differences between business operations; benchmarking internally across, as well
as with respective industry and at the same time find synergies across the group
on collective buying, resource efficiencies, and costs. Being the team head for
a large group, he is also responsible for providing talent recognition and
growth opportunities across teams laterally. In addition he also ensures that
different business units remain within the defined framework except where
external forces may demand differentiation, and explore the shared service model
where possible for common functions or processes.
All the above apply to IT without exception. The group CIO is mandated to
work within a similar framework towards creating a unified IT and telecom
infrastructure, thereby providing ease of management and providing collective
buying opportunities with standardization, leveraging volume; following a common
set of applications wherever possible, for reducing complexity and license
costs, managing talent across the group recognizing high performers, and
providing opportunities across the group and improving retention. Last but not
the least, to set up a common shared services for base technologies, thereby
reducing operational cost.
At the group level, the expectation is to understand business and provide
technology enabled improvements, as it would in the case of a singular business.
The difference is that a group CIO may have at his/her disposal resources beyond
the ones available within just one company. This makes the task easier and at
the same time complex. Easier, as resource constraints are relatively less, but
complex because now there may be multiple conflicting priorities that need to be
The author is Group CIO, Raheja Group