Digital Leader 2018: Rakesh Bhardwaj : Cognizant

Cognizant | IT/ITES 

Rakesh Bhardwaj, Senior Vice President & Global CIO


Cognizant’s IT organization focuses on four broad technology and IT imperatives: end-to-end business process effectiveness, digital enablement, data management, and governance, and operational excellence. This helps our customers anticipate the workforce changes ahead, implement the technologies they will need to navigate and empower people to thrive in an increasingly digital economy. 


We follow a calendar year, rather than an April-March year. In our focus areas, these are some of the significant solutions we have developed:

  1. Our cloud journey is well underway and we are progressively migrating our on-premise application ecosystem to a true hybrid and multi-cloud environment. By next year, the majority of our applications will be on the cloud. In terms of third-party apps, our portfolio continuously veers towards SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) solutions as we progressively replace legacy on-premise solutions with best-fit SaaS equivalents.
  2. Virtualized Infrastructure is another key priority. Our approach to Software Defined Everything (SDx) encompasses software defined LAN, WAN, Access, and Storage. We have also made significant strides with end-point virtualization.
  3. Data is the lifeblood of any organization and we are enhancing our data management capabilities and orchestrating guided insights for our stakeholders.
  4. We are enabling a unified digital experience that makes work easy, intuitive and effective for our associates. We recently launched ‘Be. Cognizant’, a unified platform that offers a consolidated view and access to company news, tools and apps to help our associates stay informed, work effectively and enhance their social connect from any device.
  5. We have also implemented an integrated communications backbone to enable collaboration across locations and devices. These initiatives have gone a long way in bridging distances, and in bringing greater collaboration among our global workforce that spans over fifty countries.


Needless to say, all these services are being delivered to meet the requisite security, compliance and governance standards.



For Cognizant, Being Digital means being more human. The spoils of the digital economy will accrue to businesses that focus on people first — and leverage technology as an enabler. By discerning customers’ true needs and then using technology to develop solutions that fulfill them, winning companies will reap competitive advantages in the form of more satisfied customers, lower operational costs and higher profits.


From a CIO’s perspective, digital to me encompasses two broad aspects.


One is the ‘consumerization’ of the employee experience. That is the achievement of a unified, seamless, effective and delightful user experience by orchestrating the multiple layers that encompass our digital world: including digital interfaces, digital moments, digital platforms, data, apps, and the underlying IT infrastructure. Towards this objective, we are simplifying processes and building persona-based, compelling and contextual experiences across the employee lifecycle by leveraging digitally relevant technologies. Looking at it another way, we are re-imagining our own processes, services, and delivery mechanisms with the employee (‘consumer’) as the center of the universe just as we help our clients do. We are also rationalizing and simplifying applications, progressively adopting Agile/DevOps and increasing tools usage and automation.


The second aspect is the simultaneous ‘industrialization’ of our processes, to deliver quantum leaps in Cognizant’s competitive advantage.



Business outcomes are tough to define and even tougher to implement as an organization grows in size and complexity. The critical cog is the translation of macro-level business outcomes to “bite-sized” outcomes – with appropriate performance measures – at micro levels such as an enterprise unit or department.


As business becomes more IT-intensive, it is extremely important that business value is accurately measured, tracked and delivered. IT departments and service providers must be cognizant that business value will differentiate them as valuable contributors to corporate objectives.


This means a workplace that will be flexible, unconstrained by time, place or device, and powered by digital relevant technologies.


If I were to distill the key contours of our strategy, I would say that it involves the use of technology to achieve these three best practices:


  1. Simplify business processes
  2. Increase flow efficiency via connected systems and data
  3. Provide the right toolset to do the job.


Innovate to find a better way—for the clients who depend on us, the customers who rely on them and the communities who count on us all.


In today’s unforgiving global economy, innovation is as much about rediscovery and reinvention as it is about discovery and invention inside the organization’s four walls and with customers and partners. In fact, what is considered novel is often a brilliant twist on the tried, true and continuously improved.

Those organizations willing to experiment with new ideas, methods or devices and generate new forms of value, be they truly novel or reinvented, can often thrive in any era.


Communication is an integral part of driving innovation and transformation. It is essential to maintain a constant dialogue with the vendors and partners on mutual digital ambitions and focus areas to ensure success while architecting solutions. All parties involved need to appreciate the ‘big rocks’ – prevailing enterprise problems – and then see how technology can be used to solve them.


Significant milestones as CIO (current and past roles):


My role at Cognizant involves leading the IT organization, ensuring that Cognizant remains in the forefront of innovation as a technology-enabled and technology-powered business and acting as a key business partner in enabling digital capabilities – allowing the organization to be more flexible and resilient.


As an IT and business leader, I have a background in delivering results across environments, specializing in organizational change management, strategy, operations, finance, and people management, client management, program delivery, Global IT SW outsourcing, vendor management, and Lean Six Sigma.


My background as a Lean Six Sigma master black belt brought many varied and interesting opportunities my way. For instance, one of the initiatives I led related to simplification of the ‘books close’ process. Running initiatives of this nature helped me appreciate the direct impact of improvement of our actions to the company. As a CIO today, I also realize that this period of my career helped me understand the power of immersion – as many of these initiatives demanded to collaborate with stakeholders from across the world, cutting across time zones, cultures and demographics. This helped me sharpen my soft skills, communication, and people skills.


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