Unlike most CIOs, Vijay Kumar Magapu dons two hats in his professional life.
Not only does he perform the role of CIO and a senior vice president of Larsen
& Toubro (L&T), one of the largest conglomerates in the country, he also
acts as the CEO of L&T Infotech, the third-party IT services company from
the L&T stable.
Ask him how he feels juggling between the two roles and draws a synergy?
“What definitely helps is the fact that the two roles are complementary-while
L&T derives obvious IT advantages from Infotech’s expertise, L&T
Infotech tries out most of its first pilot implementations in the different
companies of the parent group itself,” says Magapu.
Still that leaves the question of being prudent enough in strategically
dividing the time between the two. “In fact, 80% of my time now goes in
looking after Infotech’s activities, since that involves pitching for and
bagging clients offshore,” he says.
Magapu is not like your conventional CIO in many other instances. Being the
CEO of a group company, he is part of the conglomerate’s top management.
“You would not find me cribbing like other CIOs about receiving audience
from the CEO. In fact, I interact with him thrice a day.” There are obvious
advantages of the CIO being part of the top management itself-policies are not
thrust down upon you, it is he himself who formulates the policy and then charts
out the course for its successful implementation. And IT for him is therefore,
just not a means for enabling business in L&T, it is that strategic tool
which he believes would drive the growth of the group itself in the long run.
He has therefore, closely worked with the CEO in formulating the IT vision
for the group, which according to him rests on two legs. “Leveraging IT to
the fullest by deploying IT solutions in abundance to derive competitive
advantage and use IT to substantially increase the productivity.”
Magapu stresses on two aspects-abundance of IT solutions and increasing
people productivity. “My CEO insisted that since IT is an advantage for
India, we should, if need be, over deploy IT across the company to overcome some
other shortcomings.” And Magapu is focussed about the people productivity
part. “Not only should you look at how IT can enhance employee
productivity, more important is to find out whether people are accepting and
using the IT systems. Otherwise, even deployment in abundance will have little
Magapu is strongly driven by processes-to bring his IT vision into reality
in L&T, he has already started an implementation and audit model on the
likes of CMM. The key focus areas for implementing this model are productivity,
business continuity, common service governance, total cost of ownership and
alignment. While productivity has currently reached Level 3, rest are all on
Level 2. “While this means we are past the first phase of IT
implementation, the quest now is how IT can be the business growth driver.”
He agrees that this is a continuing process and would take some time,
“definitely much more than an 18 or 24 month time frame”.
Rajneesh De in Mumbai
Managing IT, Magapu Style
Each division in L&T has independent IT departments with individual
CIOs. These CIOs are primarily responsible for the IT operations in their
divisions and ensure that IT implementations synergize with their divisional
business strategies. Each of them are functionally reporting to Magapu, who has
the overall charge of the entire IT functioning in L&T from strategic levels
to budgeting to deployment issues. Magapu also organizes these periodic IT
conclaves attended by the CEO, the directors, the different business heads as
well as all the CIOs.
Making People Accept
Magapu firmly believes that the real success of any IT system only comes once
people are accepting and using it to improve their mode of functioning.
“System coverage, people coverage as well as acceptance and usage are all
our key focus areas for realizing our IT vision. But I must admit the real heat
is on the third area during this year.” While system coverage looks at
whether enough business processes are covered by IT, people coverage ensures at
least the various key people come under its ambits.
The Crucial Trio
As the CIO of L&T group, Magapu handles three important operational
challenges. The first is to create the appropriate forum where the divisional
CIOs can debate on the various cutting edge technologies, benchmarks and whether
these have the potential to be introduced into the existing set up. Next, he
also formulates the overall IT strategy practice for the group that mainly takes
care, whether the divisional IT systems are adhering to the IT strategies of
each of them. These IT strategies are in turn synergizing with the divisional
business strategies and goals. One measurable index for this parameter, Magapu
believes, is to check whether the systems are addressing at least 35% of the
strategy. Lastly and most importantly, because of his presence in the board, he
can push through major investments as and when required.
Focus on Processes
Magapu is driving an IT implementation and acceptance/usage level practice
modeled on the likes of CMM. Other than the five key focus areas already
mentioned, five other key parameters have also been identified for the use of IT
to enhance employee productivity. These include people coverage by IT,
infrastructure QoS, acceptance and usage of IT, system coverage and finally
Established the e-engineering business for L&T to tap the global market
for computer-aided engineering services. Developed and deployed several types of
engineering solutions through e-engineering processes in L&T. These
solutions have been commercialized and are currently being offered by L&T’s
e-engineering group located at Baroda. This group performs a whole range of
activities, starting with drawing reclamation, 2D to 3D conversion, and going up
to design optimization as well as conceptualization of ‘what if designs.’
The group also offers engineering services deploying Product Lifetime Management
Started L&T enterprise-wide initiative on IT security, DR and business
continuity with substantial investment. Got all six centers of L&T Infotech
BS7799 certified. Launched the EAI platform for L&T by integrating most of
the IT systems with different divisional ERPs. Developed a B2B platform for
L&T businesses through six portals for procurement for different divisions.
Initiated Project Blue Chip that ushered in the restructuring of L&T with
increased thrust on L&T.
Working with L&T in various capacities since 1966. In between, he left
L&T and worked in a leadership position with the Malaysian Motorcycle
Manufacturing Company in Kuala Lumpur. Also had a stint in Technology Consulting
Education: B. Tech, IIT Madras, Masters in Mechanical Science,
University of Calgary, Canada
Family: One son and one daughter, both working