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The expectations of a CIO today is embryonic

Biswanath Bhattacharya, the new CEO of HCL Services, the services arm of HCL, shares his views on the changing CIO expectations, and how his organization is gearing up. Excerpts

How do you think Indian CIOs focus is shifting?

CIOs in India are focusing on cost efficiency aspects, while simultaneously supporting business growth and innovation. To put it in other words the expectations of a CIO today is embryonic, wherein there is a shift of focus from utilizing IT to improve business operations to ‘business’ IT which is innovation and transformation for business value. Further we have seen digital transformation in the organization as one of the most important requirements of the CIO. This requires enablement of macro technology forces of cloud, social, analytics, mobility, and the Internet of Things. We know that not every business fundamental will need to change to the same degree, nor will every technology driver have a role to play in every business scenario.

If that is so, how do you see CIOs expectations from their service providers changing?

We believe CIOs will turn towards service providers (SPs) who can support them through their digital business journey and can support their cost expectations. They would be looking to build digital leadership and bimodal capability of renovating the core and yet be agile enough to exploit the new and innovate.

Thus CIOs are expecting their service provides to understand exactly what they want from an engagement, especially how it should be linked with existing business processes of the organization. The SP should be partners who can determine and demonstrate how their offerings can underpin, support, enable, and accelerate the digital transformation to remain relevant to their business. The SP should be able to articulate value in business terms such as key process outcomes and impact to key performance indicators (KPIs). CIOs expect their SP to not only help with the new technology and solution implementation, but also present relevant industrial experience and impart any lessons learned from previous implementations.

So the CIO would expect better integration, optimum management of IT infrastructure and applications, security and also compliance.

According to you what should be the key parameters that CIOs must keep in mind while selecting their service partners?

There are four very important factors CIOs must consider. First, the CIO needs to pick a SP (Service Providers) with broad portfolio of managed services. We know that using multiple managed services vendors can become quite costly and complex for organizations. Traditionally sourcing by process seemed to be optimal as it allowed organizations to hire ‘the best-of-breed’ for a particular activity but at the same time it can hinder agility and make change more difficult. To ensure flexibility, organizations must ensure that their prospective providers offer a comprehensive suite of managed services, from infrastructure management to managed security, resilience, mobility, and other IT services to managed hosting and cloud. Also they need to look for SPs who are flexible and can offer different approaches allowing the enterprise to scale demand up or down to match business requirements.

Second, the CIO should evaluate SP’s skills and experience. I believe that with changing IT landscape CIOs must assess SP’s skills that go beyond basic operating system maintenance and availability management. They need to look at SP’s with high skill levels related to managing change, virtualization, high availability, middleware, multiple network technologies, cross-platform integration, mobility, security and cloud technologies.

Thirdly, the CIOs must also check if SPs deliver services that align with industry best practices and ITIL standards. A services provider should employ industry best practices in managing an organization’s IT resources. ITIL best practices encompass problem, incident, event, change, configuration, inventory, capacity and performance management as well as reporting. Best practices for transitioning from in-house to the provider’s management system are also a critical area to explore.

And finally, the SP must have experience in multivendor environments via strong partnerships. Today’s IT infrastructure is typically a heterogeneous environment comprised of hardware, software and network products from a variety of vendors. Thus I believe CIOs need to choose a SP who has extensive experience of working with multivendor environments and has partnerships with leading vendors to ensure availability and visibility into emerging technologies. To meet the modern day needs of a CIO, a vendor-agnostic services provider should play the role of trusted technology advisor, helping the customer select the technologies that provide the best fit for his business.

Which are the specific verticals that HCL Services focuses on?

As a managed service provider we believe that adding service capabilities specific to key vertical markets delivers exponentially more value than generic one-size-fits-all offerings. In our opinion, the ability for a solution provider to bring together sales, technical expertise and services skills, and apply them to solve specific industry pain points, is the ultimate expression of partner/vendor success. We are thus committed towards solving two specific technology challenges: Helping companies better manage, scale and secure their IT infrastructure to enable effective customer experiences, and delivering customized industry solutions to improve business outcomes through better use of transformational technology and automation. Over the last 30 years we have served many industries including BFSI, manufacturing, government, healthcare and have developed strong industry capabilities. Further, we have strong Infrastructure consulting practice with excellent domain expertise in BFSI, manufacturing, government, and healthcare to identify specific problem areas in clients’ existing systems and offer specialized solutions to generate higher RoI from their technology investments.

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