IT Custodian

SR Balasubramanian, 47, has spent nearly half of his
lifetime in the IT planning and strategy at various leading user groups including IOC, AF
Ferguson, Hero Honda Motors, and GHCL. So his latest assignment as the Corporate Director,
Information Systems at GKN Invel Transmissions Ltd, actually seems to be a culmination of
Balasubramanian’s 22 years experience in IT. This certainly would be a blessing for the
ongoing planning to transform the organization with reengineering. However, it is
interesting to know that Balasubramanian actually started his career in accounting and
within two years shifted his forte exclusively to IT. Balasubramanian gave an insight on
the IT functionings at GKN Invel in an interview with Sharmila Chand.

What progress has GKN Invel made so
far on the IT front?

GKN Invel has been in business for about nine years and is therefore, relatively young.
The first few years went in ensuring regular production and quality so that our customers
were never let down on supply and quality, an objective which has been admirably held
forth so far. As a result of the above factors, the work processes and systems could not
be given adequate focus and IT really did not start till about a year ago. Now there is a
considerable attention on IT/IS solutions, primarily due to the initiative of the parent
organization after they took over controlling interest through 51 percent shareholding.

How do you find your current
assignment with GKN Invel?

As the senior IT person, I find the job rich and challenging. There is considerable scope
for bringing about a change and make the organization effective to develop capability to
challenge competition. The position is one of prime responsibility since the organization
has reposed their confidence on me to carry out this exercise.

What is your contribution to the
strategic IT planning of your company?

I do most of the planning, though it has to be endorsed by GKN, our holding company.
Dealing with principals who are in another part of the world operating in a different
environment, is not easy. Decisions often take time.

How critical is IT to the business
of GKN Invel?

GKN Invel realizes that a successful implementation of information systems alongwith
appropriate changes in the organizational processes could really turn around the company.
Though other factors like quality, productivity etc. are equally important a good IS/IT
could be the main differentiator.

What kind of hardware and software
solutions are you using?

We will be using BPCS (from SSA Inc.) as the ERP solution and this will run on the AS/400
platform. This has been standardized by GKN globally for all their offices. Similarly,
Novell Groupwise is our email and groupware solution. For our office automation we have
standardized on Lotus SmartSuite.

What are your future plans as far
as IT is concerned?

I see ‘IT’ helping in the organization turnaround in two distinct areas: First, building
up a strong basic infrastructure which includes LAN, inter-office connectivity,
connectivity with our offices worldwide and networking with our main customers and
dealers. This will speed up our communication and information access and information
exchange. And second, implementation of key application systems with suitable business
process re-orientation. This is not easy as it may involve restructuring the organization
as also retraining people or their relocation.

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