Reliability of bandwidth from service providers at remote sites is a problem

Indian Glycols, the `3,000 crore green petrochemical company, is a leading manufacturer of glycols, ethoxylates and PEGs, performance chemicals, glycol ethers and acetates, natural gums and potable alcohol. Established in 1983 as a single mono-ethylene glycol plant, the company now boasts of several units manufacturing a wide range of products across the country. Voice&Data speaks to the company’s IT Head, Atul Govil to find out how ICT is helping the company climb new heights

Can you please describe your role briefly?

I am leading an enthusiastic team of SAP, IT infrastructure, Sharepoint, Unified Communications and business intelligence professionals to apply our collective capabilities to consistently create, deliver value for business functions – through tech enablement.

With my team, I manage the information communication architecture, information security, compliance aspects, vendors/ contracts and with an extremely positive and adaptive mindset we harness latest technologies to derive and drive tangible business benefits – with due diligence on associated costs vs benefits.

My role also involves providing a simple but robust information collaboration platform within the organization through a comprehensive intranet set up, unified communication, IP telephony and latest VC systems deployment.

Another recent initiative which we have embarked on is to position and take our niche developments to the market. We have got a couple of orders already and these are being executed by us. We are in the process of another business engagement with an established mobility player to co-develop light, simple to use mobility solutions for manufacturing segment and B2B applications with a sole focus of driving efficiencies. This provides a flavor of entrepreneurship to the role.

What are the IT and telecom systems deployed at India Glycols?

Since taking over charge, I have visibly streamlined, standardized and accelerated business processes through implementation and scale up of SAP ECC 6.0 ERP, facilitated avid usage of Business Intelligence Tool with dashboards on key metrics which connects to disparate databases, conceptualized and successfully executed more than 25 value add applications / projects on Sharepoint-based Intranet portal which encompasses all important day-to-day transactions made by associated employees.

In telecom systems, we pioneered expansive usage of IP telephony in 2008-09. We have also deployed audio and video-conferencing systems with bridge options across our manufacturing sites, head office and to facilitate meetings, trainings, presentations and collaborations in real-time basis. These systems are also used to collaborate with our key business partners on business need basis. Our current focus is to develop, thoroughly test and launch mobility based business solutions. For connectivity, across sites and head office we have deployed MPLS – VPN links with built-in redundancies.

What has been the role of IT in the success of your company?

Beyond doubt, technology in close coordination with domain team has been instrumental for success and growth of our organization.

We have been able to consolidate disparate legacy applications in secured, standardized and transparent software solutions. This has minimized duplicated efforts in maintaining disconnected systems, provide a global database to cut versioning of data, regardless of user location.

In many instances, IT deployment has reduced the manual efforts by as much as one-third. Solutions like Compliance Management, Insurance Claims Management, EXIM aspects related to Advance License and Scrips management, Audit Management, Performance Management have brought in transformational changes for us. With the introduction of enterprise mobility solutions in a couple of months from now, we foresee a far more agile and very responsive workforce with a quantifiable reduction in the ‘to transact or to approve’ workflow. Also, team can take fact based decisions whilst on the move.

What are the major challenges faced by you?

We have faced issues related to integration of process control systems with IT systems. This was compounded owing to limited awareness in the partner fraternity. There are large companies in India and abroad who are talking about M2M interfaces but there is little progress made on the ground. Having a significant background in Process automation, programmable controls & advance control systems – I see a lot of value locked in this area.

On the telecom side, reliability of bandwidth from service providers at remote sites, is still a question.

Besides, faster rate of obsolescence in the technology field often results in lower than planned return on investment for us.

How do you think the role of CIO has changed over the years?

Traditionally, many CIOs have evolved from being systems / network administrators. In yester years, deployed technologies would last for eight to 10 years, hence continual learning, unlearning or the lack of these traits was never a challenge. With rapid advancements in technology in recent years (many of these quite disruptive) this has put stretched demands on the role of a CIO. Now, in addition to the traditional “keeping the light on tech aspects” hat which a CIO is supposed to wear, s/he needs to have a strong understanding of the business domain, comprehend and communicate in a language as understood by domain business heads.

A CIO role needs to act as a strategic partner and a catalyst for business users to drive technology-based solutions tangible business value. A current generation CIO needs to be adept at relationship building, being persuasive and have influencing skills to drive and derive differentiated and importantly quantifiable business benefits.
In addition to the positive internal connects, a CIO needs to have an honest, trustworthy relationship with the external stakeholders which include vendors, customers, industry experts, consulting partners, analysts and other service providers.

Which are the technologies you are investing in?

We are investing in further strengthening our data and application backups and restore policies, we are securely scaling up our adoption of public cloud functionalities. As stated earlier, to efficiently manage our workflow processes we have initiated co-development on enterprise mobility solutions.

What technologies excite you?

We believe that Internet of Things, which so far is getting a surface treatment, has enormous business potential. RFID for warehousing and logistics processes automation, which is currently an under-rated technology in this part of the world is promising. Further, widespread usage of MES (Manufacturing Execution System) & business applications of wearable devices look very exciting and hold lot of promise, hereon.

What are your future plans for IT deployment?

We are narrowing down on areas wherein RFID deployment would help achieve leaner supply chain processes and resources. Adoption of business relevant mobility solutions is also currently in our agenda.

This article was first published in Voice&Data

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