Bimal Khandelwal, CFO, STT GDC India, shares insights on how finance leaders are shaping business/digital transformation

Jul 27, 2021
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There was a session on digital enterprises at the ongoing Dataquest Digital Leadership Conclave 2021, where CIOs looked at the path taken by the enterprises during the pandemic.


Anil Chopra, Senior VP, Research & Consulting, CMR, was the moderator. He said one key outcome has been scaling up the IT infrastructure. Production of good required some people. Adoption of cloud technologies has accelerated to maintain business continuity. There is a digital-first approach to everything. This enterprise-wide digital acceleration will continue in the future.


Kapil Mahajan, Group CIO, Safexpress, said the hybrid cloud models are evolving. Hybrid cloud incorporates workloads, orchestration, etc. The private cloud can be hosted on-premises or elsewhere. The other component is the public cloud. Hybrid clouds provide flexibility, allows you to orchestrate and manage your workloads accordingly. Businesses adopting hybrid cloud solution will later extend those functionalities to the private cloud. The public and private cloud should also be compatible to each other, so they can communicate. Workloads can move between two interconnected environments.


Agility and innovation are the key drivers. Also, business continuity has been an objective for every organization. BCPs are now getting shifted to the cloud as well. Enterprise today face challenges. Enterprises may find managing hybrid cloud challenging. Costs may spiral up if you don't control the cloud. You also need to manage multiple vendors and platforms. It requires certain set of skillsets. You have to build capability within the enterprise. We also need right tools to get the unified view of the hybrid cloud. We use some of the open source stack. We look at how do we ensure portability and interoperability. We also look at reliability. Enterprises may find hybrid cloud challenging from governance and redundancy management. You will have much better tools moving forward.


Mindset change!


How do CIOs view WFH? Harnath Babu, CIO, KPMG, said that we have come a long way since the pandemic started. Earlier, we were testing waters when we had the idea of working from remote. We are now in the water, and the laptop is your window to the world. Earlier, we thought it was not possible. We got bored and went back to the office. Then, the second wave of the pandemic happened and we again went back to home. As we are settling back, we will stick to a hybrid working model. Most of the working population were living with their parents. They were in PGs and sharing rooms. They went back home during the pandemic. Now, they don't want to return to work. There is an apprehension. The thinking is: if I am able to work remotely and deliver more, and save time, then, why not work like this! The mindset has completely changed.


Hiring of talent is nearly dried up. People are hiring. One trend is: why stick to larger locations? People in tier-2 and tier-3 cities can work remotely, so why not let them work. Technology has also matured. We suddenly have all sorts of collaboration and communication tools. Companies have also moved to cloud-first strategy. They started leveraging hyperscalers to the maximum. You also have to secure your end point. New trends around media and BYOD are also picking up. We are intending to have WFH support for our staff.


Organizations will have to start rewiring their policies regarding hybrid working, The human element was the most fragile element. Today, there is so much awareness around security, automation, focus on AI/ML, etc. Manufacturing industries are getting into industrial IoT. Companies are also working on digital twins to ensure they have better manufacturing infrastructure.


Some of these changes will continue to happen in the new world, which will be completely hybrid and automated. Retail consumption has changed, and we have gone completely online. We have done teleconsulting. Entities have also had to change. The ecosystem is getting tangled. Each service that we are taking is related to something else. It is tangling of services. It is going to be hybrid in future. It will be exciting times in the future.


Intelligence vs. agility


We are now looking to build more intelligence and agility. Is there any conflict? How can enterprises find a trade-off here? Umesh Mehta, EVP and Global CIO, Jubiliant Lifesciences, said consumer behavior is changing in the lifesciences industry also. Traditional, blockbuster drugs sales models are supplemented by therapy treatments, driving lifesciences companies to evolve their business models. The nature of biopharmaceutical, R&D and medical devices are becoming patient centric.


Lifesciences industry is being shaped by three major trends. Empowered patients and personalization. Personalized medicines are emerging at faster rates. Big Data is driving the health networks. Regulatory pressures and rising healthcare costs are also there. Health issues also continue to arise. There is a need for sustainable models for the lifesciences companies. We need improve customer outcomes, identify customer segments, and improve quality of life. We are also improving collaborations for the lifesciences network. Lifesciences companies will collaborate more closely with manufacturers and suppliers. These require the organizations to be more intelligent. Logistics and production are now intelligently connected.


Digital upskilling must


Bimal Khandelwal, CFO, STT GDC India, said business leaders are transforming IT initiatives. In March 2020, the lockdown was announced. Circumstances led to a digital acceleration. There are three points. The finance functions across the companies have been working from home. We have moved to an always-on, technology-driven business. Digital skills are also required. GST filings were managed from home. We managed IT refunds for previous years. We never ventured to the office for the last 15 months.


Next, we need to accelerate the adoption of cloud technologies, with the right technology. A Dell report, companies that invested in cloud, Big Data, mobility, and security, enjoyed 53% faster growth than competitors. The imperative for the CFO is to find the right vendor at the right price. They will deploy solutions in places that will improve the speed, trust and predictive nature of insights.


We have implemented C4C or cloud for customers, and cloud for analytics. Customer invoicing and dispatching was made digital. Teams ensured payment was received on time, sitting at homes. All of this was possible as STT GDC had adopted cloud very early. Acceleration of this adoption is now the need of the hour.


We also need investment in finance technology, which is evolving. The CFO is becoming the enabler of future of future growth opportunities. As per The Hackett Group, 85% of CFOs and CEOs have to uncover new growth opportunities. We need to forecast pricing and consumer behavior. Digital is the future. We are focusing on digital upskilling, adoption of cloud, and investing in technology are the three most important items on the table.


Cloud APM


Kapil Mahajan said that a cloud-native app is packaged and containerized. These microservices are treated independently of each other. Contract management itself is very complex. We also have the delivery microservice. DevOps has to be integrated. We need to gain better visibility for an app performance. In a hybrid approach, you need to figure out the right way of doing this. You want unified visibility to manage it better. You can diagnose and troubleshoot issues. Cloud APM tools are out there.


So, have we seen the last of offices? Harnath Babu added they have built cloud-native apps for clients. As for offices, we will probably get back to hybrid models. You would have flexibility to the office. The change will require cultural rewiring. Policies will change. HR will rethink the cost of Internet, real-estate costs. The disconnected workplace will also have its own challenges. There is a cognitive mode and an emotional mode. Maybe, that will be missing. Collaboration will also change. How do you also manage time zones? Trust factor also has to be built in. Another aspect is tracking employee performance. We need to continue to evolve and watch out for what is happening. The world will change over time. Some of the cultural changes will also start happening.


Umesh Mehta said things will never be the same. Organizations moved their loads to cloud, and used massive processing power. They saw the results. We also moved lot of loads to cloud. In Industry 4.0, lot of digitization accelerated. Companies are creating data lakes and data warehouses. They are building data from enterprise IT and OT systems. They could remotely monitor OT equipment. Customer interactions have also changed. There are more virtual meetings. There are e-audits now.


Bimal Khandelwal said there is hybrid culture coming into place. IT has moved from backoffice to frontoffice, and drive revenue. As for IT spends, in India it will touch $93 billion in 2021, as per IDC. Investments in IT were there, and got accelerated due to the pandemic. It is now a necessity to drive the business. Companies will fast forward their investments in technology.


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