Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Dec 27 2011   11:02AM GMT

Thinking beyond routine business operations

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

During our tenure as CIOs, we try our best to serve the organization that we work for, through the deployment of IT solutions. We consider the company’s strategic direction, business objectives and goals, and we help achieve these ends.

Our effectiveness often depends on the quality of the business strategy and plans drawn, and the focus provided by the business. If the business guidance is clear and the CIO is also senior enough to participate in the strategy discussions, a meaningful IT plan can emerge. However, more often than not, such situations are a rarity and the CIO has to chart out his own path.

The CIO draws out his plan of action, and acts within the limitation that he faces in the organization. Many a time, he ends up addressing issues of cost reduction and enhancing efficiencies as the immediate needs of business and feels happy if some of these measures are successful. These measures no doubt remove bottlenecks and bring benefits to the business in the immediate scene; but may not be enough to help the business in the long run. For example, these measures may help the company in making the processes faster and better and improve profitability in the short term; but it still would be an inward looking measure reviewing ourselves, without considering various stakeholders that we serve.

Where is the customer?

Sharing an experience of mine may help driving home the point. I had once drawn out a comprehensive IT plan for my organization, and shared it with all the senior management personnel. While others did not have anything significant to say, our MD wasn’t satisfied and said that he read a lot of pages but did not find any mention of the customer, the one who is the key for the future of our business. Though I took an initial dislike to his critical comment, I realized it a little later, and then expanded my thought process to include what he expressed.

Now if we look at the business the way a CEO would view, we would realize the importance of considering the entire eco-system in which the company operates. We may make the company efficient; but unless we take care of the markets, the customers and their needs, our efforts may be inadequate.

Is your IT plan comprehensive?

Companies do not work in isolation and have to deal with a number of outsiders like suppliers of raw materials, other vendors, dealers, customers, etc. Instead of looking at efficiencies at our workplace alone, it would be better to ensure that the entire chain works efficiently.

Therefore, the IT plan would not be complete unless it explores the best way for getting all these constituents to work together to achieve synergy. For example, if we connect with our suppliers to let them know of our plans in advance, they would be ready with the supplies, obviating the need for follow ups and also that the suppliers will be able to manage their stocks better.

Similarly, the dealer can send his requirements on time and can view availability to modify his orders. If such a synergy could be achieved, it will not only make the materials move smoothly, it will help reduce costs and ensure timely deliveries of products in the markets. It is important to pay attention to the customer and winning his loyalty, by providing the facilities of online ordering, or online viewing of status or recording of grievances.

The CIO therefore should shed narrow focus and look at the broader canvas of business that he can run his brush through. It is not just about enhancing business profitability but to ensure constant growth and longevity of business.

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