INTERVIEW OF THE MONTH
INTERVIEW WITH MR. DHIREN SAVLA,
CIO, VFS Global
Enterprises already on the path of digital transformation were well prepared for the volatile situations, while others scrambled to cope with the sudden demand for technology assets during the pandemic. What are some of the good practices in embracing the change brought about by the pandemic and making an enterprise future-proof?
While digital transformation for businesses started a long time ago, some of the anticipated changes got accelerated during the pandemic. The silver lining of this crisis is that organizations, big or small, have learned to be brave and visionary. The need to be future-ready is no more an option; it’s imperative to survive and stay relevant in the times ahead. Given this context, a few years from now, we will look back at the pandemic as a catalyst of change. From re-engineering elementary changes in business operations to inspiring organizations to build a smart and nimble workforce and most essentially making us more compassionate towards our stakeholders, the world will keep discovering unprecedented contributions of the COVID19 outbreak in the journey ahead.
With digital transformation happening in every sector, the digital vision at VFS Global aims to always be one step ahead, with constant up gradation in line with ongoing dynamic changes in the marketplace. In line with these efforts, we expanded key management competencies, dedicated resources assigned for further developing e-commerce and digital offerings and strengthening data protection compliance and information security. VFS Global continues to invest in technology to remain future-ready and future-proof.
CIOs are transforming from traditional IT service delivery to a more strategic role. They are no longer just responsible for IT services management, rather they are leading strategic initiatives. What is your opinion of the evolving role of a CIO?
The evolution of the CIO’s role has been fascinating. Two decades ago, conversations about IT revolved around speed and reliability (which remain important), but continued advancements and integration of cloud technology, mobile devices, social media, and business analytics have significantly reshaped discussions and strategies. I have always believed in creating an IT foundation that keeps the organization ahead of time and ready for the future. It has been like a digital crusader – both strategically and operationally – of VFS Global’s push towards driving leading-edge digital innovations.
At VFS Global, IT is not a support function or enabler but a business enabler and a differentiator, a key factor in shaping the business strategy. Our forward-looking approach can be gauged from the fact that since 2008, IT had a seat in the Executive Board. Empowerment and ownership at the top are imperative for a technology-driven company like ours as it provides a holistic vision of strategy and growth. This entrepreneurial philosophy has been the driving force in VFS Global’s pioneering journey of several industry firsts. Twenty years ago, we spotted an opportunity to bring efficiency in the visa processing sector through technology, and ever since we have consistently achieved milestones in enhancing customers’ experience and rewarding returns for our client governments.
CIOs are responsible for making quintessential shifts in the organizations to accelerate the digital transformation towards maintaining business continuity and ensuring growth in the post COVID ecosystem. What in your opinion are some of the important skills a CIO should have to succeed in the post COVID world?
There is a marked difference in stakeholder sentiments and expectations in the post-COVID world. A forward-thinking CIO should be able to access this shift. For VFS Global, our primary stakeholders are our client governments and visa customers. Today people are willing, but wary of traveling. Likewise, governments are willing to open borders and allow cross-border mobility, but significant restrictions remain. Given these challenges, the first step towards restoration is to build confidence. Digital technology is a great tool to address both concerns. Therefore, next-Gen CIOs must be visionary and capable of comprehending the market pulse, keeping up with the global business environment. It is equally essential for them to inspire teams to inherit the larger organizational vision apart from inculcating enhanced synergy and coherence.
CIOs are being tasked with steering cultural change in their respective organizations in order to drive the digital transformation efforts that are necessary to support innovation and implement customer-centric strategies. How do you think CIOs are becoming the new agents of change today?
Curating stakeholder-centric strategies is a strategic pillar in every business. When that is aided by digital transformation, it becomes a win-win for the organization and the stakeholder. And this is just one part of the change CIOs can drive. I believe they can play an equally essential role in synergizing technology and talent in organizations. Today, as we reimagine smart strategies to keep pace with the disruptive times ahead, there are opportunities for technology providers to collaborate with every sub-function in an organization like never seen before. Given that innovations would continue to play out in every aspect of business, the CIO could anchor the most defining changes of tomorrow. They will also drive tech-led innovations for customer-focus offerings from a business. For instance, in the travel sector, many companies are developing and adopting new technologies to make contact minimal or non-existent in most processes. For example, at VFS Global we have developed the Visa at your Doorstep (VAYD) service, a key milestone in this context, as it allows our customers to apply for visas for travel to countries that require them from the comfort of their location of choice. Even critical information, such as biometric enrolment, can be provided from anywhere.
Even efficiency improvements in our customer service processes have been strongly driven by technology tools such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR), helpdesk chatbots to improve response times 24*7 and reduce errors. We are continuously improving our customer service processes to cope with high volumes of demand that we expect to recover as quickly as possible. Technology also gives us a greater ability to assess the quality and efficiency of processes, such as machine learning based on customer information and subsequent analysis to deliver more personalized service based on voice-of-customer propositions.