INTERVIEW OF THE MONTH
INTERVIEW WITH MR. SUBHENDU KESH,
JK Paper Limited
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?
During the pandemic, most of the enterprises have realized that there is a change required in the way they do business and therefore have conducted business process reengineering studies for all their functions. These studies have indicated the areas in which an enterprise should work on. For example, in JK Paper, which is a 30-year-old organization, there have been a lot of processes that have evolved based on the changes in management and acquisitions. These processes, therefore, had to be unified and that is what we did during the pandemic to make the enterprise future-proof.
CIO’s 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 traditional IT service delivery role of a CIO, in my opinion, is a thing of the past. It has come to an end maybe 10-15 years ago. Arranging laptops/desktops or setting up servers is no more referred to as IT service delivery. In the last 10 years, I have referred to myself as a ‘Business Technology’ executive because we have to understand the business and deliver the technology. Therefore, the traditional IT service delivery role of a CIO has come to an end, and it is a strategic role now because other than the CEO and CFO, the other person who understands all the functions is the CIO. Any CIO needs to understand the whole business and participate in the business strategy, not the IT strategy.
CIO’s 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 is your opinion are some of the important skills a CIO’s should have to succeed in the post COVID world?
COVID taught us a lot of new things, for example, how a business should run or how an individual can conduct his/her day-to-day life through the digital world, being at the office or home. COVID has also proved that until an organization is digitally enabled it cannot sustain itself. Therefore, if any organization is targeting a goal and aligning all the functions like sales and marketing, production, finance, etc. to reach that goal, it can reach that goal faster via digital transformation and not by doing the same things that it has done before. For example, when a manufacturing factory is working with a limited skill set, building a virtual CoE makes sense, where the people can work from home but control all the power plants in the factory. As a CIO, I took the lead to create multiple centers of excellence including finance, logistics, and manufacturing CEOs, and enabled the resources to work digitally.
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?
In the new digital era, the most important thing is change management. It is the biggest challenge in any digital transformation initiative. CIOs have played the role of enabling change management during the pandemic and have helped employees become self-sufficient and work virtually from anywhere. Teaching as well as convincing on the new ways of working initiated by the IT team is bringing about the cultural change which is necessary for innovation. In JK Cement, we had a lot of innovation workshops through which many new ideas came. As a result of one of those ideas, we now run a power plant that is fully automated even including the feedback mechanism through the AI system. This is the cultural change that happened during the pandemic.
What are some good practices to build an agile and effective digital strategy?
When any organization is in its digital transformation journey, it has to be agile because one might not know the path the journey will take but one knows the destination or the final outcome of the journey. Suppose we start with a particular process and realize that it is not going to yield the desired output, it then makes sense to do the course correction immediately which is possible only if we have an agile digital strategy. For example, we inculcated the automation of customer material lifecycle so that no customer has to wait for any kind of information regarding their order. The idea was that the customers get regular updates after the order is placed. The automation induced a lot of change management within the organization, but we were successful in providing customers with what they needed because of an effective digital strategy.
Several organizations take a POC route before making RPA decisions. What is your view about taking this route? Is this a good practice?
I do not believe in taking the POC route because if one knows about their final goal, one should work extensively on the planning part to reach the goal. Once the planning is sound, we do not need to take the POC route as it is the shortcut we take as an alternative to extensive planning. For example, when the aircraft was designed, the design planning took close to 2 years and today, even after 70 years, the basic set of the aircraft design is largely unchanged. Therefore, in my opinion, POC is not actually required for any automation project to succeed.