CIO as the Digital Enabler

Gopichand Katragadda, Group CTO, Tata Sons | Friday, 13 January 2017, 10:01 IST

CIOs have to become digital enablers for their organizations.  IT will extend beyond traditional domains to functions such as finance, logistics, marketing, and sales.  The traditional approach of dealing with this ‘shadow-IT’ is to try and curb it. A better approach today is to enable different functions to maximize their functional outputs digitally and the CIO acts as the facilitator for this transformation.

At the Tata group, we are facilitating both operational efficiency and customer excellence:

• Operational Efficiency: The Tata CIO forum enables knowledge sharing by leveraging external partners, sharing and exchange of best-practices and brings in capability to negotiate together.

• Customer Excellence: Here our process is to make our products and services ready for the digital natives. At the Group Technology and Innovation Office (GTIO), we have studied opportunities and risks arising from various digital trends.  A partial list is included below:

While automation will reduce the number of ‘low-skilled’ jobs, we’ll also witness a rise in ‘high-skill’ jobs involving critical thinking and problem-solving.  India should become the world’s source for automation just as it was for IT.  While IT also made many jobs redundant, it spawned a booming industry domestically and we should approach automation similarly, to create more employment opportunities within India.  There should be a focus on skilling and training the workforce in high-end automating task and offer it as a service globally.

The financial sector is also seeing emergence of various new technologies such as block-chain and use of big-data and cloud technologies in variety of new products and services such as P2P lending and digital payments. The Indian Government’s recent move on demonetization will speed up an already accelerating trend – the journey to being a cashless economy.  Regulations in India are already ahead of much of the world.  There is also ample availability of IT and security capabilities within the country.  Presently India is a cash and check based economy – 90+ percent by some estimates. The developed economies are in the range of 40-60 percent cash-based.  India has an opportunity to become an 80 percent cashless economy.  India could play a leading role in creation of newer models for lending and other traditional banking services such as P2P models.  Payment flows in India are 7-8 times GDP, which represents a significant volume and presents a good business opportunity.  This also presents a good opportunity for telecom companies to be in the payment space.  Fingerprint scanners on smartphones, Adhaar bio-metrics, and UPI, provide new ways for easy authentication of customers and has witnessed adoption by several banks for their apps, etc.

IoT on the other hand has demonstrated the ability to connect moving things to a network providing an order of magnitude improvement in productivity.  However, in the case of stationary endpoints such as machinery, legacy systems such as SCADA have been already providing most of the benefits presently offered by IoT. There is a need to evaluate the additional value-add and increase in productivity IoT can provide such systems.  Use cases should be identified where there is an order of magnitude improvement in stationary industrial systems leveraging IoT.

Demand for bandwidth is constantly on the rise which mirrors the consumer demand for richer forms of entertainment and information.  If data generated by IoT is one-dimensional and trigger-based, such as an alarm, then demand on bandwidth is lower.  More complex forms of IoT data such as images and video however require broadband secure transmission.  My anticipation is that there will be multiple solutions catering to these varied needs including needs for public safety and defence. 

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