Analytics, building trust key to changing IT's cost center image

The concluding Mumbai leg of the TechBizz panel discussion series highlighted how Indian CIOs and IT decision makers need to invest in business intelligence and analytics to turn IT into more of a value adder than a cost center.
Written by Srinivas Kulkarni, Contributor

MUMBAI, INDIA--Business intelligence and analytics will play an increasingly critical role in helping India CIOs and business leaders make more effective decisions for growth and show the value add of IT.

During the concluding leg of the ZDNet TechBizz panel discussion, five senior IT decision makers and thought leaders examined the core issues driving India's ICT environment.

Venkatesh Babu S, head of management information systems (MIS) at Cafe Coffee Day, spoke about how their business most definitely relied on converting analytical data to support their core vision and it was not just about publishing data on their dashboards. 

Stage for TechBizz India being prepared.

According to Babu, the company was a believer in predictive analysis and expected it to be a trend for the retail industry. Something as trivial as coffee flavors being decided on seasons could be uncovered to shape business decisions such as inventory and procurement.

Yagnesh Parikh, CTO of ICICI Securities, went a step ahead and added that for his company, the role of technology was as critical as any other function and a lot of the management has huge trust on what their technology team is capable of, so much so that their focus wasn't on ROI (return on investment) as much as it is was on helping technology be an integral part of adding value to their customers.

To ICICI, current technologies like big data and analytics was very useful in terms of real time risk management purpose and to help customers be alert on their financial transactions. He added the CIO needs to understand the business better and observed the CIO's role has been shifting from being an enabler to a value adder. "Critical roles should align processes with business and businesses should start thinking that IT is no more a support but a value adder," said Parikh.

Mihir Karkare, vice president and co-founder of Social Wavelength, a social media agency elaborated on how his clients get value add through analytics and online reputation management.

"We are actually seeing this trend mature. Looking at companies mining conversations about their products. It's like eavesdropping and not focused on surveys but something more accurate, trying to derive actionable intelligence for such brands," Karkare said.

Raghupati C.N, head of India business unit for Infosys, gave comparisons of how technology perspectives were about analytics and explained he advised customers on how we 'don't' and cannot control social media but there is an effective way to track it depending on what you need to use the data for.

"You can't have data for data's sake, what is it that you're using for? That's the most important question I'd ask," he said. Raghupathi also noted how CIOs should become strong business leaders and said he saw a lot more IT people take on business roles.

That argument was supported by Manish Bahl, vice president and country manager for Forrester in India. He acknowledged that business intelligence as a service is certainly what people are looking for however he also added that there was a lot of demand for disaster recovery, storage backup, security and desktop as a service.

Specifically according to Bahl, big data was more of a hype. There was a lack of understanding and maturity in case of big data and it wasn't happening to that extent in India and Asia-Pacific as compared to the western counterparts. "CIOs need to be cautious about big data," Bahl noted.

The Forrester analyst added: "One of the fundamental challenges in the changing dynamics of the business is how to align your process to business." Instead of waiting for business leaders, CIOs should take a proactive approach if they see an opportunity through technology, added Bahl.

"If IT was viewed as a cost center or a support center then expect cuts on budgets. If IT is to be viewed as a business enabler or an empowerer, then a lot would depend on those aspects in building trust," he explained.

Bahl gave an example of a survey conducted amongst 400 mid-market organizations where they found out how frequent changing business and consumer dynamics were a big challenge. That's where analytics spending will be preferred to change business dynamics, he explained.

An interactive poll during the TechBizz panel discussion revealed that 80 percent of respondented considered public cloud services as an industry trend that worried their company the most. Karkare stressed on the importance of how technology played an important role not just internally but to their clients as well.

"We are a services company. We need to look at pay as you go software-as-a-service (SaaS) model delivered from cloud. Every single business aspect, productivity, CRM, every single decision we took was SaaS pay as you go. But now we are re-evaluating our options," said Karkare.

Babu on the other hand noted Cafe Coffee Day had been efficiently using open source software for 10 years and cited a lot of benefits from the SaaS model. Easy to plan, easy to execute in a short while, he said. Any upgrade would mean plug and play and multiple vendors can use can the same solution, which was a more scalable solution, Babu explained. 

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