"New Technology has to be chosen when it makes Business sense"
Abnash Singh, Group CIO, MphasiS, talks to Voice & Data

How would you define the role of a CIO/CTO today?
The CIO today is a business enabler and no more a technology services provider for the organisation. The single most important priority for him is to ensure business alignment of IT to maximize value to key stakeholders. This means ensuring that IT projects are instituted and auctioned based on business need, lead by champions from the business organization, and reviewed periodically by executive management. Typically, his role in assimilation of new technologies that can help create new business offerings, optimise costs and improve performance. He would get invited to business strategy discussions involving use of IT for improving organization performance. Strengthening the 'information value chain' to create new business opportunities is a key priority. The CIO's goal in growing IT's contribution in 2006 must be to change the conversation between IT and the business from one based on “what IT can do for me” to “how we will solve the problem together.”

How do you cope with the changing scenario of the telecom networking industry?
Risk management is essential for any new technology assimilation within the organization. Its introduction should not increase risks of disruptions or introduce additional points of failure. Potential benefits should-apart from technology improvement have economic benefits at an enterprise level. A pre-requisite for adoption is the stability and maturity of the target technology and evaluation of the TCO based savings potential or business value creation. In terms of details, a proof of concept approach is a good way to experience and decide on new technology.

How do you ensure that your company deploys not just the latest, but something that adds value to the business?
The way to approach new technology is to prioritise business needs and look at technologies that impact these areas. New technology has to be chosen when it makes business sense alone and not because it is a fad. Identity management and single sign has existed as a business need for a long time, but enabling technology has only matured recently.

In the context of telecom and networking needs of enterprises, what are the major concern areas?
Applications today require networks that are reliable and available. In specific business continuity requirements dictate that networks must enable flexible rerouting of traffic to alternative DR locations, while at the same time remaining cost effective. Telecom service providers can look at providing innovative solutions and pricing models. The second is to ensure that uptimes are maintained and supported to meet business expectations. The third area is to continuously look at cost reductions given that bandwidth pricing is continuously reducing and to ensure that the service provider passes these benefits to the organization.

Which will be the hot telecom-networking technologies in 2006?
VoIP adoption in the enterprise is a big step forward with the emergence of MPLS networks. This will enable voice and data to be carried within and outside the enterprise boundaries in a flexible manner, while ensuring quality. These are ideal replacements for the traditional high cost point-to-point networks and unpredictable throughput Internet VPN links.

Are you open to outsourcing security and storage related work?
Currently, we are examining outsourcing entire network services–telecom, LAN, and WAN services based on strong SLAs and service availability in a scalable and flexible manner. MphasiS uses over 40 Mpbs of domestic and international bandwidth, which has been outsourced to two service providers. We are now examining outsourcing internal infrastructure management, network, desktop, and server management through a comprehensive managed services outsourcing contract.

What kind of groundwork should companies do before outsourcing?
Having well developed internal processes for IT management and governance as the key factors for attempting outsourcing. It is important to measure and establish existing operational service baselines and quantify these appropriately so that these can be compared with those once the outsourcing is done. Setting expectations on services, the scope and service levels are important. Other areas to focus on are outsourcing risks, scalability and growth of outsourced services, change management with controls to match business expansion needs. Thinking through about future insourcing plans is also important.

What challenges does 2006 hold for you as a CIO?
Enterprise Applications Integration-linking up disparate applications so that there is an end-to-end view of a business process and its associated metrics.

The challenge is to design and build a common central data store and then ensure transfer of data, which is correct and complete in a timely manner.

Workflow and collaboration enabling technologies are another key area that's important for geographically dispersed work groups. MphasiS extensively uses IP enabled conferencing and collaboration, knowledge repositories etc.

All of these above initiatives are being progressed within MphasiS as priorities for 2006.