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Digitalisation is not always about losing people or jobs: Sanjeev Jain, CIO Verizon Enterprise Solutions

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

 Sanjeev Jain, CIO - EMEA, Verizon Enterprise SolutionsBangalore: Digitalisation has become a major trend across enterprises and businesses globally. However, when it comes to defining digital transformation strategies in the organisations, CIOs at times are unable to get their act right and even fail to execute their digital strategies. Probably, lack of understanding and clarity about digital transformation as well as its application aspect are some of the key reasons behind the failures.

In this interview, Pankaj Maru of ETCIO spoke to Sanjeev Jain, CIO – EMEA, Verizon Enterprise Solutions to discuss how CIOs need to define digital transformation strategy; the factors and parameters that mark the success of digital transformation projects, the challenges of executing digital transformation projects in large organisations operating across geographies and markets along the role of CIOs in addressing HR requirements and much more.

As a CIO, Jain brings over two decades of IT industry experience and serves Verizon’s large business customers, where he and his team are responsible for delivering on the strategy, initiatives and solutions as well as the underlying network that supports them. Jain leads a technology team spanning four continents in support of Verizon’s digital transformation and IT delivery. In the past, Jain had worked with some of the top enterprises including Vodafone, British Gas and Siemens.

Edited excerpts...

Q1). Digital transformation has become a new norm today for enterprises globally. So how CIOs should define their digital transformation strategy?
I see CIOs defining four pillars of their digital strategy. One, it has to be about consumer or customer experience (CX) and everything we do has to enhance customer experience. Secondly, for the organisations, CIOs have to create a new way of generating revenue – a new business model needs to come out of it. The third is, especially in the industry, we are in -- we need to ensure we are connecting people and systems. And fourth, digital security is paramount and so digital transformation is about taking security to the next level.

Q2). Which are the factors that CIOs need to take into account in their organisations, while defining the digital transformation strategies?
Firstly, define what digital transformation is not in your organisation and don’t confuse it with automation. Automation is about automating a process with the same number of steps. Digital transformation is about completely creating a new customer experience (CX) or a new way of generating business.

The second most important aspect of digital transformation is the people and the culture. So define what a digital workforce for your organisation looks like and ensure everybody is brought on to what the digital workforce journey looks like.

Third thing is about security because with digital transformation, IoT (Internet of Things) is going to open up a whole stack of wearables that people are going to connect and transfer the data. So make sure you give customers the experience that’s secure. And that’s the three ways how to go about digital transformation strategies.

Q3). In your view, which are the key parameters that CIOs need to focus on, in terms of measuring the success of any digital transformation project in the organisations?
From a CIO perspective, first of all, everything that we do in digital transformation has to be connected with the CEO’s objectives. Gone are the days, when the CIO’s objectives were very different from the SLAs and maintenance of the systems. I think every output that we have, has to match the CEO’s objectives. Secondly, measure the effectiveness of data in the digital world because data is next unit to define the customer experience (CX).

Third parameter, what we have seen in the industry is the effectiveness of customer satisfaction score. Is the digital transformation strategy really improving customer satisfaction indicator (CSI) or the net promoters score - are the customers going to like what you are going to them.

The other way to look at digital transformation is running a parallel story for your employees. Ensure that your digital transformation is equally effective for the employees experience when they come to work because employees expect it. In fact, they demand that they are be able to connect to devices, make phone calls, transfer and schedule the meetings with their mobile experience wherever they are. So the employees experience is equally important to customer experience and is like sliding doors moving parallel to each other.

Q4). For CIOs, how challenging it is to plan and execute digital transformation initiatives in organisations that are spread across different geographic regions and markets?
One of the things that CIOs need to be careful about is -- legacy is not a bad word. And when you have big organisations across multiple locations and markets, you will always have lots of legacy that you carry. Legacy for us is legacy applications and people who work on legacy applications. So when we are going about digital transformation strategy – it’s very important to become technology agnostic. Technology should not matter, what matters is the experience with some changes.

Once you become technology agnostic, your people working on legacy applications in different parts of the world and the organisation, will also be part of a roadmap. If you become very technology focused, say, this is the only technology I am focusing on, then very soon your legacy employees will get ignored and will not participate. So that’s fundamental of bringing the whole organisation together.

And when you have people working in different geographical locations and parts of the organisation, the digital workforce I talked earlier is defined and based on my talks with some vendors. I found that every employee in every organisation when comes to work - do three main things. You do work, you think about work and you analyse work – these are the three parameters of what you do.

When you are creating a digital workforce, think of the doing part where you want to automate or put the robotic process automation (RPA). For the thinking part where you are going to put cognitive tools and for the analysing part where you want to put smart analytics. Once you are very clear on the strategy of where you want to go to, working across geographies, different culture and locations becomes easier because the digital workforce culture is common across all geographic locations.

I don’t think there’s any strategy that works on the principle of one fits all. I think when you work in different geographies; you will find different compliance laws – different legal and tax laws that you need to follow, the workforce culture will be different and the go-to-market (GMT) strategy will be different for each region.

You can have a fabric that covers the entire organisation across all the countries, but that fabric needs to change the colour as you enter different markets. Similarly, in your digital transformation strategy, you can have one overall template, but underneath that you got to customise it to the market or workforce that you are dealing with.

Q5). Amid the increasing trend of automation and workforce reduction, there’s also a growing focus and need for skills upgrading and re-engineering in organisations. So how CIOs can address and balance out this situation in their organisations in terms of HR (human resources) needs and automation?
If you think about our or any organisation, it looks like a pyramid. The bottom base of the pyramid which is pretty much 70 percent of our current organisation is what we call the run and maintain layer. This is the part of the organisation that comes and works on the core systems, keeps the systems running, maintains SLAs and the outages. If you move up, you will find 20 percent of the organisation that works on core of applications – which is about doing digital transformation, developing new products and offerings for the customers.

And the remaining 10 percent of the top is really what I call the IP layer. This is the innovation layer, which works with the customers and jointly innovate products and solutions. So the whole idea of digital transformation is to pretty much turn this pyramid upside down or move people from the run and maintain layer via the core layer to the IP layer. The idea of digitalization is not always about losing people or jobs. It’s about how do you upscale people, move them up from the run and maintain layer into the IP layer so the IT organisation, which for years has been a back-office function comes in the forefront and jointly innovate with the customers.

Q6). Lastly, can you shed some light about the kind of digital transformation strategy and initiatives Verizon is driving globally?
I think this is something which we have talked in our tech trends as well. We are here to transform or disrupt ourselves internally and also we are here to transform our customers’ businesses and make them more agile and dynamic in nature. Few of the things which we have talked in our tech trends include SDN, security and IoT.

SDN (Software Defined Networking) is a key offering for our customers to adopt and realise the potential of SDN in terms of leveraging the aspects of security, agility, flexibility and the dynamic nature that SDN brings to their organisations. The other portion is, as SDN grows digitally, the customers’ application becomes more intent based rather than profile based. So they want something to happen based on what the intent was whether its security or network behind it. And that’s something we rolled out to our customers and SDN is being adopted globally now.

Then, one of things that we did in that security space and it’s the future prediction as well. Security needs to become underground, it should be pervasive. When we are talking digital transformation, especially in the IoT space, we need to ensure that security is embedded into every aspect right from software lifecycle to the product lifecycle aspect of it.

Third is IoT. The way IoT is evolving across the increasing number of devices, managing these IoT devices in the current IT infrastructure has become CIO’s headache. So we need to ensure that in future the IoT management will be done by artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) and it’s more like AR (augment reality) / VR (virtual reality). Because it will not scale, if the current IT infrastructure and IT team are supposed to handle IoT apart from what they do as well.

 


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