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N Varadaarjan

"Hardware procurement- Many large brands/ hardware vendors do not have transparent and fair pricing policies."

N Varadaarjan
Sr. General Manager- IT
Madras Cements Ltd

Varadaarjan has over 30 years of experience and currently he is the Senior General Manager – IT at Madras Cements Ltd, Chennai. His specialization areas include IT Management, Training, Management Simulation, Business Intelligence and Mobile Computing.

Challenges in technology to meet enterprise needs in 2013 and expectations

Non- standardization is the biggest technology challenge that we face today. Take for example, the browsers. What works with my PC won’t work with laptop. What works with laptop will not work on a Tablet! IT service providers should come out with some sort of standardization.

Poor connectivity is another challenge. With more and more service providers entering into MPLS Market, we expected better connectivity. But it is not happening. Quality of service is poor and is not transparent. Though costs have come down, service is yet to improve.

The solutions that are relevant to us in 2013 are mobile computing, virtualization and business intelligence. We expect the solution providers to be cost effective and security focussed. 

The areas in business environment where solutions do not yet exist or not up to the mark, and which if existed, would've made job easier

As I mentioned before, poor connectivity is the one that keeps me awake, most of the time! We have MPLS lines connecting our factories and data centre. We have primary and fall back circuits. But still we are not sure if the system will work in a failsafe way. We have noticed that when primary circuit fails, the secondary line also fails, though the contract specifies that the primary and secondary service providers should not depend on each other. Poor quality of service- Many IT services/ hardware vendors require lot of administrative shake up. Wrong billing, late bills, disconnecting without notice, not providing contracted bandwidth, long downtimes and poor customer service are some of the issues they have to deal with. I don’t think technology is bad; rather work culture is to blame! 

Another pain point is hardware procurement- Many large brands/ hardware vendors do not have transparent and fair pricing policies. The sales people would promise heaven, dump the material and disappear afterwards. The service guys do not give the service assured by the sales guys! 

Technology trends impacting enterprise business environment 

Virtualization and business intelligence are two major technologies that may shape up in 2013. We want to reduce the energy consumption by about 30% next year, which will be facilitated through virtualization and upgrading cooling equipment. Regarding business intelligence, we are trying to render our reports on multiple devices like mobiles, iPads, etc. There are challenges like non standard browsers, but we are working on it. Security is another concern.

My roles and responsibilities as a CIO

CIO’s role has become strategic. My own role has changed from a mere internal service provider to that of a significant contributor to the results of the organization. I am supposed to align IT to the strategic goals like cost reduction, top line growth and customer service.

Also, there is marked shift towards in- house development. Five years ago, we depended more on external service providers for most of the things. Now, I have a large in- house team that contributes to development. My role here is that of a mentor to a young team of IT professionals and keep them motivated all along! 

Lessons learned and advice for fellow CIOs

Implementing innovative IT solution is important; but monitoring how the implemented systems are put to use is vital! CIO’s must play strategic role and to play that role effectively, they must strive to achieve more empowerment. They should also ensure that fruits of IT reach all the employees  rather than a small cross section of people!