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Srini Koushik

"The Road to Business Agility "

Srini Koushik
President and CEO
Right Brain Systems LLC.
Srini is an an innovative IT and business leader with a proven track record and extensive experience as a Technologist, General Manager and Consultant in the Technology, Insurance, Banking, Retail, Manufacturing and Pharmaceutical industries. He has worked on global initiatives in several countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, and India.

Srini has had a highly decorated career that includes being named an Elite 8 CIO by Insurance and Technology, one of the top 25 CTOs by Infoworld in 2004, and a top 10 leader in the Insurance Industry by TechDecisions in 2006. When he was at IBM, He was Certified as an IBM IT Architect in 1994 and as an IBM Consultant in 1996. Srini was appointed as an IBM Distinguished Engineer in 1998 and elected to the IBM Academy of Technology in 1999.

He has published articles in the IEEE IT Professional magazine and the IBM Developerworks Web site. He holds one patent and has three others that are going through the review process. He is one of the inventors of IBM’s Patterns for e-business and has written a book on this topic.

Srinivas holds a bachelors degree in physics from the University of Madras, a masters degree in computer science from the University of Bombay, and a masters degree in business administration from The Ohio State University.

Today's information driven businesses require a radically different approach to managing Information Technology within the organization. This approach should deliver better business outcomes through innovation, business agility, flexibility, and a continuously improving value proposition.

The 21st century has seen the emergence of a hyper competitive marketplace that is characterized by innovative business models, better informed and demanding customers, nimble and smarter competitors and a rapidly changing regulatory and threat environment. In this dynamic global marketplace that is fueled by constant changes in the underlying social, economic, political and technical landscape- business value, market valuations and reputations that used to take decades to build and develop are created and destroyed in a matter of weeks and months.

The key to success in this exciting and sometimes chaotic marketplace is Business Agility, which is the organization's capability to sense changes in the marketplace and respond quickly and efficiently by adapting its products and services to meet and exceed its changing customer's needs. This capability depends on the ability to leverage technology to experiment with options, prototype potential solutions by rewiring systems and processes, gain insights from internal and external data, and quickly execute on these insights to drive meaningful business outcomes. In short, The Road to Business Agility in any organization goes through IT.

However, many businesses that operate in this environment are straddled with IT that has organizational structures, management models, operational processes, workforces and systems that were built to solve the problems of the past. Today's most popular model for managing IT focuses on eliminating variability and IT Sprawl through ruthless standardization, implementing command and control based management structures and centralized teams that are designed to drive economies of scale but have the unintended consequence of reducing speed-to-market, flexibility and innovation. This model also depends on the availability of large numbers of skilled resources that are always in short supply around the world. The result is that most businesses are straddled with inflexible and expensive IT and a workforce that has lost its ability to innovate for the business, costs too much and is slow to react to the changing needs of the marketplace.

With the ready availability of cloud enabled services (such as CRM, HR, Marketing micro-sites etc.), organizations are choosing to bypass their internal IT teams and engage these services on their own. This is causing a growing rift between business units and their IT departments and more importantly serves dilutes the focus of the business from "What" technology can do for them to "How" to build and operate technology. As technology permeates and becomes indispensable to all aspects of today's businesses, this problem is going to continue to grow unless IT organizations recognize the limitations of the model that helped them succeed in the past and retrofit it quickly to adapt to the needs of today.

The model for managing IT for the next decade and beyond should focus on building five key capabilities:

1. Drive innovation and business agility by leveraging Design Thinking to build loosely coupled and lean IT capabilities that are designed to fit and deliver speed and mass customization
2. Improve speed and adaptability by allowing the business to sense changes in the marketplace, gain insights through analytics and respond to these changes by quickly translating these insights into operational actions and business outcomes
3. Allow organizations to quickly reach Minimum Efficient Scale in their products and services by leveraging the cloud to lower barriers to entry and providing the flexibility rapidly scale or reorient the business without significant capital and resource outlays
4. Tap into the power of ideas, knowledge (tacit and explicit) and potential that exists within informal people networks through the use of social networking and collaboration
5. Build continuous improvement and lean thinking into all aspects of managing IT within an organization

A model that is built on these tenets will move IT beyond its traditional functional role in an enterprise of playing defense and "Keeping the lights on" to one that is a key stakeholder in the business that plays an effective offense that adds value to the enterprise by improving the Return on IT through innovation, flexibility, agility and quality at a continuously improving price point.

Finally, implementing this model is not going to be easy without the unequivocal support from the CIO. Most CIO's find it very difficult to adapt their leadership style and management models to the new approach. The new model requires CIOs to abandon their centralized command and control style and take on a Servant Leadership model with their employees, partners and customers. This is also the only way they become true business stakeholders and earn their "seat at the table".