Hitting the ‘Refresh’ button

By : |January 31, 2010 0


First a general question. What have been the high as well as tough points of your role as head of IT since you took charge here, specially during a tough phase?

A year back when I joined, IT procurement areas, specially software and hardware, got my attention first. I made sure that the systems and processes improved to what they ought to be. It meant streamlining selection, cost-checks, support-checks, training etc together. I also tried to use my 25 years of experience and tried to revisit SLAs, the approach towards them, while I also made all applications go live in five to six months. In addition, I made a core team for training as people come and go in this set up. So it’s better to have a system of imparting and passing on training rather than depending on outside consultants. Being in a business of offshore Oil and Gas model, most of our people are working off HQ premises. We have implemented a solution that took care of many issues related to that unique factor.

After you made sure that things are on a smooth run, what was your next priority?

Once the main stuff went live, I reviewed the contracts and found many gaps. It was major a one-way contract and SLAs clearly needed major re-work. I identified the C1, C2, C3 level issues and put them in a right format. I was also trying to turn the IT cubicle from a cost centre to a profit centre.
Now things are streamlined, and that includes AMCs. My next step is to entrench infrastructure firmly in place and also look at IT policy, security, network etc.

Do you like the idea of ROI or guarantees promised in SLAs?

If guarantee makes sense, it’s acceptable. But one has to make sure of the difference between paper and reality. Hidden clauses etc should be clearly evaluated.

How helpful are negotiation skills to a CIOs office?

Very much. I can illustrate Rs 80 to 90 lakhs in savings just on account of good negotiation skills. I have used them in existing contract reviews, new contracts, ERP licenses under reviews and renewals. All said, it is difficult to get a techno-commercial person in IT. One has to play the ‘go-to-competition’ advantage very nicely with vendors.

And what is your take on upgrades?

I think users should not be forced here. It’s not fair. Why should one need to be chased to get patches. I have seen how the DOS and operating system scene has changed unfavorably for users that way. As soon as new-fangled stuff comes, suddenly support to earlier versions is off. What about existing users? Give us support functions at least.

What’s your approach to vendors? Single or multiple?

I prefer to work with one vendor. Because with multiple vendors, one encounters the problem of compatibility. Suppose I bought VSAT from Tata for the rigs area, and next I want a pipe between the rigs and my office. There might be issues between two vendors and if I face a problem, I don’t know who to point to because in all probability they will point at one another. At least, with one vendor, the responsibility in case of a downtime is pinned to one person. So it depends on the criticality of applications.

Anything special that fuels your excitement currently?

Yes, in the area of offshore communication, I can see many more improvements. In the rig drilling contracts, with Rs one and half per day per drill costs to ONGC, we have 60 to 65 per cent of crew as expats. They naturally need to connect back home with families, but it used to cost $1.50 per minute. I thought of opening a corporate Skype account, working it out to take care of the expat needs and now the bill is Rs. five per minute.

What would be the overarching flavour of your roadmap next year?

Lotus Notes and workforce applications are about to start. We also want to focus on a Business Intelligence tool. Evaluation is on course.

What’s your own IT team like? How do you ensure reskilling? Any drive towards a profit centre?

I have five core team members. Yes, I make sure that they stay updated and this includes meeting me in person anytime plus seminars etc. The show at the end of the day, must go on, no matter what. Mine is still a cost centre but I want to make IT drive business and not be just a support function. In another two years, I will show that IT is not a department that fixes your mouse or cable but that really drives business.




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