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The buck starts here for CIOs

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Preeti
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NEW DELHI, INDIA: Being proactive is the X-factor, be it for managing the IT function at a place that caters to the world with IT solutions itself or for ensuring that CIOs get more than a foot in the board-room door. Ashok Sethi, Sapient CIO shares how the very approach to IT strategy makes a difference at every dimension.

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How would you define your quintessential IT strategy approach? Specially being on the vendor side of IT industry?

It is more strategic than operational for one. We need to be proactive and practice what we preach. It spans through CTO, business units, an IT steering committee, everywhere. We have embarked on virtualization and cloud, private cloud and SaaS as some recent examples. Same way we have embraced unified content, collaboration kind of areas.

What trends catch your attention?

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IT consumerisation is a trend to watch out for. Mobility of workforce and a tech-savvy generation have made the landscape different. We encourage people to work from home with a seamless experience and hence focus on BYOD or mobility solutions is critical. There are risks and security issues to navigate here but authentication, encryption etc are some vital steps we take care of.

Your mandate as a CIO must be very different than what your peers have? Is IT expected to function as a test-lab or a profit centre for Sapient's portfolio-add-ons?

We do that. The whole idea of a Centre of Excellence here is to check and build on our solutions. Leveraging the platform is not like Cloud computing but more of an investment to generate revenue, unlike other industries. But our role is different and broader. We envision what is required. Exploring VDI capability, mobile device related features, mobility-and-media integration, version control are just a few examples that we are focused on.

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The Centre of Excellence must be a pretty busy beehive?

Yes, we have looked at PaaS, IaaS etc and explored on building frameworks where authentication mechanism remains the same. Mobility Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) keeps us engrossed too. Sync work for voice-video data for internal EPBax was another area we invested in. In short, we have beautifully weaved in new work as idea engineers at Sapient.

Does that mean that the India team does not just tow global think-tank? Or is it aligned well?

Overall strategy is not drastically separate. But we factor in some nuances of every geography. There is a bigger focus in India for instance, on web applications vs. native applications; or rules and regulatory frameworks specific to the region.

So much is always said about CIOs not being as strategic as they ought to be. What's your honest experience when we think of why CIOs are always left to tackle strategic points as a hand-me-down list from the boardrooms?

To be honest, if one does not demonstrate the eagerness to participate or to collaborate, you will always see the ‘pass-it-on' wave. But if you can influence the decisions at the right time and in a right way, opportunities present themselves. It's not happening a lot as of now but indications are optimistic. The role of CIO is changing for sure. Like it changed from a mere EDP manager in the 80s. It's also about being a business architect and strategist today. IT can be expanded as Innovation and Transformation, if you ask me. Same way, a CIO stands for Creativity, Innovation and Opportunity.

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