As India’s new financial year begins, CIOs are now sorting out their priorities and concerns. CIO India talks to IT leaders to understand what they are.
With the accelerated pace of digital transformation, coupled with the unprecedented arrival of the pandemic pushing enterprises towards a hybrid work culture, IT leaders have played a key part in keeping business afloat these last two years. The resulting redefinition of their role is influencing their priorities as they prepare for the 2023 financial year.
One of the biggest changes has been to bring them closer to business units.
“We are on a digital transformation journey that will transform our customer, partner, and employee experience by focusing on inclusion, innovation, operational excellence, and agile methodologies,” says Dharmendra Rangain, CIO for India and neighbouring countries at Cisco Systems.
At engineering and technology services company Cyient, CIO Pallavi Katiyar says that CIOs are closely integrated with business and are more like partners today, making the framework for deciding priorities relatively easier. “We (CIOs) are working very closely with the business to understand their priorities, focus, and requirements. That helps CIOs to identify and work on solutions that need to be enabled for business to meet their objectives.”
CIO’s top concern: cybersecurity
Cybersecurity will continue to be a top priority for Indian CIOs in the year ahead, according to a recent survey of technology executives by Gartner: 64% of Indian CIOs surveyed said they will increase their spending on security-related technologies in 2022, higher than the global average of 57%.
The IT leaders CIO India spoke with told a similar story.
For Cyient’s Katiyar, cybersecurity is the topmost concern: “The threat is real. It’s something that has been keeping me awake for the last couple of years.” She says it’s foolhardy for anyone to assume they are safe even if they have the world’s leading cyber security solutions.
She is currently focusing on improving overall cybersecurity by working very closely with her team. “We ensure that we build cybersecurity and data security into every aspect of the application infrastructure solution that we are delivering,” she says.
Her colleague, CTO Rajaneesh R Kini, agrees. “Our priorities for the year are to enhance our cybersecurity architecture using data access patterns to better understand security threats for IT and OT systems.” Kini is working to make the company more agile and build a system that would enable the organization to leverage data to create insights that drive real business value. He is also exploring AI tools with the goal of providing workers with a self-service platform for supporting decision making.
This financial year, Katiyar plans to invest significantly in building cybersecurity capabilities in-house but realises that alone won’t be enough: “It is going to be an impossible task to have the entire knowledge, capability, and skill set in-house, so it’s also important to have the right vendor and partner ecosystem in place to help bridge the gap.”
Cisco’s Rangain says now is the time to make bolder decisions, assume newer responsibilities that will boost customer and employee experience, and guard against evolving cyberattacks. However, Rangain is well aware that the hurdles and gaps for IT leaders will only widen: “From continuously bolstering security architecture to finding and retaining the right talent, the complexities and opportunities are plenty, as we live in a time of innovation and disruption.”
Indian IT firms today are seeing the highest attrition rates — and the resulting demand for skilled IT workers has led to increased payroll costs.
At technology consultancy Thoughtworks, Chief Digital Officer Swapnil Deshpande says that after compliance, cybersecurity, and data privacy, one of his top concerns for the year ahead is being able to respond to changes faster. “With business evolving fast and technology evolving faster, one of my concerns is being able to build an IT department that can match or surpass the current rate of change. Running an operationally efficient organization with the help of data will enable key leaders to use actionable insights and foresight for better decision making.”
Deshpande says that to help solve this issue, talent acquisition and retention will continue to be a priority. He also plans to work towards digital transformation with platforms and data to significantly improve the internal IT effectiveness and productivity, thus helping key business leaders make better decisions to run and grow the company.
Talent development and retention have emerged as key concerns for Kiran Marri, vice president and chief scientist at IT services provider CSS Corp. “My top priorities include enablement and use of technology to empower employees by equipping them with the required skills to solve client problems. My goal is to prepare employees for a technology-based future and help them hone and acquire needed skills now and moving forward.”
Natarajan Radhakrishnan, president and global chief innovation officer at Hinduja Global Solutions, says lack of digitally skilled talent has been a major concern for IT leaders, and hiring talent exclusively from external sources has become extremely difficult. “CIOs encourage employees within the organization to upskill themselves in necessary technologies. This method future-proofs the careers of employees by equipping them with relevant skills. It is also cost-effective for the organization,” he says.