“It’s important to ensure that IT and business partners are aligned”

In this conversation, Vivek Gudena, Group Vice President – IT, NSL Group, talks to Pankaj Maru about evaluating technology, preferring private cloud to managed IT, and security aspects linked with BYOD.

Being the IT head of a group that is into diverse businesses, which factors do you take into account before selecting a new technology?

With investments of over Rs 200 billion, NSL Group aspires to generate revenues of about $2 billion by 2015. And with the group growing at nearly 25-30% annually, the NSL IT team is constantly focussed on doing the right things and doing things right.

First and foremost, it’s of paramount importance to ensure that the IT vision and mission is completely aligned with the group business strategy. Next, we strive to ensure that IT and business partners are aligned on key priorities. Critical success factors are prepared, measured and communicated for each of those priorities along with detailed risk mitigation plans.

These fundamental and critical steps, complemented with disciplined execution, are key in our approach to evaluate and adopt key technologies across the company. More tactically, we use the following criteria to assess new technologies — vendor’s relevant experience in our industry, strategic thinking, TCO, subject matter expertise, and understanding of our key goals, quality and cohesiveness of the account management team and creativity and innovation, among other factors.

Which key technologies have been deployed at your organisation and what kind of impact and benefits are you seeing so far?
In recent years, NSL group has transformed its business processes through SAP implementation in most of the group companies. This programme required a fundamental shift in the way things are done, from people, process, cultural and technology perspectives. This programme laid the foundation for various value-enabling initiatives to improve business process efficiencies through better MIS, business process automation and roll-out of mobile technologies. One key goal is to get information to decision makers in an accurate, faster and more secure way.

We automated various business processes through the use of mobile technology in the Seeds and Sugars businesses. I am not at liberty to disclose specific monetary numbers, so here are a few examples from the mobile technology initiatives where the businesses have seen significant impact to top line and bottom line.
-Real time monitoring/re-allocation of stocks through mobile applications will reduce returns by up to 2%.
-Accurate measurement of plot through GPS features on mobile phones will reduce expenses to farmers and NSL by up to 5%.
-Reduced cycle time for farmer and plot registrations by more than 95%, i.e. from 10 days to less than 1 hour.
-Real time visibility to performance of field and sales officers because of GPS enabled features and dashboards on activities such as field visit reports, farmer and plot registrations, etc.

What kind of strategy has been adopted by the NSL Group in the area of managed IT and cloud?
Managed IT services is a concept that sounds great on paper and is not for everyone. We conducted a detailed assessment recently to outsource certain areas of IT services. After in-depth discussions with three IT service companies, we came to the conclusion that TCO could very well be up to 25% higher in an outsourced environment and dropped the idea.

We host our own virtualised environment and a private cloud. We are actively monitoring developments in this space and are very interested to continue the journey into the public cloud. In fact, we are actively looking to freeze the hardware footprint of our data centre, where possible, and move new business applications to the public cloud. This space is looking very attractive now in terms of speed of deployment of business applications and TCO.

Has BYOD made inroads into your organisation and how do you see it in the IT security context?
Employees and business partners are expecting and demanding flexibility to conduct business operations from the mobile devices. Emergence of these options have opened the pandora’s box of security threats. We have invested in MDM and MAM solutions to mitigate these threats. Components of these have been deployed for select business process areas as initial steps, leading to the creation of a more comprehensive BYOD policy. The trick is to find the right balance between the process efficiencies gained from the mobile technology relative to the potential security threats they pose.

What are your IT plans for the near future?
We are very excited and are evaluating data visualisation technologies that integrate MIS with Google Maps. We are also investing in extending the scope of mobile applications by automating more business processes, expanding previous pilot projects and securing NSL IT assets from the growing external threats.


Azure Cloudbring your own deviceBYODtechnology
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