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CIO’s response to COVID-19: The past and the future

Immediately after the lockdown was announced, the CIOs reacted and responded to what was immediately required. Two months down the line, projects are either in the works or are being rolled out to to prepare for the new normal

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Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance was one of the first life insurance companies to continue with a business as usual model post the lockdown announcement. “We kicked off with the BCP and made sure our must haves – the investment division, underwriting, technology, call centre and issuance teams continue to operate without hindrance,” says Goutam Datta, Chief Information and Digital Officer, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance. These teams operate from Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata. The laptops packed with Work from home kits were delivered to the team members. They were also given the requisite VPN access. Dongles were also provided. As a result the call centre was operational and the issuances also started happening.

Secondly, it was necessary to setup and extend the digital communication services, to replace face to face conversations. These digital services were already available but they were further extended to more users after tweaking the physical platforms. WhatsApp was now available for all employees, IVR was setup for self help, BOING – the bot was extended to be used for many more services that were hitherto not available. Moreover a separate app was launched for customers for uploading documents because WhatsApp is not the right platform to be used for the same. “Additionally an important feature addition was included for sales enablement. The lead management system (LMS) was enhanced with a calling facility. The sales manager can call the prospective customer from the LMS itself. The underwriter and the call centre executive can also join the same call if needed,” informs Datta. All the payment options were also enabled for all kinds of customers, which was not the case earlier due to various reasons. Hitherto there were restrictions around certain customers having Insta payment, part payment, bank guarantee, etc.

Going forward the focus of the efforts will be to immediately activate the must-have and deprioritize the good-to-have.

All the LoBs are submitting their priorities in terms of must-have and good-to-have. The activity is ongoing. So what will define the must-have ? “anything that will enable my feet-on-street” to work from home or remotely but not from office. They are being given virtual sales kit; daily sales report; leads report; remote attendance marking based on the kind of field activity conducted. “There are a number of digital projects that are either underway or getting discussed,”   
   
Increase in usage of collaboration technologies
Collaboration technologies are not used in the manufacturing sector very extensively but the COVID-19 situation has forced Bharat Forge to go for such platforms. 

“Bharat Forge is in the process of deploying collaboration technologies, which eliminates paper usage to a major extent,” says Yogesh Zope, Chief Digital Officer, Senior VP, Kalyani Group. There are a number of workflows, which requires paper to move for approvals. These processes will be made paperless.

The work from home enablement was worked upon initially after the lockdown. “However, after realising that this is going to be a long game, we started on a long term WFH arrangement to provide more assets, access and connectivity wherever applicable on a WFH model,” says Zope. The company is also working on making product lifecycle management and other processes online. Elimination of email usage within the company is a major culture shift to be undertaken.

The two top priorities for CIOs in such critical times would be to “bring-in collaboration technologies and ensure the business processes are made lean,” opines Ipininder Singh, a leading technology leader.

The FMCG companies have been majorly hit by the coronavirus pandemic and their supply chains have been left dormant. “We are investing in designing apps to automate the order taking. Basically, lower the reliance on salespeople. The retailers, distributors will now be able to take list orders on the apps,” says the CIO of a major FMCG company. The cloud as a concept will be leveraged more to remove the dependency on data centre. The company is also further strengthening the collaboration technologies already operational.           

At Godrej Properties, the digital transformation journey had begun a couple of years back but now with COVID-19, the digitalisation of certain journeys has hastened. “The adoption is very good,” says Vineet Bhardwaj, Head – IT, Godrej Properties. There is no option left now. Earlier people would by default go back to using the conventional methods.


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