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Connectivity, security, data are pillars of digital transformation: VC Gopalratnam, SVP-IT and CIO – International, Cisco


Digita transformation is not something which effects one part of the organisation. It effects the organisation from top to bottom. The approach that the private sector is taking and the one public sector is taking are quite different. While government organisations are focusing on delivering citizen services in the most effective way possible, the private firms are looking to automate their process.  VC Gopalratnam, SVP-IT and CIO – International, Cisco, in an exclusive conversation with Mohd Ujaley, shares his views on digital transformation and how both government and private companies can move towards digital.

The word digital transformation has become a buzz word. Both government agencies and enterprises are trying to become digital. What is your views? Are they on right track?

If you think about digital transformation. It is not something which effects one part of the organisation. It effects the organisation from top to bottom. Clearly the approach that the private sector is taking and that one public sector taking are quite different. If you think about what the public sector is doing, everything that the government is trying to do around Digital India and creation of Smart Cities and smart enterprises, it’s all about delivering citizen services in the most effective way possible. By effective we mean, the most economical, flexible, secure and the most affordable. Citizen services are what the public sector is focused on in driving digital transformation.

Citizen services can be in any industry vertical, like education, healthcare, security, transportation and that is how the public sector is driving digital transformation. If you switch to the private sector while the digital transformation is all about the delivery of better service to three types of stakeholders – the customer, the ecosystem that you are part of (including partners) and employees. All the services cater to these set of stakeholders are automation, collaboration, networking services etc. to give better experience.

Over the past few years, lot of technology intervention has gone into modernising digital Infrastructure but one of the most critical components – networking – is still legacy based. Virtualisation and SDN have not been able to make substantial in-road. Why there is delay?

I don’t think there is necessarily a delay. If you look at what has happened to data centre over the years, everybody had a lot of data centres in the past and then the world moved to a place where optimisation and rationalisation, consolidation and centralisation of data centre was happening. But then the world recognised that by having everything centralised you lose ability to deliver services to customers who were asking for data centre type of services at the edge of the network close to where consumption was happening which is actually leading to more and more decentralisation again of data centres and network.

The reason why it takes time as you have to do in at scale at secured way and abstract the complexity of what you are doing from the end user. In order to do that, it takes time and one organisation cannot do this and that’s why you need to work with an ecosystem.

What new innovation do you foresee in networking?

The world is moving towards autonomic systems. The feature of is the ability to self diagnose, self heal and self operate and you have intelligence build in order to make that happen and it becomes self learning. That’s the way the world is moving. To me that is the next evolution of machine learning and deep learning that will lead to autonomic learning and tomorrow’s network will also focus on all these.

What would be the three key technologies that government and enterprises need to focus on?

As far as government is concerned, first one is connectivity and making sure it is pervasive and reliable as without connectivity nothing else will work. The first job of any government plan should be to ensure that they drive connectivity in every corner of the country. Once you have the connectivity in place, then through common network you can deliver all kinds of services. The second part that they need to focus on is security aspect as people will not consume services that they do not believe or are not secure. The third capability that the government should focus on is how to protect data and make the right data available to the right people at right time so that they can consume it better. All these three needs to be monitored and managed at such at a large scale that it needs to be reliable set of services that governments need to deliver.

The first three that was mentioned before are applicable to all the enterprises as well. However, there are few other things that will enable all of this. First one is around AI and deep learning as you mentioned. The second one is around automation of infrastructure but automation of application, workflow. The third one is of collaboration that includes voice, data, video, messaging etc.

Government is generating huge amount of personal data but unfortunately we don’t have privacy law in place.  So, would you as a CIO vouch for strengthening the privacy law in the country?

You need security to not only address the data but also the data that moves. Data will move from one cloud to another cloud, from one system to another system, from one country to another and all. Especially with new data sovereignty rules coming in, we need to have capabilities to hold data in one country. Our privacy laws really need to be stepped up significantly.

Over the past couple of years there have been innovation in GTM strategy, sale models, technology, partnership but we still see Cisco as a hardware giant. Is there some innovation happening at organisation level?

What you are talking about is completely universal. You no longer compete with companies you would have competed 10 years ago. The whole notion of competition has changed as everyone is doing everything. For Cisco, while we were a hardware company, we do more software than other companies around the world. We are actually more of software than hardware company. We are now in the middle of a transition from being called a hardware company to more of a solutions company where we are bundling hardware, software services together as a solution that you as a customer can consume in a flexible way. So that is the shift that is happening.

We are making the shift ourselves. We are designing digital products i.e. our products that we traditionally have to be successful in digital paradigm. That is how you fight competition i.e. how do you deliver this capability to customer and give them what they want in a flexible way.

How long will this process take?

This will take 18 – 24 months. This is a significant shift as we have to change out GTM market. By doing that we not only have to change our backend, all the business processes have to be reengineered and such process takes time.

If you think about digital transformation, Cisco is in the middle of huge digital transformation. The 5 focus areas for us are simplification automation, security, analytics and continuous innovation and this the foundation on which digital transformation is happening.

We are aware that world is changing and competitive landscape is changing. We are completely reengineering model and GTM. We know this is a transition will take time but we are getting positive feedback from analysts and customer that we are making the right investments. Our relevance has never been higher than right now.

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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