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CIO must improve their business learning: PuneeshLamba, Senior VP & Group CIO- CK Birla Group 

With the advancement of technologies these days, cyber-attacks are revitalizing so rapidly, and even before you blink your eye and think about it, your organization may already be at risk. Especially when we are in front of COVID-19 monster, organizations are going through a rapid transformation. This pandemic has compelled the organization to change its outlook in every aspect where security becomes the most important one. Which is why the role of a CIO becomes very crucial? They help to set and lead the technology strategy for an organisation. Now a CIO works in a more multi-functional way than ever before. As bigger the organization, critical is the responsibility. And, when it comes to any organization like CK Birla Group the security becomes pivotal as there is a bigger risk of intellectual property theft. CK Birla Group is a diversified conglomerate around three billion dollar annual revenue and interest in cement, paper, IT, education, auto manufacturing and all.

In our conversation with Puneesh Lamba, Senior VP & Group CIO- CK Birla Group, we understood how a role of CIO is important for an organization and what are the strategies they are following to secure their company from security scandal?

Value the right balance between standardization and flexibility.

As Puneesh says, every company in our group has their own IT teams. They follow the principle of freedom in the framework so the strategy is, once it is finalized and reviewed in the group office and if the budgets are approved, the companies normally make their own decisions and implementing enterprise and deploying the solutions. They value the right balance between standardization and flexibility. They understand that standardization brings economies of scale in terms of spending, skills, integration etc, & flexibility allows to customize the solution for customers.

The synergy between the IT deployments at different CK Birla Group companies
Industry verticals are so different from each other there are quite a few solutions that are common in companies due to complete collaboration within the IT teams of companies. “My office ensures that the successes, failures, experiments, all are shared in each and we learn from each other. And this is done using modes like collaboration portal, monthly calls offline discussions, joint workshops. If one company has successfully deployed a hyper-convergence infrastructure on an Industry 4.0 solution, ensure that learning percolates so that those do not have to do it,” says Puneesh.

Satisfaction is most important
In terms of technology platform standardization, the company has collaboration modes wherein they decide jointly. For example, one company is going for a solution in sales for automation, The first step that they follow is they’ll ask questions to the other companies if they have applied a similar solution and they would also take their reference whether they are happy or not. If they are happy, then they will ask them about the features and then they will do gap fit analysis with their own requirements. If everything is good, then they go ahead and deploy the same otherwise they look for other alternatives.

Focus on innovation synergy and disruptive thinking
Talking about the cultural synergies within the group companies, Lamba mentions, “ I focus on two things, innovation synergy and disruptive thinking. This is what the IT teams are enabling the company and we follow our own homegrown model called ALISH, where A is for Awareness- we create awareness among the masses about the art of the possible. And, then we enable them through learning platforms or giving them learning opportunities so that once they’re aware, they start learning about some skills that they can use later. Third is idea generation. So we have to enable them whenever the idea comes after they’re aware & have learned skills, they should have a platform to record those ideas.”

He further adds, “S is for solutions wherein we show them solutions once they have the ideas and H is for Hackathon where we give them some competition so that they compete with each other within companies, within functions across companies and the fastest team wins. That follows by the recognition that they get, we believe that the masses have to be part of the innovation & disruptive thinking.”

Image analytics and computer vision technology are two key technologies
The key technology solutions used by the different CK Birla Group companies are image analytics and computer vision. “In one of the companies where the rejection rate was a lead on a higher site, and one of the reasons was that there was a manual inspection. We deployed, a solution using A1 and ML and computer vision used to look at the product, analyze the image and then find out whether it is inside these or not, and now we could reduce the rejections by a whopping 50 % for visual faults and our OEE increase by two per cent, bringing in substantial saving,“ states the CIO.

Explaining more about the technologies the CIO explains, “Augmented reality or mixed reality for skill dependency reduction for the setup of machines for a change of SKU. So whenever there is a change in SKU machine, a specialized person has to come and do the setups and then production will start. We created a training module & hosted on our partners augmented reality glasses that guided the resource to make changes in the machine tooling to make it ready. Not only to improve productivity but also our set-up time got reduced. Industry 4.0 solutions where we automated, the entire shop floor using Internet of Things technology and integrating all on machines either through their PLCs or deploying IoT censors and collecting the data on cloud followed by creating dashboards for information.”

They also make changes in parameters of larger machines remotely and could improve plant utilization. In terms of other functions, they have now become heavy users RPA technologies which automate their processes like vendor invoice processing, GST reconciliation, air ticketing, PO creation etc. They have also used advanced analytics with AI & ML to improve supply chain planning.

Digital technology and combating COVID-19 crisis
With the help of technologies, the company has allowed anyone who was supposed to work from home could work from home. But, the next challenge was wherever the connectivity is limited like in manufacturing plants, which are in remote locations the infrastructure is not that great so the bandwidth will be limited.

RPA Solutions, the workflow automation solutions helped them go contactless, reduced physical interaction. So that way the loss that was expected that they could reduce.

Customer-centricity is the key
According to Puneesh, customer-centricity is the key. He also thinks that if CIO starts or improves their business learning, that would be great for them.

He further states that all should have a rapport with the functional leaders of the company. If they start participating in functional leaders meetings and understand the pain areas and the challenges these guys go through every day, only after then they will be able to offer solutions that actually solve their problems. Second is going to the field. It is extremely important for the CIO to start visiting their customers, depots, their sales offices, start meeting suppliers. The more stakeholders they meet the more they will learn. Listening to the customer is very important and including social media listening to understand changing customer behaviour can help CIOs to come up with new business models.

Remote WFH business model
As we know that we are going through a huge crisis of COVID-19 pandemic the situation has changed a lot. The new changes have become new normal now. The same happened in the case of digital working space also. It became challenges for the companies to work out these things so that they can run their work smoothly. Being a CIO, talking about the current challenging situation, Puneesh explains,” Who works in offices or desk jobs are equal to the services companies. The processes that they handle sitting in offices can be automated and they can work remotely.”

Adding more he mentions, “The second part is the physical activities that they need to do in manufacturing plants. If we start automating processes using Industry 4.0 solutions, automated industry solutions where robots can be deployed. So wherever you will be able to do automation and that automation can be handled remotely, work from home solutions can be deployed.”

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