CIOs must be the bridge between vendors and the management in the 'act fast-act right-stay relevant world'
Neville Vincent, a Senior VP and GM, APAC at Hitachi Data Systems, talks about the constantly changing role of the CIO, the 3Vs of Big Data, the Indian Market Place and Smarter Cities.
Are CIOs embracing Big Data the way the vendors project it?
I don’t think Big Data is just a passing technology fad. When I look at CIOs today, I get quite worried because the management is getting quite impatient about getting the CIO to act as an enabler and leverage the technology in the best way possible. Big Data is definitely the future. There are two companies in this world that have changed the IT industry forever – Apple and Amazon. Apple has consumerised technology and Amazon has commoditized it. These are the two thoughts that prevail everywhere.
From the perspective of business users, they are used to the ease of applications. They walk up to CIOs and make demands about the exact features that their apps need and at the same time want a commoditized pricing just the way Amazon does in its web services. Today, the big question that CIOs ask themselves is ‘How do I deliver information or services to business users at a price that is competitive in the external market?’ So, CIOs are under tremendous pressure to act fast, act right and be relevant irrespective of regions.
CIOs have to ask themselves, ‘Am I providing services or am I building an empire?’ Coming back to Big Data, the technology trend is new but the attitude has to be the same. The cardinal rule is to help business and embracing Big Data is definitely the way forward.
What is the most important V of Big Data when it comes to adoption– Volume, Velocity or Variety?
It depends largely on the industry. The driving factor is always the bottom-line usage. People are looking at customer retention and increasing profitability. Post GFC (Global Financial Crisis), all the industries are definitely in the innovation cycle irrespective of which industry the CIO belongs to. CIOs also focus on the cost cycle as the there is a massive pressure on CIOs to reduce costs and provide standardized services. The innovation in Big Data deals with all the three Vs – Volume, Velocity and Variety. But Big Data is mostly leveraged in increasing volume and the ones looking at the volume would be the ones that have large customer bases like eCommerce, retail, telecommunications and so on because the specific targeted marketing takes place there. People need more internet relationships with their customers. CIOs are also scared that their competitors down the road have been asked the same question about the hunger for insightful data.
With that aspect, doesn’t Oracle have a really big advantage as they assert that analytics can be done through databases?
I think different vendors will have different viewpoints about the big advantage. There are more applications today in one vendor’s office that people need to drive their sources of information from. Certain vendors are quite siloed and they would give this particular analysis within the silo − I have got everything for you mate. But CIOs who are in retail or eCommerce or even Telco who would like to have a look at the social sentiment, historical transactions or video analysis of people. So, it’s inevitable that they have to go beyond a single vendor. The competitive advantage lies in working with Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) because the operational technologies that HDS has is tremendous like surveillance, medical or training. The data will be video in the future and that’s where the traditional database vendors will struggle.
What is your strategy for Indian market?
We are hundred per cent indirect and partner-driven and we don’t have any intention of developing a direct sales organization in India. We categorize our offerings into three segments – Infrastructure, Integrated Applications and Vertical Integrated solutions.
When we look at the Indian marketplace today and at the portfolio across three segments, we have more than enough to be moving on with. I don’t think there is anything which can be considered as India-centric but the key areas that are applicable to Indian market place. For instance, we have water-treatment plants, power generation, transportation, utility-type offerings and loads of operational infrastructure that are relevant to the Indian marketplace.Indiais a massive opportunity for us.
We would be investing highly on additional capacity, collaborating more with Hitachi’s sister companies and India has great potential and is a role model for the offerings of Hitachi Integrated Social Innovation.
How do you partner with CIOs to overcome the challenges?
There are two aspects to this. Be it an Indian CIO or an Australian CIO, their core task is to engage the business, truly understand what the business is all about and coming back to vendors with complete clarity on their requirements. Just being the mediator between the vendors and the management doesn’t help. They need to drive it and become a valuable bridge.
But a challenge arises if CIOs partner too much with the vendors, then the value of a CIO is defeated. His role gets questioned and another problem arises if they lean too much on the business side. They have to be more open, embrace the ideas that come from the vendors and have insightful minds to evaluate the ideas and solutions better.
Sometimes, vendors could be seen as the commoditizing agents and that strategy is not going to work well in the innovation cycle. If we are in the cost cycle, then commoditizing the relationship works for CIOs. So, the best path to take is to strategize and not commoditize the partnership.
What is your focus on making Indian cities any smarter as IBM has already attempted but has not been very successful?
It goes back to the overarching approach. A city is not an enterprise. They cannot buy it. We look at vertically aligned offerings which are socially innovative. We may have many verticalised offerings but we see what is relevant to the city’s environment and collectively increase the automation and efficiencies of public services but it has to come from one point of solution. That’s how we approach the matter.
India is very complex. The first approach towards the Indian government wouldn’t be direct, it would be through our Global integrators – HCLs, TCSs, Wipros and Infosys’ of the world. They are much more connected to the Indian government and understand their dynamics better. I am not going to go through the pain of learning the Indian Government’s procurement dynamics when our partners deal with them regularly.