by May 7, 2008 0 comments



Identifying an IT solution for your organization is just the tip of the
iceberg, actually deploying it and making it work is what comprises the bulk of
the mass. And this is where IT specialists step in to own up the process and
carry it to its logical conclusion. We sought the views of some of the key IT
implementation partners across India on the pitfalls they think implementing
companies should avoid

Summers are back with all glory and as the heat gains in intensity, it’s time
to pour our sweat scouting around India looking at what large Indian
organizations have implemented over the past year. Yes, the PCQuest annual, Best
IT Implementation Awards, are back. But this story is not about analyzing what
the Indian companies have implemented, what technologies they’ve used or even
what the hottest trends in IT implementations are? All of this has been dealt
with in detail in the subsequent pages. In this story, we talk to the real
brains behind these implementations-the organizations that partner with an
implementing company to deploy their IT solutions and more importantly make sure
that these are successfully integrated with the existing business processes-to
get their views on how companies should go about deploying IT solutions. Out of
the 170 odd nominations that we received more than 100 involve at least one
implementation partner. And mind you all these are top quality implementations
(high on technology, costs and scalability). While it’s understandable that
complex implementations-those that involve modifying the complete IT
infrastructure or deploying ERP packages-would require specialists, we even find
solutions as simple as deploying an online portal to providing employees
anytime, anywhere accessibility to a company’s resources from across the globe,
handed over to specialists than being developed by in-house teams. So, is it a
question of having faith in the abilities of implementation partners more than
the abilities of in-house teams or a simple case of outsourcing IT deployments
and with it all the pains and complexities involved? Well, nobody was candid
enough to give a convincing reply to this query but anyways gave us a lot of
learning on the key issues that make or break an IT deployment.

Key challenges in managing an IT project
There seemed to be unanimity amongst the respondents that managing disparate
teams comprising of the implementing company, service providers and their own IT
teams was the biggest challenge they face while deploying projects at the
customers’ end. Another part of this challenge was to ensure smooth
communication amongst the teams involved to maintain compliance to common
objectives and in meeting the deadlines. It was sometimes difficult to get
people with the right skills to work on a project. And wherever these practices
were in place, the age-old problem of attrition seemed to raise its head. This
issue stood apart as the strongest reasons for project delays. Successful
project heads take special care that their team composition is a judicious mix
of youth and experience. So, in case you have an unusual exodus of the younger
staff, such an arrangement ensures that you have anchors to fall back on.
Another set of issues concerned the IT infrastructure at the customers’ site.
There could be issues as simple as having the right desktops in place to
servers, storage devices, switches, routers, etc in the datacenter. Sometimes,
external teams face stiff resistance from the in-house teams in their daily
tasks as the latter in all probability get edgy about their own jobs and see
external teams more of a threat than as a partner. This issue coupled with the
lack of knowledge about a new technology is probably the reason why system
admins are also less forthcoming on sharing information about their networks.

Shift in IT deployment strategies
There seems to be a paradigm shift in the thinking of CIOs as far as IT
deployments are concerned. Or at least this is what our discussion with the
implementation specialists suggests. In the early days of the development of IT
industry in India, there was a lot of emphasis on putting in-house IT teams to
work whenever a new solution was required. This is not the case now. Most of the
CIOs seem to have accepted the reality that complex and critical implementations
are best handled by specialists, and once a job is handed over they ensure you
get the best in terms of technology. Moreover, with so much on offer in terms of
technology, how do you ensure strict compliance with regulatory standards? Again
your implementation partners come to the rescue. Being masters of their IT
domains, they ensure that the level of compliance always remains high. Another
strategy that is now universal with large enterprises is the deployment of
technologies across multiple branch offices, spread across different
geographies. This not only increases the complexity involved but also the scale
of deployment. Therefore, it helps to have a helping hand especially in regions
where it’s not possible to depute your in-house teams.

Another challenge that most implementation partners face is the pressure of
short deadlines. Organizations demand the most cost-effective solutions with the
latest technologies, in the shortest possible time. Also, a customer is aware of
the competition in the segment and is always on the lookout for the best
bargains available. This means an implementer has to devise extremely robust
strategies, which leaves very little scope for experimentation. So, they are
forced to deploy their most trustworthy personnel on the job and have very
little scope for training of freshers.

Another key trend is the focus on business processes rather than on buying a
complete solution. We increasingly find organizations buying specific modules
such as a CRM solution, an SCM solution or an HR or finance module of an ERP
package, and getting it fine tuned as per their needs than implementing a
standard ERP package. Also with so much technology for the Web, the emphasis on
deploying web-based and mobile applications is on the rise. Particularly so in
case of banks, financial institutions and insurance companies who have to deal
with a perpetually mobile workforce and face a continuous need to evolve to
serve their customers better. With continuously evolving technology, powerful
systems and networks and ever expanding markets, such kinds of deployments are
constantly on the rise. What aids this trend is the availability of standard
IDEs such as Eclipse and Google’s Android. Overall, the emphasis on deploying
standard J2EE or .NET technologies is on the rise.

Finance, telecom and
manufacturing are known to be industry verticals where deployments are
popular. What’s happening in these areas?
Finance industry is in the final stages of core banking, rolling out
projects for loan management, credit applications, retail lending and
warehouse applications like CRM. However, there is a need in FSI industry
decision support systems. Telecom industry is rolling out VAS applications
apart from enhancing their infrastrure and networks for additional
subscribers. Manufacturing industry is enhancing ERP with more business
processes and functionality and integrating their partners and suppliers.

Do sunrise industries have an advantage over
the early adopters?
Early adopters of IT like banking, manufacturing had streamlined their
business processes with IT in phases and this they did over a period of
time. They focused on process streamlining to begin with and customer
management and new business offerings. For instance, manufacturing moved
from MRP to ERP and into CRM based solutions. Considering that IT has
penetrated into most businesses today, newer businesses have the high
compulsion of not just enhancing their entire business practice with IT but
also to create that agility most of the businesses today look forward to in
order to have an edge in creating newer business models and opportunities.
In short, the pressure of adoption of IT into sunrise industries is much
higher than the early adopters.

Kamal Dutta
Director, Software, Technology Solutions Group, HP India

What advice would you like to give to CIOs
of these industries for their IT implementations?

CIOs of sunrise industries have numerous challenges in selecting technology,
building desired business applications, managing IT post deployment and also
in creating agility for assuring flexibility and business innovation.
Considering the same, I like to suggest CIOs to build an IT model which can
help them strategize their demands, based on business value and efficient
project and portfolio management.

The biggest challenge for CIOs is to
determine ROI for their implementations. How would you help them in this
task?
Saving Costs and having best ROI are desired aspects of CIOs from any of
the IT implementations. While its desired to have the low cost and high ROI
model, in reality it’s very difficult to achieve until we have few
guidelines followed. Better ROI can be easily realised when applications
have high availability, better response times, quick problem identification
and isolation capabilities thereby adhering SLAs, reducing MTTRs and
elongating MTBFs. Cost Savings can be realised with Performance Testing of
applications in pre-production environment, Server and Network Automation in
production and by implementing IT solutions offering SOX, BASEL II and/or
ITIL compliances for tracking regulatory guidelines.

What’s the most important thing that CIOs
should remember when negotiating for a new IT project with a vendor?
Recommendations would include: Assess Vendor’s capabilities in similar
projects with other customers ie check for references, Validate the vendor’s
understanding of your current business requirements, Check on the measures
to be adopted by vendor for upholding the delivery commitments.

When we talked on the kind of deployments that have taken place in the IT
infrastructure domain, consolidation and virtualization received the maximum
mention; and rightly so, as organizations look at optimization of hardware
resources and cutting real estate costs. A related concern with the customers is
that platforms used for deployment should be interoperable, should make do with
minimum of proprietary standards, provide scope for scalability in future and
have faster provisioning capabilities.




Dealing with attrition
When we look at the human aspect of implementations, an alarmingly high rate
of attrition seems to be the biggest concern. Not that companies have not worked
a way around this issue. We see a slew of innovative solutions being tried. Some
companies consider knowledge sharing amongst peers a must-have weekend activity.
Such an initiative, they feel, ensures that employees at different levels of the
hierarchy trickle down information to their immediate subordinates. This also
enhances the motivation to learn new technologies and get updated on the latest
trends. Similar discussions are undertaken with other partners and service
providers to ensure homogenous mapping of information. There are companies that
initiate similar projects at different locations, just to have a failsafe option
ready in case a team at a particular location quits. It also helps to share your
business growth plans with your team members and associates to keep them
motivated and pitch in with additional resources as and when the need arises.
Another idea is to rotate employees across challenging assignments to improve
skills and keep them excited. However, keep your second string of leaders ready
just in case your team quits en masse!

What has changed in the IT
landscape in recent months in terms of IT deployments?
We find consensus amongst clients on the fact that IT can no longer be
considered a support function. Instead, it must contribute directly to
business value by driving innovation, growth and revenue. Clients are
increasingly building necessary IT processes and skills required to
implement and manage an IT environment capable of satisfying their
organization’s business goals. From an IT infrastructure standpoint we see a
growing demand for server consolidation, energy-efficient data centers,
unified communications solutions, managed services, business continuity and
security across all industries.

Bhaskar S
Anand

Country Executive, Integrated Technology Service, IBM India/South Asia

Where are CIOs of new-age industries such
as retail, real estate and healthchare most likely to go wrong? Any thumb
rules they can follow?
The CIOs should ensure that their infrastructure is scalable, they
should provide a solution-oriented, where they get one vendor to provide an
end-to-end solution, instead of chasing different vendor for different
components,

We find clients increasingly channelizing
their investments towards broader business challenges like growth, expansion
and profitability. Non-traditional competition coupled with global market
forces require companies to find new streams of revenue, centralize their
services and build strategic partnerships. At IBM, we enable clients to
effectively succeed in this landscape.

One of the biggest challenges that CIOs
face with their IT implementation partners is ensuring timely delivery of
products or solutions required by an IT project. How do you combat this?
Strong project management, project governance, and adherence to
processes are some of the key areas that CIOs need to relentlessly focus on.
This is where we see some doing better than the others. A well-defined SOW
can help address this to a great extent. It is a very important document and
a lot of attention needs to be paid on it to ensure that a CIO’s
expectations throughout the lifecycle of the implementation are well-met by
the IT partner.

Is there any message you’d like to give to
the CIOs and IT project heads of enterprises?

CIOs should make their management view clear to all that IT as a
business-enabler would ultimately help the organization grow its business.
They should also ensure that they have the right IT solutions in place that
would help mitigate all kinds of risks likely to arise in the business.
Plus, they should provide efficient and optimized IT solutions to end-users
in the organization, that run smoothly on an everyday basis.

A sore point echoed by almost all companies, and one that showcased an
increased reliance on people rather than processes, was the lack of proper
documentation of processes. And even in companies where it was duly maintained,
regular updates was an area of grave concern. This means if the main people
involved in a large and complex implementation leave, the viability of the
entire project could be under threat. Therefore, it makes sense to follow
processes that are people independent and where you can easily slot-in new
employees in case the need arises. It also helps to keep documents in places
where they are easily accessible to all and keep proper security checks to
ensure that there is no scope for redundancy or confusion.
Yet another set of respondents believe in keeping track of each and every stage
of a project and maintaining regular lists of the positives and negatives, so
that they can nip the evil bud before it could blossom into a crisis. This also
helps in keeping a regular check on the assignments being done by different sets
of people and take proactive measures wherever required. Also, the top
management could take time off to sensitize the team on the impact of their
actions on a client’s business.

What’s happening on the IT
implementation front across different types of industries? What kinds of IT
implementations are hot or in demand these days?
There is lot of focus on enterprise-wide digitization. Traditionally
people would have implemented IT for doing their accounting, balance-sheet,
payroll etc. There is also a broad implementation of enterprise-wide
connectivity technology.

The next step
of concern once you start connecting different parts of your organization is
the security and authenticity of data transfer. Associated with that, there
is also a growing emphasis on Business Continuity Process and Disaster
Recovery.

What are the sunrise industries, like
Retail, Healthcare, Real-Estate, etc doing in IT?
In the process of managing retail chains, focus is extremely high on
logistics operation. In healthcare industry, there are two kinds of players.
First are the providers who actually administer healthcare (doctors,
hospitals, pharmacy), secondly there are healthcare players and insurers.
However, this industry has not really progressed compared to outside. There
is no automation here when it comes to transaction between these two
sectors. These sectors need to pay a lot of attention to automation.

Satish Joshi
Executive Vice President
and CTO, Patni

What advice would you like to give to CIOs
of these sunrise industries for their IT implementations?
For retail industry, a greater emphasis needs to be on logistics
automation, automation of the operation of the retail outlet, the supply
point etc. What they have’nt done yet and should be doing at the earliest is
investing in CRM. Retail outlets in India still do not use IT to understand
their customers well. CRM is equally important in healthcare industry. In
technology jargon it is called ‘unified customer view,’ which is knowing
each and every customer and his buying preferences.

Change management is the biggest worry for
any CIO. What advice would you have for ensuring a smooth transition to a
new technology?
Change management becomes an unsolvable problem in couple of situations.
When a business process is badly designed no amount of automation or
technology can help. So, even if the business process architecture has been
correctly designed, but one does not get the people who are supposed to
execute it efficiently, then change management would become a big problem.
Another critical thing is to bring about the change is a very
non-threatening manner. The end users have to be educated about individual
benefits and to the enterprise after the deployment.

Needless to add, retaining the right manpower is always the best option for
an organization. It serves well to always keep all channels of communication
open and maintain an atmosphere of healthy camaraderie amongst colleagues. Apart
from proper motivation, it’s very important to dole out salaries and perks that
are in tune with the current market trends.




Pitfalls to avoid
We get some really useful pieces of advice here. Right from the signing of SLAs
to the actual implementation and after-sales service, you need to tread through
each and every stage with the utmost caution. Make sure that your customer
understands each and every word that’s been defined in the SLA and there should
be no deviation allowed later. Give sufficient time to define the scope of each
and every task and take proper sign-offs. Also ensure that you’ve clearly
understood your client’s requirements and there is no ambiguity. In case you
doubt the technical feasibility have it resolved before the SLA is signed. There
has to be a clear commitment on what has to be delivered and by what time frame.
Never keep any technology requirement undefined or open. There has been many a
case of an implementation going completely haywire because of a lack of
understanding amongst implementation partners. A better way of handling this
would be to follow a phased delivery approach, ie roll out an implementation (no
matter how big or small) in parts and get approvals from all concerned before
you proceed to the next stage. Also, never give in to pressures of changing to a
new technology without a sound logic. This is probably the worst pitfall a
project head can get into and one that causes the maximum delays. Apart from the
legal and technical aspects, issues related to people management and retention
could also be potential bombshells. It helps to work with the same team
throughout, coz any change in manpower in the middle could see you spending more
time on people management than managing the project itself. And a change in the
team could not just be initiated by old people leaving or new ones joining in.
It could be triggered by changes in your business workflow, where an entire team
could be replaced by another to reflect the new arrangement. So never allow a
client to change his workflow in the middle of an implementation! In conclusion,
here’s another crucial bit of advice-ensure that the time frame between pilots
tests and actual rollout is kept to the bare minimum. As a longer than usual gap
could result in all the above problems creeping in to spoil your implementation
efforts.

What are industries like
Retail, healthcare doing in IT. What advantages do they have over early
adopters of technology?
IT has become the base and one needs to have skills IT skills should
always be blended with the vertical know-how. All sectors cannot move in a
parallel way when it comes to IT adoption. In healthcare, it is felt that
one should not make big money on it as it is a necessity. Whereas finance is
seen as the most profitable sector. Their affordability was also good and
they were highly competitive in terms of giving innovative banking solutions
to customers. Due to various constraints some sectors have been early
adopters while some have been late. There is no particular advantage or
disadvantage for the late movers as they do not have to compete with other
sectors.

Anil Laud
Managing Director, Siemens Information Systems Ltd

What are the latest happenings on the IT
implementation front across different types of industries? What kinds of
implementations are in demand these days?
Many companies do not know what exactly they want. IT is only a
facilitator not an end unto itself. Various kinds of implementations are in
demand these days. However, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on IT
infrastructure and what one calls as break-fix implementations. Even for the
Chief IT Officer there are ways he can move up the value chain. Server
consolidation and network optimization are becoming very popular. However,
the company should first focus on the benefit they can derive before
implementing these. Information security is also gaining a lot of momentum.

Change management is the biggest worry of
any CIO. What advice do you have for ensuring a smooth transition to a new
technology?
Typically when it comes to India, people do not value time. Also, they
have very little value for structured processes. They suffer from
‘I-know-it-all’ syndrome. While adopting a new technology everyone in an
organization should think and talk of business benefits.Explaining the
business benefit helps in a major way.

What are the key points to consider when
calculating the TCO of a large IT project?
Besides the upfront price, there are costs related to maintainability,
scalibilty, environmental costs (ie power, recycling of waste products,
etc). One important factor that is missed by most companies is user training
costs. If a solution is not user-friendly one has to spend lot of money in
getting employees to get habituated to it. It is hidden cost whose
importance can’t be ignored.

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