by March 4, 2009 0 comments

Slowdown or not, I see little decline in tech shows and conferences going
around. I’ve even seen an increase in session attendance, versus those who
‘network in the corridors’. It’s as if more people now want to listen: just in
case there’s an idea to be picked up, or an answer…

I saw this at Nasscom’s annual show in Mumbai last week, and this week at
CIOL C-Change, our annual CIO meet in Kathmandu. Warm port, cold valley… the
air was charged and grim, amidst budget cuts and pressure on returns. Even
work-in-progress projects were being shelved or ‘put on the backburner’.

So what does the CIO do?
Well, global CIOs said (on a panel I chaired) they were re-negotiating
contracts. They asked for ‘innovative’ deals: lower prices, but also
business-outcome-based pricing. They said they didn’t see many suppliers doing
this, but a few were beginning to agree. We’ve see this in the local market too:
some suppliers are willing to talk pay-as-you-go without any up-front
investment, important for kick-starting those very few new projects you may end
up doing this year.

At C-Change was a discussion around what I suggested last month on this page.
Use your time, and perhaps spare resources, to identify places where IT can help
improve a process, or reduce costs. “Go after the waste,” as Jagdish Khattar,
Maruti’s former chief, said. Find areas with flab. (Are five taxis being booked
for five people going from office to airport? How about a simple web form, which
shows what’s already been booked? Too much travel for internal meetings? Video
conference.) Measure things rigorously: sales cycle time, receivables per
salesperson, energy usage…

Prasanto K Roy
is president and chief editor, ICT
Publications, at CyberMedia

But, said CIOs, this is not easy. ‘Knowing the business’ isn’t a simple
matter of knowing sales or costs; it needs detailed analysis of a process such
as HR, even more than the functional manager herself may have done. It means
spending weeks assessing processes, tough when an operational unit (such as
sales) or line manager is firefighting. It may also mean treading on the toes of
other SBU heads. So a lot depends on your relationship with SBU heads and other
top-level execs. The CIO’s challenge is not tech, but people skills.

But an area that did not mean treading on toes was energy. Most CIOs said
their companies did not have a manager responsible for energy across the board.
Telecom, and manufacturing, showed some exceptions. But even there, those “in
charge of energy savings” were a company secretary, a utility manager, finance
director, chief engineer… none was looking at energy full-time as a big KRA.

…leaving much scope for a CIO to take charge of a function beyond his pure
domain: but one of importance. So first, you need to assess if your company is
‘interested’ in saving power:
l Can you save capex? Have you hit your ‘backup envelope’―when your current UPS
or other backup can’t support expansion? (Maybe you need to expand at one
location, to consolidate multiple locations to save cost.)

Is energy 3% of your turnover or 5% of net margin or 10% of op-ex? Is it
among the top five op-ex costs? Can you save 1% (of turnover) by careful

How much can minimal tweaking―such as rewiring to use alternate lights only,
with daylight―save? How about educating users to switch off idle PCs?

May the green force be with you-and save you money this year.

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