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How a CIO increased his project budget by 50 percent

Debarati Roy and Gunjan Trivedi | Nov. 30, 2012
Anil Khopkar, Vice President (MIS), Bajaj Auto, convinced his management to clear not one but two budgets in a single year.

Anil Khopkar, Vice President (MIS), Bajaj Auto, convinced his management to clear not one but two budgets in a single year.

Distinctly Ahead; that's not just Bajaj Auto's tagline, it's also the mantra the company operates by. Take for example, how it created a new record for itself in 2010 when it sold 2.85 million vehicles. It's already the world's fourth-largest two-and-three-wheeler manufacturer and is a leading brand not only in India, but also across several countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and South and South East Asia. For 2011, it set itself a target of 4 million vehicles (including 1 million in exports). Whether the company will be able to keep its foot to the pedal will depend a lot on the shape of its IT infrastructure.

That's a responsibility 55-year-old Anil Khopkar, VP (MIS), Bajaj Auto takes seriously. It drives him to experiment continually with new ideas, backed by enormous amounts of research. And Khopkar has a track record of getting IT right 9 out of 10 times.

That credibility went a long way in 2009 when he convinced his management to agree to not one, but two budgets and two technology initiatives. It would have been hard for most seasoned managers to digest: A SAP upgrade and a server virtualization project.

The plan to virtualize 17 servers, which ran Bajaj Auto's entire SAP ERP ecosystem, with 38 modules, on just two big irons, isn't something many CIOs would dare attempt. But Khopkar's real achievement was the fact that the virtualization project wasn't part of his original--and approved--budget plan. His 2009 budget plan only included the Rs 80 lakh SAP upgrade. To get the virtualization project off the ground, he would have to convince his management bankroll another Rs 40 lakh-about 50 percent of his budget in a regular year.

But Khopkar was aware that he needed to take this risk to create a launch-pad that would enable Bajaj Auto to move distinctly ahead than its competitors. Here's how he went about getting what he wanted.

Round One: The Rs 80 lakh Upgrade

In the early months of 2007, Khopkar submitted a plan to overhaul the company's SAP ERP: He wanted to upgrade it from R/3 4.7 to ECC 6.0 and introduce new servers to run the databases. The project was essential if the company wanted to hit its projected growth trajectory. It would help the company adopt new processes, devices, more applications and handle larger amounts of data. And, once the company moved to ECC 6.0, further add-ons, specific to particular business functions and processes, would be mere incremental upgrades.

Realizing it's importance to the company's overall strategy, Khopkar made it a priority and ensured everyone in his team invested in the idea. "We tested the entire setup for almost three months. All the while, my team and I gathered data and reviewed its performance. It was very important to me that we had a full grasp over the technology that I would propose before our management," he says.


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