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How one CIO closed the IT-business gap

Clint Boulton | March 15, 2017
Day & Zimmermann CIO Sankara "Vishi" Viswanathan ordered IT managers to advise the business lines on back-office technology issues. Now he is moving forward with a digital transformation, hoping that automating capabilities in internal operations will convince customers to come along for the ride

To close the business-IT gap, Day & Zimmermann CEO Hal Yoh assigned Viswanathan to manage the shared services group in addition to IT, a crucial decision that gave the newly-empowered leader a bird's eye view of IT and operations. Viswanathan credits the decision with affording him the clarity to see the existing gaps.


Closing the gaps

Shortly after assuming these responsibilities last October, Viswanathan assigned top-performing IT workers as "IT partners" to liaise with each business group so that IT services were properly delivered. The result has been eye-opening for both parties, as IT is identifying opportunities to remove unnecessary steps in business processes. Payroll processes, for example, have been trimmed from 11 steps to five. "Long, convoluted business operations are getting simplified," Viswanathan says.

Closing the IT-business gap has enabled Viswanathan to focus on automating paper-based processes for back-office functions. He’s moved his ERP system to SAP HANA, an in-memory analytics database prized for speedy data-crunching, to render information close to real-time. He has also moved the staffing services business to a cloud-based applicant tracking system. "With that transformation we believe we will serve business leaders and sales operations to have information at their fingertips to serve end customers," he says.

Viswanathan isn’t embracing digital for digital’s sake or to join the cool kids’ table. He says failure to do so could have serious consequences as industries become more digitized. While this isn’t currently a problem for the industries Day & Zimmermann serves — Viswanathan says they have been somewhat slow to evolve to digital — he hopes such moves will inspire customers to follow the company’s example. That would enable the company to create more digital touchpoints and connections with its customers, ideally improving delivery of products and services.

To spur customers on, Viswanathan says Day & Zimmermann plans to educate their customers about the risks of digital disruption in their respective markets. "Hopefully, our customers see our digital operations and follow suit."

And as he advances this transformation Viswanathan says it is crucial that he brings along IT and the business operations staff, training up the talent pool so that they are fluent in the technology and business processes.

“People always say that if you have good process, you can make it happen but I don't know if that is always true,” Viswanathan says. “If you have good people you can create process that would make it better to execute. If you have good people you can create technology tools to support processes and people and serve customers. If you don't have good talent and good people, all bets are off.”


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