Bask Iyer, SVP and CIO, Juniper Networks, talks about the challenges of working with extremely tech-savvy employees spread across 46 countries, and ways to tackle them.
What are the biggest challenges you face, being the global CIO of a technology company?
The biggest challenge working in a technology company is that the people around you are not only well-versed with technology, but are also fascinated by it. While it is great in most aspects, the flip-side is when people start believing that everything can be solved by technology. If I had to find an analogy, I would say this is very similar to how people always want a pill but don't want to exercise or eat healthy or make lifestyle changes to counter health problems.
What most people don't realize is that IT is more about people, process, and technology. In my experience, most companies need to first improve a lot in their processes. No one likes to talk about that, because it is boring, mundane work. But buying a software or hardware is not going to help either. For a CIO, it becomes a constant struggle of how not to fall into the trap of getting tools to fix problems even if it is the short route out, and that is what the users themselves are clamoring for. For instance, implementing a social networking tool without working on the social aspect of the company or figuring out what is it that employees are going to use social networking for will not help anyone. In such situations, my biggest challenge would be donning the role of a CIO who can step into the role of a statesman and say that there is more to solving a problem than buying a tool to fix it.
Another big challenge is change management.
How do you deal with this problem of fascination with technology in your company and within users as well?
We discovered this problem at Juniper. Being a company at the cutting edge of technology meant that we always wanted the best. In that pursuit, we had accumulated every possible best-of-breed tools for each and every need over the years. I realized that in this global environment, working with 800 different applications was becoming a mess because there are inter-operability and integration issues. I am now working on rationalizing 800 different applications into one consolidated entity. We also decided to go for certain standardized tools for the "running-the-business kind" of tasks. That helps us follow certain standard processes across the organizations. We have kept the innovative tools for certain specific functions.
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