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CIO Perspectives: Q&A with Dinesh Rao, CIO at ITC

By December 26, 2011Article

Editor’s note: In this second interview in our series on CIO perspectives, Dinesh Rao at ITC Limited, discusses change – buying services rather than software, the impact of millennials in the workplace and the changing role of the CIO. How is the role of the CIO changing in your company? What is driving the change?
Dinesh Rao: There is definitely a shift in the role of the CIO over the last few years. He/She is no more seen only as the “technology” person who buys hardware, software and connectivity, but as more of a “Business Solutions” person playing an active part in business leadership. As the business challenges keep changing, the CIO is consulted in terms of how Information & Communication Technology (ICT) can help address the challenges in terms of improving business processes, measuring performance / productivity and give “early-warning” signals of business outcome.
To my mind, the key driver to the role change of the CIO is as follows: IT systems like ERPs, CRMs, SRMs, etc. are no more a competitive differentiator for the organization, or in some cases, the difference is thinning. So, the differentiation is on how business solutions are provided using the existing investments in ICT and the turnaround time for delivering the “change management.” The CIO has to orchestrate the technology components and the IT organization to deliver the business value. Regarding the new crop of millennials coming into the IT organization, what are their expectations, and how will they change your company’s culture?
Dinesh Rao: The new entrants (age group 22-26) to the organization are much more IT savvy and expect the company IT systems to be as flexible and feature rich as the various consumer apps like Google search, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also the need to be in the “always connected” mode is very strong among the millennial entrants.
The need for having mail, files, etc. to be accessed and shared on any device and at any point of time is the most basic expectation. This is leading to some conflict between the IT management and the new set of users as the current information security policies and governance may not allow implementing such requirements.
To accommodate the expectations as pointed out above, there will surely be changes in the IT policies and IT governance structures. However, this may happen in a staggered way and may not be a six-month to one-year project of transformation.
In terms of the company’s culture change, the work culture will become more collaborative in nature, and the interactions between various department verticals will become more transparent and effective. From the perspective of buying services rather than software, how have your company’s relationships with vendors changed?
Dinesh Rao: It depends. To my mind, if the company has invested in a large in-house IT team that has, over years, acquired business understanding, the company would still prefer buying software and automating its business process rather than taking the same as a service. The vice versa applies if the in-house team is a bare minimum to manage only critical applications like ERP. What is the last interesting book you read?
Dinesh Rao: “The Case of the Bonsai Manager,” by R. Gopalakrishnan made a good reading.
Dinesh D Rao is Divisional CIO of ITC Limited, Trade Marketing & Distribution (TM&D). ITC Limited is a US$7 billion diversified business conglomerate with presence in Packaged Foods, Cigarettes, Personal Care, Hotels, Paperboards & Speciality Paper and Agri Business ( He joined ITC in 1998 and has worked in various businesses of ITC and its subsidiaries (Tobacco, Packaged Foods, Ready Made Apparel manufacturing and Retail) in the role of CIO and earlier as Delivery Manager. He is currently responsible for IT delivery to the supply chain organization (also termed TM&D). The focus areas since last year have been on mobility solutions, business analytics and enterprise social collaboration systems. He enjoys playing golf over the weekends, travel and reading during spare time.
Rao represents IT of the Trade Marketing and Distribution vertical of the ITC Limited. The views expressed in this article are personal in nature and should not be construed as ITC’s viewpoint.

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