CIO Talk

A Quiet Revolution is Brewing at Vedanta

Amitabh Mishra, Chief Digital Officer, Vedanta Resources
Amitabh Mishra, Chief Digital Officer, Vedanta Resources

When you think ‘Digital Transformation,’ what comes to your mind? You probably think of GE, a pioneer of the industrial internet of things, or Accenture, Cognizant or Capgemini and the likes, who’re investing heavily into developing capabilities and practices in this space. Or perhaps you think of the ‘traditionally digital’ industries of retail, telecom and media.

But did you know that Vedanta – the oil & gas, power, mining and metal processing conglomerate – is making aggressive moves in this space?

Vedanta? Really? Yes, really. There’s strong commitment from management, and intense activity at the ground level. Digital is an IT initiative that was talked about at Vedanta for almost two years, until now, when leadership took a deep breath, hit the ‘reset’ button, and started the journey anew with focus and vigor.

What that has meant is the following:

  1. Hiring of Chief Digital Officers
  2. Group-wide workshops on Digital
  3. Education of senior leadership on what Digital means and how it can help innovate and disrupt
  4. Brainstorming and ideation sessions involving employees across diverse functions such as operations, engineering, finance and IT
  5. Formulation of a staffing strategy
  6. Prioritization of initiatives that can bring the greatest benefit to business

Early discussions at the company involved basic discussions around the meaning and scope of Digital, its feasibility, and relevance to the company. Basic misconceptions abounded – e.g. was Digital the same as digitizing documents? Was Digital was any different from IT? How exactly were the following relevant to business: analytics, 3D modeling, simulation, IoT, AI, robotics and automation?

However, once digital leaders were hired across different companies within the group, the movement gathered momentum. Quite soon, Digital workshops were happening, ideation meetings were creating excitement and momentum was building.Top managers bought into the strategy and lent their wholehearted support.

At Sterlite Copper, for example, we worked out a 3-year Digital Strategy, outlining clear initiatives, timelines and business benefits.  The next step was to agree on an organization strategy that best fit our requirements. It was not in our interest to create a bloated Digital organization that didn’t provide a clear, long-term career path to employees. On the other hand, adopting a 100% outsourced strategy was not going to work, either. In the end, we settled on a middle path, a combination of limited hiring and engaging partner teams.

The other important question we’re pondering is: where does IT go, and how does the IT organization work with the Digital team? How would reporting work? Can we staff the Digital team with some folks from the IT organization? That is something that’s still being figured out, but our thought process is that IT will play a central and fundamental role in the Digital strategy.

In conclusion, here are a few lessons from the early days of a Digital Revolution at Vedanta:

  1. Transformation takes time. It pays to be patient.
  2. Bring people along; don’t be an extreme radical.
  3. Educate leadership; don’t be fazed by fundamental questions.
  4. Formulate a strategy for quick wins.
  5. Execute, communicate, communicate – and repeat the cycle.
  6. Celebrate small successes.

By: Amitabh Mishra, Chief Digital Officer, Vedanta Resources

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