CIO Talk

Digital Transformation is About Transforming the Business

Mukund KS

Dr Mukund KS, is the CIO, CDO, CSO at ERIC Lifesciences is a distinguished global CIO with hands-on experience in digital transformation, infrastructure, governance and security programs. With extensive experience in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals sector, Dr Mukund has been at the helm of affairs in the transformation initiatives in his engagements. Here he speaks with us on how to navigate the pitfalls of digital transformation.

“The first thing in the Cloud journey is to define the exit strategy to ensure that you are not getting locked down to a particular Cloud service provider.”

Dr. Mukund KS, AVP & Head IT ERIC Lifesciences Ltd.

We are witnessing a lot of buzz around digital transformation. What is your take on this.

There’s a sense of myopia that is existing today around the terminology digital transformation but digital transformation is not about just being digital but it is about transformation and what transformative changes can do to the business. There are a couple of terminologies that people are raging about such as RPA, Intelligent RPA, Augmented and Virtual reality, IoT, Cloud, AI and ML but then what’s going to happen is how are these technologies are going to influence the business transformation to improve your customer satisfaction and how organizations can become more effective and increase efficiency. How are we tapping these technologies to map the customer and other stakeholders journeys to better understand evolving patterns and loop those insights into decision making. Organizational transformation is continuously evolving initiative.

Where does one begin the digital transformation journey, is there a step-by-step approach?

Yes, there is a step-by-step approach that organizations can take in accelerating the journey to Cloud. One of the primary models talks about three layers – your system of records, system of differentiation and your system of innovation. Now let’s envisage a structure of your house and for the house to be built you need a strong foundation. Once you have this foundation where you can build onto the pillars and finally onto the roof. So let’s assume that the ERP is the core but if you’re running on a legacy kind of ERP, probably you may want to move to a more standard ERP like an Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics or SAP to enable your digital cores,  so you will be able to build on top of that.

Having your own processes which is unique to your organization which needs to be built on top of it. For example, it could be a lead scoring model or a dynamic scoring model in terms of how do you evaluate your customers. Look at your competitors if you’re deploying a CRM, so you can do better profiling, better targeting and segmentation of your customers. Once these pillars are erected, comes your roof or the systems of innovation where you could talk about new ideas in terms of implementing of augmented and virtual reality and how do I look at integrating IOT sensors on my manufacturing floor with the SCADA for prescriptive maintenance.

If you are talking about a step-by-step approach for innovation, you could start off from basic research to break-through innovation. Again, Gartner is known for coining wonderful terminologies where you start with descriptive analytics go to diagnostic analytics to predictive and then prescriptive analytics. But with Cloud coming into picture, you could actually move over directly to prescriptive analytics.

How can we enable people to start working remotely?

It could be as simple as a VPN connectivity. But then that happens with enabling a lot of people to work from home, the pandora box reopens because they are going to be using unsecured Internet connecting from home. But also because at an organization you don’t have your firewall in place, you’re going to have all your relevant security policies that are going to be there, all your systems to ensure the end points are getting secured, but now you’re going to look at tunneling towards the Internet that is not going to be secure.

So how do we secure becomes the most important crux, so ensuring that you have a strong VPN mechanism in place. You could also look at deploying a lot of endpoint security solutions, but just an endpoint security solution will not suffice, so again it becomes very important to educate the field force in terms of being safe. Educating the organization what kind of attacks can happen and how they could secure themselves by conducting mock phishing attacks to see who all would probably fall as a bait for these attacks.

Recently the pharma and the healthcare and the life sciences industry has had a lot of impact during the Covid because a lot of threat actors were targeting the industry. A Korean-based organization Strontium has also been responsible for doing some of these attacks and a lot of Indian pharmaceutical organizations falling prey to it.

What is the most important thing that CIOs and business leaders must consider while embracing the Cloud?

The first thing is to define the exit strategy to ensure that you are not getting locked down to a particular Cloud service provider. How can I ensure to be as hybrid as possible. If I could probably move workloads from AWS to say Azure, so you are not going to be residing on one particular Cloud platform but then you could always move because it is only a virtual instance.

When you are considering migration, it is also very imperative that you have reviewed the terms and conditions of the Cloud. And ensure that when you are deploying your data in the Cloud and want it back, in what form, in what format, in what frequency is the data going to be shared back to you.

The Cloud providers always say that the data is your property and you can take your data but in reality, when you try to move you are going to have a lot of challenges. Moving data into the Cloud doesn’t have a challenge but when you move data out of the cloud is going to become a challenge.

Is the cloud more secure than your own data center?

Probably depending on a lot of other factors. But then the security that the Cloud offers has always only been till the hypervisor level so whatever needs to be built above the hypervisor falls under your preview. So how do you secure the workloads in the Cloud and what security rules are being deployed becomes very important in terms of securing the workloads. And securing Cloud workloads assumes significance as you try to spread your risks by embracing a hybrid format and these are important considerations when migrating to the Cloud. 

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