CIO Talk Interview News

Digital transformation is Like Changing the Tires of a Running Car

Ramesh Jampula

The legacy systems will have to continue to run and yet you have to stay invested in the digital transformation acceleration, and transitioning is key to digital transformation success.

Ramesh Jampula, is the Vice President, IT, India and APJC Regional CIO, at Dell Technologies. He looks after software engineering and solution architecture for Dell supply chain. As regional APJC CIO, he is also responsible for IT operations, including sales operations, call centre and tech support within the region. Ramesh has been with Dell for a little over 12 years and based out of Hyderabad.

In a conversation with EnterpriseIT World, Ramesh shares perspectives on digital transformation and how organizations can successfully achieve it.

As a large organization we have internal capabilities and where we need support from our vendors and external partners, we collaborate with them.

Ramesh Jampula, Vice President, IT, India and APJC Regional CIO, Dell Technologies

Can you share some insights about digital transformation in Dell Supply Chain

Supply chain is a big differentiating factor for Dell as a company and our focus being on the IT side is how can we continue to stay invested in digital transformation of our supply chain and all of the aspects that you have talked about right. Leveraging the right technologies to continue to drive the digital transformation of supply chain, by implementing Dell Data Lake where we bring in all data into a central repository using analytics tools to build the required insights and leveraging AI, ML technologies.

We continue to look at opportunities to streamline the overall supply chain processes so we can continue to leverage the right technology skill sets to map out our future state supply chain.

What were some of the legacy issues and how did you overcome. How are you enabling partners and suppliers to be part of the new system?

Like any digital transformation, one of the key things is how do you continue to run both the legacy systems as well as the transformative systems in parallel. I always say this analogy, digital transformation is like changing the tires of a running car.

You cannot, unfortunately, park the car and change the tires and go. You have to continue to run and stay invested in the digital transformation acceleration.

Like any large organizations which have been in existence for long, you will have to manage your legacy applications.  We looked at the entire application portfolio, classified applications into three buckets. One thing is that you would retire at some point in time in the near future, things that you would like to replace with new modernized architecture and things that you want to live with because there is no point in investing in those areas.

They will eventually get retired, so you classify your entire portfolio into manageable areas and then you go focusing on the replace. Replace is where you’re literally looking at how to modernize either your applications, infrastructure or etc using the right technologies. So that you can do the digital transformation effectively and everything will have a transition phase like running the legacy while the new system is coming up.

Please share some guiding principles and best practices that formed the basis of digital transformation at Dell.  

The three important tenets of digital transformation – people, process and technology are the most important things. Technology is very important, but what good is technology by itself if it doesn’t solve a business problem? So, you identify a business problem and then you apply the right technology to solve that business problem to give you the right outcomes. So that’s the technology aspect of it. Now, as I’ve already said, process right, you know, either you are digitizing a certain set of processes or you are changing certain set of processes so that in the digital transformation it will give you the right business outcomes. So that’s the process piece of it.

And then underlying all of this is our people component and obviously you cannot deliver any technology transformation or process transformation if it is not for your people who are capable of driving this transformation. So, staying invested in your people both from a skill sets perspective and enabling them to be ready for this transformation. So when people process technology transformation comes together, you will be able to drive the right digital transformation.

What kind of applications did you retire and which ones did you modernize?
It is a work in progress for sure, but there are also a lot of things that we have eliminated, which is amazing. Retire is a very, very important component as you cannot continue to keep all the old ones and start building new ones. Then you will end up with much, much more than where we started. So effectively you are optimizing the footprint of your infrastructure as well as applications and software to drive equal or better results with lesser footprint.

We don’t necessarily need to have the same kind of physical infrastructure that we used to have in the past with the current VM’s and the way the virtualization has happened in infrastructure field, you can have even powerful machines occupying and consuming lesser space yet giving better outcomes.

So what is the path to modernization? Did you redesign application in house, or work with partners?

It’s a combination of again as one size doesn’t fit all right. Obviously we have to look at a decisioning point where it makes sense to go with off-the-shelf products, a custom-built product or where it makes sense to have a combination as well. It’s quite possible to want to go with a custom built with an off the shelf product and build a lot of edge capabilities using technology.

It is possible today to still keep a loosely coupled architecture so we definitely looked at what is the best path for each specific scenario, and we chose to move forward in that direction. As a large organization we have internal capabilities and where we need support from our vendors and external partners, we collaborate with them.
What kind of more Cloud adoption and edge computing taking place within Dell Technologies.
Some of the key aspects that Dell as a company is focused on is digital transformation as essential for business growth. We see a continuous trend of organizations investing in digital transformation with a data strategy using 5G, cybersecurity, edge, multicloud. Even Dell Technologies as a company is invested in in all of these aspects to help our customers. I can give you one very simple example of the cloud related offerings that Dell offers called Project APEX which is primarily a portfolio of as-a-service offerings that simplifies digital transformation by increasing IT agility and control.

We have a similar consumption-based model that we leverage internally within Dell IT and we have a similar multicloud strategy. We have a cybersecurity strategy using Dell power protect cyber recovery solutions, the zero trust architecture, everything that you see as a product and services that we sell to our customers.

A lot of organizations have different teams for IT and digital transformation. Is that how it is organized within Dell as well?
No, this each team is responsible for everything. My personal view is if you differentiate digital transformation as a separate initiative, it will not go very well. You know these two could be very conflicting. Digital transformation is an integral part of how you are looking to transform your IT organization, in terms of infrastructure, application development. If you separate out these two, the challenge is one set of people are going and continuing to do the legacy work and there is only a set of people who are doing the modernization work that may not come together very well.

There could always be a small COE which kind of gives you directional guidance, tools, frameworks which is good to leverage for these kind of use cases etc. But execution and planning have to be in parallel.

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