Hyderabad: With information technology becoming an intrinsic part of business operations, the role of the chief information officer (CIO) is becoming increasingly complex. More so when the CIO plays the critical role of setting corporate strategy in an economy which is wracked by a slowdown.
One of the biggest challenges for a CIO is to 'future-proof' the technology investments of the enterprise so that obsolescence is minimised, says Global Trust Bank president (IT) PC Narayan. ''CIOs need to be up to date with emerging technology trends and will have to function as managers of business and enterprise at some point in their careers.''
''Making this transition is a real personal challenge,'' says Narayan, who plays the critical CIO's role in the Hyderabad-based private sector bank. ''I have been fairly successful in this regard. Today, I am responsible for two more business divisions in GTB - retail banking and operations.''
Today's complex business environment mandates that all technology managers must understand every aspect of the business of the organisation. ''At the same time, business managers need to understand IT, more importantly use IT to nurture their business, and manage it more effectively and efficiently,'' says Narayan, who has been associated with banking technology for more than 13 years.
Narayan, who has an engineering degree in electronics and an MBA-holder from XLRI, believes that a properly 'architectured' IT solution is a prerequisite for a bank to be competitive. ''The financial services marketplace has become extremely competitive over the last few years with margins getting thinner, and customer acquisition getting increasingly difficult and expensive.''
He agrees that IT-enabling the operations of banks has its problems. ''We faced many IT challenges over the last few years, which we have overcome successfully. Building a high-bandwidth network covering all our branches and ATMs as well as a technology platform that is rapidly scalable to meet the high growth in our business volumes was a tough job.'' No wonder he considers building GTB's network and a state-of-the-art data centre his most satisfying achievements.
Narayan, who started his career in banking in 1987 with Standard Chartered Bank (he was responsible for implementing IT in six countries in the Middle East and South Asia), is leading GTB's efforts to woo every prospective customer by offering high-tech services.
This CIO has 14 years of firsthand experience in banking technology, including a three-year stint as head of consulting at Midas Kapiti International, a leading provider of banking technology solutions. He says the most challenging moment in his professional career was in 1992 when he was engaged in commissioning the IT infrastructure of banks in Kuwait after the Gulf War.
He also recalls the difficult days while undertaking a similar assignment in Beirut soon after the civil war. In both these instances, many buildings in the respective cities were full of bullet marks and the infrastructure - both power and telecommunications - was yet to be restored.
Narayan places a high value on ethics. According to him, the fundamental malady plaguing the business community in India today is the lack of quality standards, the desire to cash in on short-terms opportunities, and failing to maintain the highest ethical standards.
Narayan, in the meantime, continues his journey towards technological excellence, with his other interests of reading, travelling and yoga helping him to enjoy the view.