As companies increasingly rely on digital technology and cloud computing, the CIO is earning a more prominent seat at the C-suite table. Vijay Sethi, CIO of Hero MotoCorp, the world’s largest two wheeler manufacturer founded in 1984, lives this day in and day out. During the past eight years as CIO, Mr. Sethi has shown the company how cutting-edge technology can move the business forward. Here, Mr. Sethi shares his thoughts on the direct impact technology can have on financial and business success and what signs he looks for to gauge employee happiness.
Vijay Sethi, CIO of Hero MotoCorp
Q: What key trend are you seeing in the CIO community?
The role of the CIO has undergone a major change in the last few years. While five or six years ago CIOs didn’t have the executive support they needed to introduce new ideas and put them into action, today most companies realize that technology is key to business success.
Now businesses are looking to the CIO not just to help improve operational efficiency, but also to power smarter decision making and different business models.
The way employees are using technology has also changed. For example, in the past, employees sent huge attachments via email that took a long time and lots of space to download. They frustrated people and slowed down their work. Lots of times there were multiple versions of files. Now with Google Docs, they simply send the Google Docs link and the information is shared seamlessly and can be updated by many simultaneously without worrying about different versions.
Q: How has cloud computing impacted your business?
Today technology plays a role in helping shape new business processes and business models. Innovation isn’t just about thinking of bright ideas. It’s about creating a company culture where people feel inspired to build upon those ideas and see them through.
As the world’s largest motorcycle and scooter manufacturer, we have a huge distribution chain and before each stakeholder used their own version of sales processes. Some used computers, while some had manual systems — and we could never accurately monitor how many scooters or motorcycles have been sold by which dealer, so we were constantly struggling to get details about the supply and demand of two wheelers.
To solve that problem, we set up a new cloud-based system called Hero Connect. All our dealers are connected using this system, which helps us get real-time information on sales, inventory and customer details at each dealer. It also helps the dealers stay connected to our company and improve communication. The sales process across the country is now standardized and real-time data helps us and dealers plan better. Today, we are using the cloud in many parts of our business and apart from bringing down costs, it helps improve collaboration.
Q: What was the process of moving to Google Apps for Work like?
When I joined as CIO, I wanted to work from my smartphone, but our previous technology, Lotus Notes, wasn’t mobile friendly. I also saw an opportunity to encourage collaboration and boost employee productivity. I needed a solution that would bring us into the future. The choice was simple: Google Apps could do all of that.
We didn’t need to do a trial because we understood the value of Google Apps and how it would help us.
Migrating to Google Apps was easy and quick. In the past this type of migration would take six to eight months, but working with the Google team it took us 45 days for the whole migration.
Since it’s easy to use, we didn’t need to train employees how to use it. Today, all our employees use Gmail and Google Apps.
Q: How do you foster innovation in your IT team?
There are many things we do. One example is every four months, select employees participate in two-month long projects over and above their normal tasks. These projects encourage them to think about how to evaluate and use emerging technologies more efficiently. This is part of our focus on innovation. More than 50% of the projects don’t see the light of day, but the ones that do have a huge impact. One time, we asked a team to think of new ways to use Google technology. After some research, the team came back and said they wanted to introduce Chromebooks — so that’s what we did in a pilot. With Chromebooks, employees can work more efficiently and collaborate. This was just the start of the ideas that the team came up with about how technology can move our business forward.
Mr. Sethi enjoys informal meetings with his colleagues
Q: You’ve talked a lot about helping employees collaborate and work smarter. Why is it the CIO’s job to make sure employees are happy?
Happiness at work can be measured in two ways. We conduct formal surveys, but I'm not a huge fan of those because the results depend on how an employee feels at the moment when he or she is completing the survey. I prefer to look at employee satisfaction by watching how people interact. If people are high-fiving their coworkers and laughing, they’re happy. If they’re happy, I’m happy. Then I look at whether employees are consistently delivering what they promised. If they’re not, then they’re not happy and something is probably bothering them. Communication plays a key role in making employees happy.
When I became CIO in 2007, there were 30 to 35 members in the IT department. In the past eight years, our team has grown to almost 90 members and more than 300 support personnel from various organizations, but I am happy to say that out of the original team of 30 to 35, the turnover rate in the last eight years has been zero. The same team has stepped up their efforts and have shown exemplary delivery capabilities. My team has been exceeding expectations and continues to challenge themselves to think beyond the norm.
Vijay Sethi, CIO, Hero MotoCorp
Google Apps, Innovation, Transformation