CIO Interview Series: Executive Director- Information Systems, HPCL
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Mr. Sathiavageeswaran joined HPCL in 1983 as a Management trainee. He has been deeply involved in the corporation for over 2 decades now. Currently the Executive Director- Information Systems, Mr. Satya reports to the CEO and is responsible for all IT applications and systems in the Corporation. (Development, Implementation, support, Security, Infrastructure and technology)
Taking some time out of his busy schedule he shares with developerWorks on what makes HPCL a technologically advanced corporation. He also shares his personal passion for technology – from IT all the way to the kitchen!
The Oil industry is facing a lot of challenges – especially in an environment where the price of crude is rising. We buy crude at a higher cost as opposed to the end product price hence there is significant pressure on cash flow and profitability of the company. In this situation, the question remains, so how do you balance your need for growth and efficiency with such under recoveries? How do you make operations of the company more efficient so we can reduce costs? More importantly, how can IT contribute to this – it could be manpower, administrative, transportation.
How does IT in your company act as a business enabler?
At HPCL, we are continually striving for better operational efficiency and optimize costs – it could be in various ways - reduce process cycle times, more visibility of information, more accurate data.
What to you are the new focus areas over the next decade? Where is your company vis a vis these?
We are a largely dispersed organization; operating over 400+ locations in the country. Our IT capabilities have to be accessible to users across and our field force across. Our focus area is to move to a Private cloud. We are already in the process of centralizing all our IT resources to one place, to offer services at an optimum cost. To this extent, we are even consolidating people to centrally offer capabilities. From here on, we will explore the possibilities of further consolidation of servers; reduce cost of operations through green initiatives. However, we are seriously debating security concerns; up to private cloud we would do, but beyond that, would treading cautiously.
Cloud needs major telecommunication capabilities – hence I don’t know how far it ll go, given the way cloud is positioned today. Enterprise Mobility is another critical area for us; enterprise mobility of making available the capabilities of various applications onto mobile devices – handheld, tablets, low end laptops.
3 important areas need to be looked at – to confirm decision makers on real time basis, data collection – capturing info from field on stock, inspection, placing orders and routing processing – workflows, act while on the move.
Which would you consider is one of your most significant investment/s in 2010 and its benefits?
Our B2B oil exchange project is a big one that requires minimal manual intervention. This project automates the oil exchange transaction between HPCL and other oil marketing companies like BPCL and IOCL.
There is a substantial amount of transactions that happen between these three oil marketing companies, in terms of buying and selling of finished goods from one another (oil exchange transactions). Each of these transactions is of high-value and happens over a number of transports such as tank trucks, pipeline, wagons etc. Reconciliation was typically done at the end of the month with joint certificates being exchanged between the companies. The entire process was manual and thus prone to errors and increased turn-around times. HPCL desired that the process of oil exchange be automated such that it requires minimal manual interaction and leads to a smoother reconciliation process.
HPCL needed an integration platform that would be agnostic to the transaction systems on the other side and at the same time integrate seamlessly to their in-house JD Edwards ERP. IBM's solution based on the WebSphere Process Server, WebSphere Transformation Extender and WebSphere Adapter for JD Edwards achieved this seamlessly, meeting all the requirements of a secure auditable transaction. The solution would also help HPCL add more partners onto the Exchange Hub with minimal efforts as and when new partners come up.
What is your next big bet in 2011?
GPS and other technologies that will give relevant, real-time information will be big; it could be in the area of logistics, transportation etc. We are also doing some proof of concepts in this area – nothing concrete as of yet and at quite a nascent stage.
Your challenges you foresee going into 2011, and your plans to address those?
For me, it would be increased awareness of risk that IT poses to the organization, especially IT security and build sufficient mitigation for any risk that our organization is exposed to.Today, more and more real-time payments are being done and that is a very sensitive area for security.
HPCL has been one of the pioneers of technology for decades. The organization has used this very well and very agreeably. The wish list from business only gets larger – so really there is a huge acceptance and dependence on IT
How do you define the success of an initiative?
Before taking up an initiative we try and put down the expectation of outcomes - internal expectation or business expectations of what we will bring to the table.
At the end of the roll out or a few weeks of usage if it is seen that the outcomes are achieved, it will be success. When people demand more and more of enhancements, then we know our initiatives are successful. For all our initiatives we have capabilities across the spectrum, from basic to value adds.
Basic are must have capabilities – users have to use it. Value adds are capabilities that are nice to have – if note used, is not a show stopper. We get enough and more requests for value add capabilities from business. That is indicative of what we bring to the table.
The other indicator is return on investment, so monetary value. We haven’t not really used this much as an indicator but there is an example I could share - we enabled e collections and the kind of savings which we got from account of interest cost savings – would have paid of significant part of overall IT investment.
Do you see IBM as part of your journey?
IBM is currently providing a significant component of infrastructure which runs our ERP, hardware and software. Obviously we are dependant on their infrastructure to run it smoothly. We hope to keep using these to take our company forward
Your expectation/s from IBM in your journey
We would look forward to continued interaction on how capabilities’ can be exploited. We want IBM as an Industry expert bring to us that knowledge and experience.
What’s your advice to IT leaders for this year?
I would say rather than looking at technology per se, one must see the outcome and the business alignment the technology is trying to bring - that is key. More than costs see the business value that it offers. If you can identify and communicate to our business leaders that tangible or intangible all your initiatives are going to be successful.
Keeping aside work, what are your other interests?
I spend a lot of time reading on technology. I am a gadget freak – from IT to the kitchen! I play bridge and have represented HPLC for the past 2 decades.
What is your recipe for success?
Getting down to details and putting your full effort and concentration on your job. Don’t confine yourself to what you are seeing – expand your vision and offer more than expected. Look beyond what has been tabled in front of you – look at the big picture.
What would you consider your source of inspiration?
Nothing specific really. I like to read about success stories, biographies of people who have achieved great names starting with nothing ….whether it is new companies or industrial empires. I specially enjoy technology, so I am more inclined to follow people in this space.
Can you elaborate on your personal journey to where you are today?
I joined HPCL in 1983 as a Management trainee. I initially worked in the Corporate Planning Department for 6 years where I was involved in development of mathematical models for optimization of logistics and supply chain and in project monitoring.
From there on it has been 20 years in the Information Technology Department. I have been responsible for the computerization of over 450 locations across the country; this included setting up of computers, networks, software development, installation, training and support of applications for the core management processes in the field locations.
I was a technical team lead of a multi functional team set up for the implementation of the JDEDwards ERP system across the country. The ERP system which supports over 4200 users was implemented with users from over 450 locations connecting to the system.
Currently I am the Executive Director- Information Systems reporting to the CEO (Chairman & Managing Director) and responsible for all IT applications and systems in the Corporation. (Development, Implementation, support, Security, Infrastructure and technology)
Do you know of the IBM Smarter Planet? What according to you is Smarter Planet?
Yes, seen so much in the press, in all IBM events too.
From a philosophical sense I would say every generation should be leaving the planet in a better shape than what it inherited, be it environment, resource utilization, healthcare etc. This is a holistic approach – technology is one part of it.