Category Archives: Business
Say goodbye to the calcified, creaky business systems and processes that we’ve come to know and love. They’re being swept away by clouds and mobile systems at an alarming rate. But that’s a positive thing, of course. With this transformation, however, comes a need for deeper knowledge and understanding of the new systems and processes that are driving new businesses, how they interact, and what they are capable of delivering.
In the process, CEO, CFOs and COOs are becoming more immersed in technology decisions, while CIOs and CTOs — and their IT staff members as well — are being asked to join in on high-level decision-making teams.
That’s one of the key takeaways from a recent report published by CompTIA, an IT industry trade group. The report’s authors note that “new technologies such as cloud and mobility account for nearly all projected revenue growth in the IT industry.” The net effect, the report notes, is increased options and increased complexity. This is having an impact on businesses of all sizes, but is especially being felt by leaders of mid-sized companies which were interviewed by the study’s authors for the report.
Business leaders are getting more involved in technology decisions than ever before. To a large extent, many previously non-tech businesses are evolving into technology businesses. A manufacturer of engine components, for example, now relies on software — either developed in-house or purchased — that sets the design points and tolerances of the components being produced on lathes and other machines. An export-import business now engages customers across the globe through e-commerce-based transactions, using sites and tools developed in-house or contracted through the cloud.
To grasp all this new complexity, business leaders will be depending on IT executives and professionals more than ever. This is accelerating the transition of IT departments (and their people) from simply being service departments to technology brokers and active advisers at the highest levels of the business. Corporate IT’s power and influence over business is growing (not waning), but multiple business leaders now have a voice in IT’s direction. “Business unit leaders certainly have more say in IT decisions. But as cloud, mobile, big data and social waves grow larger, central IT will emerge as a service broker to in-house and third-party IT offerings.”
IT’s transformation into an internal service provider is in its infancy and will require several years to complete, the report’s authors predict. “Business executives and employees want self-service applications, but that requires several stages of IT investment,” they state.
At the same time, corporate IT decisions are increasingly made via ad-hoc committees involving multiple business units, the report states. “While CIOs typically make the final call, peer CXOs and business unitleaders have a strong say in how IT systems are aligned to meet corporate goals. Those CXO and business unit voices have even more say if an IT project involves applications (rather than underlying infrastructure).”
This observation gels with another industry report, issued by Technology Business Research (TBR), which posits that business executives are playing greater roles in technology decisions as their organizations grow increasingly dependent on cloud computing services. In the process, the role of IT staff — particularly developers — is being elevated to part of the business leadership team.
The experience of one insurance company CIO was recounted in the CompTIA report:
“Our innovation effort includes three teams of business and IT leaders: (1) one to generate ideas; (2) folks who are tasked with finding the right resources internally to address the ideas and opportunities; and (3) a so-called innovation garage to build the prototype solutions. Five people from IT work in the innovation garage. They rotate in and out on 12- to 18-month schedules. When they rotate back into their specific departments, they have greater skills focused on innovation rather than maintenance.”
This alignment is seen as key to figuring out the best ways to approach cloud, mobile and digital in this brave new world. As the CompTIA report’s authors state, the competitive advantages of these new technology platforms are well understood: “Somewhat similar to public cloud service providers, midmarket businesses are building private clouds that deliver infrastructure and applications on-demand to employees and customers. The resulting hybrid cloud world will further accelerate innovation cycles—allowing businesses to enter new markets more rapidly.”
Thus, there’s a driving demand for business and IT executives, managers and staff to work as one, and “the line between business operations and IT must further blur—and may even disappear in some cases.”
As the CIO of a manufacturing company explained:
“The alignment of business and IT is all about striking the right balance. I think it’s a good balance in our company. It has evolved over time because both sides have gotten wiser. The business has an appreciation for what we’re doing, and we have an appreciation for their needs. In a lot of companies, it’s difficult for CIOs to show the value of IT. They are so focused on keeping the lights on, which means IT is a cost-reduction story rather than an innovation story. Once you commit to innovation cycles between business and IT, the innovation can happen even faster.”
Or, as the CIO of a city government agency expressed it very nicely:
“When you’re growing as a person you’re more inclined to think like an innovator. IT has to help spark that.”
One of Google’s most famous management philosophies is something called “20% time.”
Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin highlighted the idea in their 2004 IPO letter:
“We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google,” they wrote. “This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner.”
However, whether or not 20% time actually exists anymore has been a matter of debate. In 2013, Chris Mims wrote for Quartz that 20% time was “as good as dead” because it became too difficult for employees to take time off from their normal jobs.
Yahoo CEO and formal Googler Marissa Mayer once bluntly denied its true existence.
“It’s funny, people have been asking me since I got here, ‘When is Yahoo going to have 20% time?'” she said on stage during an all-employee meeting at Yahoo. “I’ve got to tell you the dirty little secret of Google’s 20% time. It’s really 120% time.”
So, what’s really going on with 20% time?
Only about 10% of Googlers are using it, last time the company checked, but it doesn’t really matter, as long as the idea of it exists, according to Google HR boss Laszlo Bock in his new book, “Work Rules!”
Bock says that the use of the concept has “waxed and wanted,” over time. It’s not technically something that gets formal management oversight – Googlers aren’t forced to work on additional projects and there are no written guidelines about it. Typically, employees who have an idea separate from their regular jobs will focus 5 or 10% of their time on it, until starts to “demonstrate impact.” At that point, it will take up more of their time and more volunteers will join, until it becomes a real project.
“In some ways, the idea of 20 percent time is more important than the reality of it,” he writes. “It operates somewhat outside the lines of formal management oversight, and always will, because the most talented and creative people can’t be forced to work.”
MUMBAI: Country’s largest software exporter TCS has said it hopes the Rs 2,628-crore bonus to its lakhs of employees will help contain the high attrition level.
The IT major, however, clarified that the 11,000 employees of its recently merged subsidiary CMC will not be eligible for the payout.
He also denied that the rising attrition levels, which he described as “high”, had anything to do with announcing the bonus.
“The bonus payout should have a benefit (on reducing attrition), but that is not the intent why we did it,” Mukherjee said, adding, the primary aim is to celebrate value creation.
TCS, which employees the largest workforce in the sector and had 3.19 lakh employees as of March-end, has been facing high attrition of late, which touched 14.9% in the March quarter.
Last October, TCS had merged CMC with itself, which it had bought in the early 2000 from the government through a disinvestment, wherein CMC shareholders will get 79 TCS shares of Re 1 face value for every 100 equity shares of Rs 10 each of CMC.
Mukherjee said the payment for employees within the country will be at a gross level, including the basic pay and statutory payments, while for those outside the country, it is a separate one which would also include their bonuses.
The Tata Group company, which contributes over 60% to the group’s net income, announced the hefty bonus of Rs 2,628 crore to celebrate 10 years of listing, during which its market capitalization has grown more than ten times to over Rs 5 trillion — the only company to attain such a feat.
More than 100 former Infosys executives are returning to the company, heeding new CEO Vishal Sikka’s call to them to rejoin the one-time software industry bellwether in what could be a big confidence booster in its efforts to attract fresh talent and prevent existing employees from jumping ship.
Once an employer of choice in India, Infosys steadily lost that status in the past couple of years, hemorrhaged talent, including at senior levels, and left it with industry-leading attrition levels that has seen almost one in five employees leave the company.
After Sikka took charge of Infosys on August 1, one of his first actions was to issue an open call to former Infosys employees to come back to the company. In an email titled “A new beginning”, Sikka urged former employees to consider joining back, saying: “Our focus on finding new, exciting ways of working together has never been stronger. I have often heard it said that once an Infoscion, always an Infoscion. Friend, you stand testimony to this fact, and I know I can look forward to our continued association and your support as an ambassador for Infosys.”
That plea has since started yielding results, with the number of returnees, which stood in the low teens on average in the last 12 months, now steadily rising. Infosys has long had a programme called “Green Channel” to woo back former employees into the company, but this time around special care is being put to make their return smooth.
“There has been an overwhelmingly positive response to the messages that have gone out to former Infoscions,” confirmed Srikantan Moorthy, executive vicepresident and head of human resources at Infosys. “I don’t have a definitive number because these are all people that apply for a position and then we look through and see how many have applied that were former Infoscions. But I can definitely say it will be more than 100.” He did not share details about the levels or roles at which people were returning or whether these included some high profile names.
This will be a shot in the arm for Sikka, who, in his first interview to ET since taking charge, had listed managing Infosys’ high attrition levels as one of his main short-term challenges alongside reviving growth. For the quarter to end-September, attrition stood at 20.1 per cent or one in five employees had left the company. Return of former employees will be perceived as a sign of renewed confidence in the company, and help Sikka and his executive team to attract talent in their attempts at rebuilding Infosys.
Just how safe is your company data? According to the IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index, U.S. businesses experienced over 1.5 million monitored cyber attacks in 2013 alone. Sensitive information regarding your internal operations, your customers and your employees is at risk if your organization does not take proper measures to secure its data. Take a look at these eight crucial security reminders for business leaders to keep in mind.
1. Password Character Requirements. There’s a reason why so many web-based consumer services require complex passwords. Unauthorized users are less likely to guess passwords when employees use a blend of phrases, upper and lower case letters, numbers, and punctuation. Work with your IT department to configure the password requirements for your employees.
2. Password rotation. Passwords that go stagnant are a liability for companies. For example, former employees might still be able to gain access to confidential information after they leave the company, if teams use the same outdated group email. Schedule password rotations every few months so that every user must update accounts with new passwords.
3. Session time out. This setting prevents a user’s account from remaining signed into a system after a certain period of time. For example, if a cashier leaves their point of sale terminal, their session should automatically expire after a delay so that no unauthorized users can attempt to operate the point of sale.
4. No outside hardware. No employee should be allowed to use external hardware in the office, such as storage devices or other peripherals, unless cleared by your company’s IT department. External devices can contain spyware or viruses that pose a significant risk to your computers and network. Additionally, this restriction reduces the risk of employees stealing internal data.
5. Installation restrictions. Employees should not be able to install unauthorized software on work computers or mobile devices, since unchecked installations can lead to malware infections. For example, a graphic designer might decide to download a freeware utility to complete a project. While they are well intentioned, this employee might accidentally install a trojan on their work computer.
6. Managed mobile devices. Mobile device management (MDM) software allows you to enroll in-house and BYOD technology in a system that deploys security configuration settings, company data and content over the air. This is an excellent way to enforce remote security restrictions, such as password updates or app restrictions. Once an employee leaves a company, company-related data can be quickly wiped from their device remotely.
7. Backup encryption. Copies of your company data can also be a weak point, if unauthorized users are able to view and edit these files. Work with your IT department to create redundant and encrypted backups of your business-critical data.
8. Remote wipe. Mobile device solutions like Android Device Manager and iCloud allow you to remotely wipe device data if your smartphone or tablet is lost or stolen. This will quell your fears about confidential data leaks, in case you forget your phone at a restaurant. Many of these remote security systems also help you track and lock your devices, so that you can attempt to recover your technology before erasing it.
Anyone from the newest intern to C-level executives can become a target of digital crime. Train your employees to observe data security best practices. Taking proactive measures will help your business stay ahead of threats.