I also have a simple yet effective strategy – only hire people who are smarter & more innovative than I am
This is an exclusive interview conducted by Santosh Vaswani, Content Writer & Editor at CIO News on the professional journey of Shashank Sathe, Head of Information Technology at Edelweiss Financial Services Limited
When asked his plans about his career path first to be a successful CIO and now from being a CIO to be a Head of Information Technology, Shashank Sathe, Head of Information Technology at Edelweiss Financial Services Limited, in an exclusive interview with CIO News said, I was fascinated with computers right from my school days. It was in 1986 – the year of my S.S.C. exams that I started learning computer programming & GW-Basic was the first programming language I learned. Early on, I was clear on picking a profession that I enjoyed working in (instead of joining my family business.)
I consider myself fortunate, to have got various opportunities, for being original-yet-different & for being innovative, during my professional engagements. I have been blessed to be a CTO/CIO, for almost a dozen of great organizations, from the year 2000 till date. Over the years, I’ve always strived to work with great individuals, who I can look up to.
I also have a simple yet effective strategy – only hire people who are smarter & more innovative than I am – I believe it to be the quickest way to pick good things & make them great.
All the technology patents & the recognitions received by me over the years would have been impossible, had it not been for the impeccable team, who put their skin in the game too.
When asked about the difference between his previous role as a CIO and his current role, he said, every organization, big or small, has its own set of challenges – whether those be related to people, or related to technology, or related to human ignorance. Most organizations, till recent times, have been treating Technology function as an expense unit & have seldom considered technology function as a critical contributor in taking business decisions. Even today, in many organizations, the technology staff reports to either the business function or to the operations teams, which to my mind, is a flawed way of thinking.
Today, every business is a technology business because, digital & technology transformation, is the only assured route for most companies to survive, in the current state of things.
The technology roadmap at my current organization was strategically aligned to this vision & a lot of emphasis was and has been put on cutting-edge technology adoption.
When asked about his role at Edelweiss Financial Services Limited and his key business priorities, he said, they include:
- Adoption of latest technology stack (low code development platform) & agile manifesto, to deliver tangible business-value solutions
- Leveraging data-driven decisions for business via DataLake & DataMart
- Consolidation & migration of all legacy systems onto the latest technology stack
- Elimination of data loss & redundant processes, via extreme adoption of RPA
- Adopting automated QA/QC & autonomous Ci/CD pipeline, to deliver maximum business value within quickest timeframe
- Adoption of data visualization technologies to deliver the requisite data intelligence, over the zero-data-leak secure channel
When asked about the challenges faced by a CIO today in the Financial/Fin-tech industry while implementing digital technologies, he said, they include:
- Security issues & Data privacy
- Ability to manage, safeguard, archive & restore data, on-demand
- Not only financial data, the personal information of the customers/staff is also just as susceptible to leaks & can cause serious damage to the organization & its reputation
- Cyber-security threats, Ransom-ware attacks, Denial of Service attacks, etc. are increasing in exponents, every passing day
- Compliance with Government regulations
- Digital transformation often starts with digitization & then digitalization. Both activities require a different level of support & involvement of diversified teams
- Innovation-tech often involves early adoption of cutting-edge tech & most regulatory assessment bodies are ill-informed about the benefits & risks of these technologies
- Cloud-native & Mobile-first approach
- Even today, most financial institutions are sitting on the fence when it comes to the adoption of server less-compute or cloud-native approaches; despite knowing full well that both these offer an unprecedented amount of performance enhancements, reduction in costs of ownership, overall visibility on the spend, and half a dozen other phenomenal benefits.
- Despite entire mankind having shifted to the mobile screen as the first & most preferred, maximum-watched screen, most organizations continue to either build products/processes for the web & for mobile separately. The sheer technology debt to manage & maintain these two separate repositories is way too much of a wasted effort
- Adoption of IndiaStack/Future-Tech
- On-boarding on to the IndiaStack – iSPIRT is the most logical thing to do for most FinTech companies. However internal inertia & monolithic processes forbid companies from quick adoption of these proven frameworks
- Most financial institutions continue to work in a Monolithic & Waterfall model. Time-to-Business-Value for these models often spans few months to almost a year.
- Sustaining digital transformation, in such an ecosystem is an extremely time-consuming task & requires months or years of dedicated effort by people with willing minds, to achieve the desired levels of change
- Micro-service-based architecture & the OpenAPI approach, in most organizations, has not been adopted yet & is proving to be the single most frustrating hurdle/technology debt, for the existing technology teams.
- Lack of knowledge on Block-chain (and emerging) technologies
- The latest trend in FinTech app development is crypto-currency and block-chain technologies, which allow users to safely exchange money within a block-chain network.
- Today 90 per cent of the CXO cadre leaders are either half-informed or completely in the dark about what Block-chain is, what Hyperledger is & how it can benefit their current product offerings or how can it benefit their customers. Most are unable to imagine the practical use-cases as well.
When asked how CIOs can overcome the challenges, he said, CIOs can overcome the challenges by following the below:
- Incubate & nurture a Centre of Excellence, which makes conscious & continuous efforts to evaluate bleeding-edge technology solutions
- Picking the right talent for the right task will help a great deal in being self-reliant & self-sufficient in adoption & embarking on the digital transformation
- Get buy-in on your technology vision from business teams & CXO cadre colleagues
- Inculcate the culture of an agile framework based process engineering – not only in technology & product teams but try to convert all organization-wide processes to adopt/align to the agile manifesto, as that has been proven to work the best, in maximum industry sectors
- Develop & maintain association with knowledgeable external partners who will have your back, when there is a resource or knowledge crunch. Do ensure that you have ample on-bench manpower in case of any extreme situations/business demands.
- Adopt the MoSCoW framework for technology & product engineering & over-communicate the MVP timelines to all the stakeholders.
- Adopt Low-Code/No-Code development stacks that cut down the engineering time dramatically from months to weeks; thereby offering unprecedented freedom of innovation to business & product teams
- Segregate the teams based on their skillsets & responsibilities & maintain a healthy overlap of roles across the technology verticals
- Inculcate the thinking in ExCo members that data is the new “crude” oil. This means it needs careful cleansing, curation, cataloguing & mining; to gain value out of it. Merely, having a DataLake & DataMart will not help unless the organizations adopt the practice of taking Data-Driven decisions & letting the Best-Idea-Win approach
- Ensure that 80 per cent of the technology team is continuously learning & upgrading its skillsets in line with the organization’s needs. Encourage teams to think beyond the conventional & convince them that with the right skillsets, they can move upstream, as well as side-ways-upstream within the teams or the organization.
- Work from Home or remote working is the new normal forever. Ensure that you spend enough “Camera-ON” time with your entire team. Verbal-only communication & email-only communication often are detrimental factors, in enhancing the efficiency of the teams. 70 per cent of human communication is non-verbal & happens thru body language & expressions. Ensure that you have invested enough time with the team for this crucial aspect.
He said some important points to be highlighted are:
- Low-code/No-Code is here to stay, not because it is a fancy fad but because it has unparalleled ability to deliver business value within the shortest possible time. Embrace it.
- Cyber-security is a real & present danger & the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Engage with the best & never let your guard down. Decades of good work & reputation can be reduced to dust, with a single breach.
- People are the greatest & most valuable assets. Ensure that you don’t go overboard in your hiring but also don’t cut corners where an essential asset is necessary. Low-code/No-code stack offers unimaginable freedom to keep your teams ultra-lightweight & agile
- Always think ahead of the technology curve & build everything that can be used/re-used for an infinite amount of time in the future. Consciously preach & practice a framework-engineering-based approach towards everything technology builds.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Almost every critical problem being faced by a business already has a ready (either a complete or a partial) solution available as a microservice elsewhere. Always adopt such solutions, for faster delivery of business value, unless there is a genuine reason for you to do otherwise. You can build faster traction that way, earn some serious revenues & then revisit all these partner engagements at the right point in time.
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