Technology has meaning only if it adds value to the business, says Swaroop Patil, CTO at Sanjay Ghodawat Group

Technology has meaning only if it adds value to the business, says Swaroop Patil, CTO at Sanjay Ghodawat Group
Technology has meaning only if it adds value to the business, says Swaroop Patil, CTO at Sanjay Ghodawat Group

The most important aspect has to be the collaboration between the business function and technology teams.

This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Swaroop Patil, Chief Technology Officer at Sanjay Ghodawat Group.

How did you plan your career path to be a successful Technology Leader?

I strongly believe that your destiny is decided by the choices that you make at each stage of your life. So, in the initial years, I did not plan a specific career path for myself, but I focused on making the right choices when opportunities were offered to me. This can range from taking on additional responsibilities in the SAP project in my first organisation, taking on challenges that others avoided, or getting into new and nascent areas of technology with little or no training. While these had their own challenges and required a lot of hard work and perseverance, these were the decisions that helped me reach where I am today.

I started my career in operations; I moved to technology as a natural transition based on my inclination. I worked in various consulting organisations and focused on understanding various industries, business nuances, and existing as well as new, evolving technologies and solutions. My approach was always to relate technology to business, as technology in isolation means nothing. Technology has meaning only if it adds value to the business. Later, I moved from consulting to core business as a part of the in-house IT team, where I worked on leveraging my experience and working even more closely with the business function leaders, identifying opportunities first-hand and delivering solutions to generate direct benefits that would impact the P&L.

The common guiding principles of my decision-making process have always been to embrace change, get out of my comfort zone, and work hard with a positive intent. These can never go wrong.

What challenges you faced in your career path and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenges that I faced were due to my decisions. It called for getting out of the comfort zone, which for anyone is not very easy. I also took up many challenges when I got into new and evolving technology, which did not have a lot of reference cases to depend on and required a huge amount of first-hand research and a trial-and-error approach. These were the times of maximum learning for me.

Making changes in the career direction also called for a lot of adjustments and adaptations to be made. Also, at times, with the amount of time and energy that your career priorities take, your family needs to make a lot of accommodations. There were decisions that were tough on me as well as my family at times, and I really thank my family for always being by my side as a strong support system. Without them behind my back, things may not have been the same.

What are the challenges faced by Technology Leaders today while implementing digital technologies?

The digital technologies do not have a lot of success stories, as most of them are at a nascent stage and constantly evolving. While some industry leaders are trying to adopt these technological innovations to gain an early mover advantage, many are also treading a very cautious path. While technology is evolving fast, due to non-adoption, we do not have many use cases that can be referred to, either terming a particular one as a success or a failure.

Also, with new solutions, you may need a longer time for implementation and continuous improvement, and patience may be needed to exploit the true potential of digital technologies.

Another challenge with digital technologies evolving so fast is having the right talent to harness their benefits. The right talent is scarce in these areas, and to taste success in tech solutions, you need the right talent to implement them.

How can Technology Leaders overcome the challenges faced?

For the first area of challenge that is more internal, I would suggest a balanced approach. The way I approached these technologies was by taking a crawl, walk, and run approach. I ran some pilots in more promising areas. With focused implementation and follow-through, realise the initial benefits and continue the pilot for some time to see consistency in results. Once assured, do horizontal deployment to scale the solution. A key to success is also to find the right use case for the pilot.

Further, the most important aspect has to be the collaboration between the business function and technology teams. Any digital initiative can never succeed as an IT initiative, so it has to have a commitment from the business functions as well, right from the selection of the right problem statement, identification of the target benefits, and throughout the implementation and follow-through process.

On the other side of the problem, with talent, it is very important to develop internal capabilities. While talent can be sourced from tech companies during implementation, you need internal capabilities to run these solutions through their entire life cycle. To address this need, I follow a dual approach: enable general diversification opportunities by promising individuals from your existing team to learn these technologies through training and on-the-job experience, and augment any gaps with new talent additions to the team. Another aspect to consider is ensuring that you have the measures in place to retain and continuously enrich good talent.

Any advice you would like to suggest to fellow Technology Leaders for their successful professional journeys?

A few things from my tried-and-tested approach:

  • Embrace change and get out of your comfort zone. The best transformations that have happened to my professional career have been when I have gotten out of my comfort zone.
  • Work closely with your business counterparts and partner with them in the journey to technological excellence.
  • And lastly, build winning teams and nurture them, since you are only as good as your team.

Any other points which you would like to highlight?

A very important thing that one should always keep in mind is that not every venture will be a success; there could be obstacles and failures. But the key lies in perseverance and learning from the failures to continue the efforts that could eventually lead you to success. I have seen people wanting to drop most promising initiatives half way only because they failed initially. The key is to be prepared for the unexpected, learn from the failures, make necessary changes for course correction, and get going again. One needs to use all their influencing skills and conviction to align all stakeholders in the process and ensure that this path is taken.

Also readHuman intelligence and AI are inextricably linked, and the latter exists to complement and enhance the former, says Tanvir Khan, Chief Digital and Strategy Officer at NTT DATA Services

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CIO News, a proprietary of Mercadeo, produces award-winning content and resources for IT leaders across any industry through print articles and recorded video interviews on topics in the technology sector such as Digital Transformation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Cloud, Robotics, Cyber-security, Data, Analytics, SOC, SASE, among other technology topics.