Being the CIO of a technology company does have its advantages,
especially when top management acknowledges the importance of IT.
But the expectations are higher. In an exclusive interview with
InformationWeek India, Oliver Bussmann, EVP & CIO, SAP reveals
how he is steering one of the world’s most admired companies
through a mammoth transformation on a global scale. He talks about
innovation, the three dimensions of his CIO role, how SAP has
adapted its infrastructure for BYOD, the kind of interactions he
has with SAP consultants, and emerging models in the consumption
and delivery of IT services
You are the CIO of an IT savvy company and everyone in
top management will also be IT savvy. Globally, CIOs face a
challenge in convincing top management about new projects, and in
asking for budget expansion. Do you think you have an
It is an advantage working in the IT industry, where there are
tech-savvy executives. But the expectations are much higher in
terms of identifying trends, introducing this into the company, and
driving adoption. You need to look for people who drive innovation
and build small teams; invest in people skills. You also have to
play an active role to communicate within the company, and also
externally about what IT is achieving, what are the
accomplishments, the learning, and the key observations.
In a tough economic climate, CIOs are being asked to
justify their existence in the company. So, how is the CIO role
being defined today and what will it be like in future? What is
your role at SAP today?
If I look back 22 years on my business role with IBM, Deutsche
Bank, and Allianz, I see the CIO role from three dimensions. The
last one I discovered with SAP. The first one is that you are
expected to be the best-in-class as a functional CIO. We have to
achieve operational excellence, driving the IT transformation
through benchmarks, while ensuring the vendor portfolio, budget
etc., is in good shape. Our performance is continuously measured
and we have to prove that we are the best-in-class for providing
infrastructure application services.
The second dimension is to be a business transformational
leader. A CIO has to be part of the business transformation, and
actively drive the agenda. Without IT you cannot do automation,
geographic expansion, introduce new channels, etc. The IT person is
challenged with translating an aggressive business target into
action. I discovered the third dimension at SAP — as a CIO I
have to be a strategically innovative CIO. There are two
sub-dimensions here. One has direct impact on the products and
services side. I can be the first “customer” in
providing feedback on the product functionality, quality —
and point out what’s missing, recommend what kind of
applications we should add to our portfolio. So it’s about
driving the learning curve up for our organization. So, a CIO has
to find a role to drive product and service impact directly.
The second sub-dimension is sharing experiences that you have
with your own products and services with the outside world.
Therefore, my team and I invest time in writing blogs and we share
our observations, learning, and recommendations.
Brian Pereira is a veteran IT journalist based in Mumbai, India. He is currently the Editor at InformationWeek India. Brian has written several articles on consumer and enterprise technology, since 1992. He has also spoken at Forums such as Nasscom, Cloud Computing World Forum and many others. During his career he worked for reputed organizations like Times of India, Indian Express Group, Jasubhai Digital Media and Infomedia18.
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