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May 26, 2017
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Information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure has become critical for organisations in the government and utilities sector to achieve operational efficiencies. While technologies like enterprise resource management (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) are central to the ICT strategies of these organisations, there is now a growing interest in leveraging solutions like cloud technology and internet of things (IoT) to optimise operations. Senior IT officials in the government and utilities space talk about the current level of technology adoption in their organisations, emerging technology trends, the challenges faced in implementing technologies and the plans for upgrading their ICT infrastructure... (From left to right: Neel Paliwal, Associate Vice-President, IT, Delhi Integrated Multi Modal Transit System and K.D. Saha, Deputy General Manager (BIS), GAIL (India) Limited)

What are the key telecom and IT solutions deployed by your organisation?

Neel Paliwal

ERP and virtual private network (VPN) connectivity are the key solutions deployed by us. ERP has helped in streamlining a number of processes and has allowed for quick decision-making. Meanwhile, VPN connectivity has allowed access to critical applications from external networks, thereby reducing the turnaround time for various activities.

K.D. Saha

Currently, GAIL uses the SAP platform for various enterprise applications, which has various modules such as financial information and control (FICO), material management (MM), production planning, sales and distribution (SD), supplier relationship management (SRM), CRM, project systems, quality management, Trader’s and Scheduler’s Workbench (TSW), human resources, payroll, etc. We procure materials and services through electronic tendering and reverse auction procedure through the SRM platform. In addition, we implemented the Gas Management System (GMS) on the SAP platform in 2010, which is Asia’s first implementation. This system is linked with the SD, TSW, MM and FICO modules. Gas is being transported to various customers, and different mechanisms are used for allocation. The GMS is used for the nomination, allocation, confirmation and invoicing needs of the gas business. We also have e-recruitment system, which helps us in recruiting new employees.

Senior IT Executive, WBPDCL

Earlier, West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited’s (WBPDCL) adoption of IT solutions was low. We only used IBM’s package solutions for catering to our IT needs. However, with the evolution of technology, our IT requirements have changed. In order to meet these requirements, we are now implementing SAP solutions. It will take two or three months to implement these and another year or two for employees to get acquainted with these systems. We want to use these SAP solutions in a better way in the future. We will be able to comment on the business performance and efficiency of these solutions only once they are fully implemented.

What are some of the challenges faced by your organisation with respect to managing IT and telecom infrastructure?

K.D. Saha

IT manpower is limited in the organisation. We addressed this issue by adopting a business process outsourcing model in 2005, wherein we engaged IT organisations for providing 24x7 on-premises facility management  support services. We have also outsourced the software development services.

Senior IT Executive, WBPDCL

The major challenge faced by our organisation is that there are multiple layers of truth in the information that comes into the systems. This is because there are multiple systems through which different levels of truth come. These need to be integrated into a single version. In contrast to this, in a single integrated system, only one version of truth comes in. Therefore, we are implementing SAP solutions in our systems so that only a single version of truth flows into these systems.

What is the current level of adoption of CRM, ERP, enterprise mobility and cloud solutions in your organisation?

Neel Paliwal

We do not have CRM, enterprise mobility or cloud solutions. ERP has been implemented for a few years now. It covers almost all organisational processes.

K.D. Saha

We adopted the ERP platform in 2005. The CRM and SRM platforms were adopted in 2007 on the SAP platform. Considering business benefits like increased efficiency, flexibility, inbuilt disaster recovery, and decreased cooling, power and rack space requirements as well as lower capital expenditure, GAIL adopted cloud technology in on-premises private cloud in 2011. As data sovereignty is a major concern in the public cloud, we have not yet adopted the same. GAIL has leveraged this private cloud for faster and more efficient implementation of business applications.

Senior IT Executive, WBPDCL

At present, we are making a move towards ERP solutions. Since WBPDCL is a government-owned organisation, the entire product is given to a government distribution agency. We do not require CRM solutions because our usage pattern is such that it caters to government distribution agencies. The adoption of cloud-based solutions by the organisation would require a lot of tendering. Further, if we adopt cloud solutions, shifting from one place to another would be very difficult. Therefore, we prefer in-house computing and do not want to adopt cloud-based solutions as of now.

What are your views regarding the digital transformation of organisations?

Neel Paliwal

Digital transformation is a necessity in today’s times. It helps in improving efficiencies, removing bottlenecks, reducing transaction times and providing customers a quick and reliable interface. Today, we cannot build an organisation without using technology. Without technology, customers would find it difficult to interact and engage with businesses. At the same time, internal operations would be highly inefficient and will eventually result in the decline of the organisation.

K.D. Saha

In my opinion, digital transformation means adopting digital technology in maximum business processes for improving the experience of customers and other stakeholders significantly.  For this, we need to collaborate with various partners  for improving digital ecosystems.

At GAIL, we have digitally transformed our banking-related operations. Accounts payable and receivable data is transmitted automatically to/from core applications by using various application programming interfaces. Apart from this, our products are sold by our partners through the digital platform.  In addition, we have taken up  IT/operational technology (OT) integration, wherein data of OT  and ERP systems will be automatically brought to the analytics platform for carrying out business analysis before presenting it in dashboards.   Besides, we are considering a number of new initiatives in the IT/OT domain.

Senior IT Executive, WBPDCL

The country is witnessing a digital transformation in every industry. As far as government organisations are concerned, a lot of them have their own websites. Through these websites, they are communicating with each other. Government organisations publish information on their websites so that their customers, the general public, can access it. We are at the beginner’s stage in terms of technology adoption. For us as an organisation, digital transformation represents a move towards ERP solutions. SAP opens up an opportunity for our organisation to integrate with other government organisations. However, this opportunity can be tapped only if both the distribution companies use SAP solutions. All the parties related to us use the same platform and we have integrated our systems with some of them using SAP solutions.

What are the key upcoming technology trends?

Neel Paliwal

IoT will gain traction in the coming years.

K.D. Saha

Going forward, the issue of advanced cyber threats needs to be taken care of in order to make IT systems more robust and secure. Further, there is a lot of scope for digital transformation, cloud technologies and IoT. GAIL is also working towards adopting IoT solutions. The company is also giving priority to cybersecurity initiatives.

Senior IT Executive, WBPDCL

A number of new technologies are coming up. Technologies change rapidly and a lot of innovation comes in. However, only a few of these technologies fulfil the management’s objectives. To this end, the management of any organisation needs to understand its expectations first and then choose the right technologies to adopt.

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