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CITIGROUP -“Business, IT, communications must work seamlessly”

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VoicenData Bureau
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Citigroup,

the world's largest financial services group, is one of India's most diverse

financial service providers. It is India's leading retail bank and also the

leading issuer of credit cards. It has a customer base of over 900 large

corporates, 22,000 small and medium enterprises, and 3,500,000 retail customers.

It also provides banking services to the international Indian community in 23

cities around the world. Ravi Raman spoke with VOICE&DATA. Excerpts:

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The preeminence of telecommunications in any business is a forgone

conclusion. Yet, CIOs often talk about issues and challenges related to managing

IT within their enterprise, while telecom is rarely discussed. Is

telecommunication outside the domain of CIOs in most enterprises?



Telecom forms an important part of a CIO's portfolio and is an increasingly

fundamental element of a CIO's domain. Unlike in the past, today it is discussed

in every meeting. Today, capacity on LAN/WAN/Internet space impacts the success

of IT projects. If not accorded adequate importance, it could lead to capacity

issues when projects are rolled out.

Communications and networking technologies are changing very fast. Many a

time new technologies are not just advancements over existing ones-they are

disruptive too. What is the best strategy an enterprise can deploy to cope?



Constituting a task force to evaluate the true value and benefit of the

technology is one way to approach this now-common issue. If there are indicators

that a technology has the potential to deliver business results, the next step

would be a pilot. On confirmation, the enterprise can begin full-scale

implementation.

What role does the Internet play in your business? What is your take on

IP-based communication?

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key mantra

The key aspect is to ensure that the service provider has a good understanding of your business and its criticality. While the SLA and metrics will help us in focussing on the right areas for improvement, the key to success is to engage in a partnership with the service provider so that problems can be solved together. The partnership develops over a period of time through a frank exchange of views and corrections based on feedback

Ravi Raman

Internet has and continues to play a pivotal role in our business and it will

only become more significant in the days to come. It is particularly effective

in providing timely and updated information to customers and in processing their

banking transactions remotely-from their chosen location. With Internet

banking, customers no longer need to visit the bank to process their requests.

The key aspect of IP-based communications has been information security and as

long as this is not compromised, and adequate bandwidth capacity is available,

this will enable us to serve our customers better.

Wireless has grown rapidly. What kind of issues and challenges has it

thrown up, especially in terms of network security and network management?



We are in the early stages of deploying wireless technology and will prefer

to conduct a detailed analysis of issues and challenges at a more mature

implementation stage.

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What role does wireless play in your enterprise? What kinds of benefits

has it brought to you?



As stated earlier, we are still in the early stages of deploying wireless

technology. Eliminating the need for cabling and physical connectivity, which

are today additional points of failure, are some of its primary benefits.

Today wireless is mostly complimentary to wired enterprise networks. Do

you believe that this will change soon with wireless emerging as the primary

means of communications?



This is a possibility if it meets the information security, cost, and

reliability requirements of the business enterprises.

Getting the best value from a communications service provider is often a

challenge. What should a CIO keep in mind while dealing with a service provider?

What do you think are the key elements of a good SLA?



I think the key aspect is to ensure that the service provider has a good

understanding of your business and its criticality. While the SLA and metrics

will help us in focussing on the right areas for improvement, the key to success

is to engage in a partnership with the service provider so that problems can be

solved together. The partnership develops over a period of time through a frank

exchange of views and corrections based on feedback.

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Are there still regulatory issues that hamper deployment of new

communication technologies in India?



More than regulatory issues, it is capacity issues that often create the

bottleneck. We have just three or four ocean cables connecting India

internationally while smaller countries have many more, thus enabling them to

provide services at lower costs. We need to build adequate capacity so that

system developers can develop systems without reference to constraints imposed

by bandwidth.

How can business, IT, and communications be aligned seamlessly for the

benefit of customers, suppliers, and partners?



Business, IT, and communications have to work seamlessly. There can be no

two ways about it. A good strategy is to group software development,

maintenance, data centers, and networks under the management of a single person

(CIO) so that the strategic direction and culture for the IT organization is

consistent all through.

Which are the emerging communications or networking technologies that an

enterprise must keep a tab of?



Wireless, convergence of various products into one unit like a PDA, and

encryption and security tools are all important to keep one's eyes and ears open

for.

What challenges does 2005 hold for you as a CIO?



Providing cost-effective services with increased focus on information

security and controls will be key challenges.

Ravi Shekhar Pandey

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