‘The role of a CIO has become more central’

Krishna Mukherjee
New Update
Avinash Mittal CIO Uninor

From a Chief Information Officer to Chief Innovation Officer, a CIO’s role is not confined to technology any more. Today, he is donning many hats. In an interview with Voice&Data, Avinash Mittal, Chief Information Officer, Uninor, talks about the changing role of a CIO and the growing influence of SMAC.


Voice&Data: Year 2014 can be called as the Year of SMAC (Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud), what has been the role of these technologies in your organization?

Avinash Mittal: Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) are the biggest technology influencers in business today. SMAC is at the top of any technology agenda when business strategies are being made and future roadmaps are being drawn by businesses.

Cloud and virtualization are bringing efficiencies and manageability in the IT infrastructure of a company. While security, regulations and dependency on access media are some of the concerns, when moving core and enterprise applications to cloud, it is expected that in the near time to come this will further mature.


Big Data offers major opportunities on the business side with the promise of better ROI, open source is maturing and can handle both structured and unstructured data. Thus for various business new use cases can be efficiently and effectively handled. The use of social media has opened up another effective channel to reach out to customers as well as employees. According to a report by McKinsey, the revenue growth of businesses using social is 24% higher than those not doing so. On the other hand, mobility has revolutionized our work and life. The increasing use of innovative applications on smart phones, tablets, and other devices powered by Internet enabled networks has opened up a completely new way to consuming technology. Riding on the convergence of these trends companies as well as individuals are moving towards a new digital world.

Voice&Data: How are you helping your company to be more competitive in the face of intense competition from other players?

Avinash Mittal: The CIOs and technology leaders have to keep pace with rapidly changing technologies so that they can leverage SMAC to drive business, understand customer needs and serve them better. Understanding customer needs is very critical, to offer them the right products and provide them better experiences. Capturing information from all touch points such as network, market data, social media and then analyzing it through analytics has become extremely important for any operator today. Companies that create a good customer experience; provide uninterrupted service and offer simple relevant products are breaking the competitive pack. A CIO can contribute by leveraging the power of SMAC to complement the business requirements with innovative processes and thus help the business grow at a faster pace.


Voice&Data: What are your IT adoption plans or initiatives and how much have you budgeted for the same?

Avinash Mittal: We are focusing to enable better customer experience. At Uninor, we have developed strong analytical capabilities and tools to empower our customers and for better customer care. This has helped us in getting near real time insights from the market – both on customers’ behavior and usage patterns as well as on the sales force. This translates into delivering better customer experience and affordable services which are relevant to them. Along with our IT partner, Wipro, we have developed processes and distribution management system that capture real time data from the market and helps in tracking our business at the grassroot level. This helps in continuously innovating to improve go-to-market strategies and serve our customers efficiently. Continuous innovation and bringing simplicity is our aim and we are well ahead in leveraging Cloud, Analytics, Big Data and Mobility.

Voice&Data: What type of benefits are you getting with such deployments?


Avinash Mittal: Adoption of Big Data, Analytics, Cloud and mobility is helping in taking a more targeted approach towards customers and developing products that are relevant to their needs. On the other hand, such technologies will change the way the sales team approaches the market. They are better prepared now to serve the customers with personalized products. Social media has improved the customer reach and the relationship has become more interactive. These new technologies are helping an organization keep all their stakeholders happy and satisfied.

Voice&Data: From a telecom perspective, how are the needs of the CIOs changing?

Avinash Mittal: As telecommunication operators face increasing competition not only from other carriers but also from over-the-top players, the role of CIOs has become more central. They need to constantly innovate and adopt new technologies in order to help their companies become more competitive. Their role has moved from just being a support function to being more integrated and aligned with the business objectives of the company.


Voice&Data: What are the biggest challenges for you?

Avinash Mittal: In a hyper competitive market, operational efficiency is the key to survive and grow, and everyone looks at technology for answers. Creating a cost efficient and scalable IT architecture that can continuously deliver efficiencies is a major challenge. It is not just about business continuity or innovation – both needs to go hand in hand. For a CIO, the dilemma is which to prioritize without ignoring the other.

Voice&Data: What type of cultural shifts are you noticing in today’s ICT world? How are you managing the change with these shifts?


Avinash Mittal: The traditional role of a CIO is evolving from being just a technical specialist to becoming a digital leader and now a business partner. The opportunity is best defined as transition from being a chief information officer to chief innovation officer. He is now expected to drive an organization’s business efficiency and effectiveness, using innovation as a key enterprise enabler, rather than just be technology person implementing IT processes. CIOs are now expected to find new strategies to keep pace with changing technology trends and focus on renewals and innovation with agility.

Voice&Data: What are your BYOD policies?

Avinash Mittal: We have already implemented policies allowing any kind of mobile device and also given choice of devices to the employees, which they can use on the office network. POC are being held to further enhance BYOD experience and MDM as security of company data, and poor access reliability still remain a concern in a true BYOD environment


Voice&Data: How is analytics playing a role in your organization?

Avinash Mittal: Analytics is playing a vital role in our network planning, personalized customer service and maximizing the service revenue at minimum cost. The analytics architecture is rapidly changing to serve customers in real time and meaningfully utilize the huge amount of data being generated from all sources. Analytics has become an integral part of our business growth strategy today.

Voice&Data: What are the key focus areas of a CIO?

Avinash Mittal: The job of any CIO is to ensure that the organization and his stakeholders are getting the right technology support and continuous innovation. In a rapidly changing technology environment keeping both internal as well as external customers happy is no easy task, especially when their demands have to be balanced on the affordability quotient and at the same time, technology has to be simple and easy to use.