Digital is intertwined within the business: Anand Laxshmivarahan, Vedanta

Digital evangelists should continue to experiment, fail, learn, share and succeed that will also help sift reality from hype within Digital, says Anand Laxshmivarahan, CDO at Cairn Oil & Gas, Vedanta. 

Digital Transformation is a reality for businesses of all sizes, forms and shapes. Be it legacy or a new-age company across any vertical, almost all are dabbling their digital journey. Couple of quarters ago, Anand was hired as chief digital officer at a globally diversified natural resources group Cairn Oil & Gas, Vedanta. CIO India spoke to Anand Laxshmivarahan, Digital transformation SME and Chief Digital Officer at Cairn Oil & Gas, Vedanta on the emergence on CDO role, Business –IT equation and technology bets. 

Edited Excerpts.

What are the key objectives of a chief digital officer in today’s digital transformation era and why?

I believe that the key objectives for a modern chief digital officer is to partner with the business leadership and steer the digital-led business transformation agenda. They have to enable business users reimagine processes and embrace new ways of working. CDOs need to be the catalysts to drive agility within the enterprise.

Highlight focus areas in your role as CDO at Cairn Oil & Gas, Vedanta over next couple of years till 2020? 

My focus is largely aligned to our business visions and goals which are primarily around HSSE, improving reserves, optimizing production volumes, reducing operating costs, and nurturing people excellence. 

All of these areas today benefit from Digital as a lever and I believe will continue to do so. The biggest (digital-led) value generating areas for our industry are HSSE, Subsurface Optimization and Production Optimization. Our interventions and focus will largely be around these areas.

... We are starting to evolve new ways of working through our digital interventions where the business digital council members become product owners on our digital programs and the digital teams play an enabling role such as Scrum master or project manager on these programs."
Anand Laxshmivarahan
Digital transformation SME & Chief Digital Officer, Cairn Oil & Gas, Vedanta

How involved are the IT team and business stakeholders in the digital initiatives at your company? Is there a magic formula to ensure all digital initiatives lead to desired business outcomes? 

We have a well intertwined business/digital team through the formation of what we call the Cairn Digital Council. This Council is represented by the best minds from our business units, technical functions and digital teams. 

We are starting to evolve new ways of working through our digital interventions where the business digital council members become product owners on our digital programs and the digital teams play an enabling role such as scrum master or project manager on these programs. This is definitely starting to help get to the right business outcomes on our interventions.

Anand’s success mantras for peer CDOs

1

Get closer and intertwined within the business. There is no digital without business

2

Nurture teams and competencies at the intersection of Industry knowledge, Digital technologies and Design thinking

3

Continue to experiment, fail, learn, share and succeed. That will also help sift reality from hype within digital

What checks and balances are important to ensure that modern companies become digitally-native organizations internally and externally to its customers? 

The key thing is to not talk about digital in isolation from the business strategy. The more embedded that digital becomes within the business agenda, the easier it will become to drive change and get to the right outcomes. It’s not uncommon today in most digitally progressive organizations to have ‘digital-led’ business KPIs around revenues, cost optimization, customer satisfaction, etc. that by itself become indicators (and provides checks and balances) of how digital maturity is improving within the organization.

How are you leveraging SMAC (Social Mobile Analytics Cloud) stack and the new age tech like blockchain, AI, Robotics, VR /AR to name a few ? How are you creating a balance of the two?

Our approach has been slightly different. We have largely been starting with the business problem or opportunity statement and not with technology. As an example we will not move our Reservoir Simulation software to Cloud just because it’s supported on the Cloud now. We will do this if this is driven by business need for solving complex problems, improving processing speed, address massive growth of data etc. 

This approach we believe has yielded us great results while still being able to experiment with emerging technologies in business problem solving. And the other key focus has been – we are starting to develop an ecosystem of niche O&G industry-specific new age technology providers or startups that help in targeted business-problem solving.

Any precedence to go big bang on some of the technologies than others?

I have always believed that many or most of the digital interventions are best built progressively using MVP led approaches. However, given the context of our industry and business problems that we are trying to solve, I believe the biggest impact from a technology perspective will be from AI, Advanced Analytics and Optimization technologies.

My 5 tech bets for 2018 & 2019: Anand Laxshmivarahan

1

Data-analytics–driven insights and decisions

2

AI as applied to augmenting human work

3

Crowd-sharing economy

4

Digital payments

5

Cross-industry interconnectedness

Security is a colossal challenge for companies. Do you get involved in security projects too or that’s the role of CIO / CISO at your company?

My role encompasses leading both Digital and IT for our business. And cybersecurity is a big focus within our industry.  The uniqueness about our industry and business on cybersecurity is that it requires securing two disparate yet converging realms of Operational Technology (OT) and Information technology (IT). This is also because a lot of digital interventions are at the intersection of IT and OT. Hence cybersecurity has always been and continues to be a top focus and agenda item.

Your bucket list for peer chief digital officers to stay successful in modern tech world and dynamic business climate. What would be Anand’s key tech trends for 2018 and 2019?

First one would be to get closer and intertwined within the business as there is no digital without business. Chief digital officers or digital evangelists at their company need to nurture teams and competencies at the intersection of industry knowledge, digital technologies and design thinking. Importantly they need to continue to experiment, fail, learn, share and succeed. That will also help sift reality from hype within digital.

Data analytics driven insights and decisions and AI as applied to augmenting human work are the key trends. Crowd-sharing economy, digital payments and cross-industry interconnectedness will have a huge impact on companies and their digital transformation journey. 

Disclaimer:  Anand is a Digital transformation SME and Chief Digital Officer at Cairn Oil & Gas, Vedanta Limited. Views expressed are his own.