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IT: Creating Value for Infrastructure Industry

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Indian Infrastructure industry is going through a mega growth phase. Some of the key growth drivers for this are increased government investments, involvement of private players through public-private partnership, increased foreign investments etc. This has also resulted in many new entrants and foreign players in Indian Infrastructure industry who are bringing with them a fresh business outlook and new technologies. While the size of the industry has grown, the business has become far more competitive and challenging on multiple fronts.
In this scenario, information technology (IT) can act as a key business enabler by providing competitive advantage through efficiency improvement. So far, the adoption of IT in Infrastructure industry has been less as compared to some other industries like banking, insurance, automotive. However as an industry insider, I would say, as compared to 5-6 years back there is a sea-change in the attitude of infrastructure business leadership towards IT. It is no longer a question of whether to go for the IT implementation it is just a question of when to go for it and why not today!

Key Business Drivers for IT Adoption

• Rapid Business Growth: Organisations in infrastructure industry have grown rapidly over last few years. This has happened sooner than anyone’s expectations and the same is going to continue for at least one more decade. Many of the organizations however are facing the challenge of scalability. Since the management attention was on growing the business in a short period, the scalability of processes and people have become an issue. IT can play a crucial role in building scalable processes which can help in sustainable business growth.

• Funding Needs: To meet the growth targets organisations are increasingly looking for funding from various sources like private equity investors, IPO etc. There is an increasing need for transparency in operations and corporatisation to build the confidence of the investors. The investors are now demanding for sound governance structure with the help of world-class IT solutions.

• Human Resources: For the past couple of decades, the engineering resources from Civil, Mechanical, Electrical streams have not increased by much as compared to the demand. This has created serious problems about availability of resources.
Processes can be automated using IT, by which relatively inexperienced resources can take care of work for which experienced resources are required. Also knowledge can be retained in the organization using digital knowledge repository thus making it less person dependent.

• New Outlook: Organisations in the infrastructure industry are fast realizing the value of IT to address their current and future business challenges and have started aggressively embracing IT. After speaking to over 100 business owners and top management from this industry, I am pleasantly surprised by their overall understanding about IT, its benefits and possible pitfalls during the implementation. The professionals among the top management of organizations are sold on to the idea of IT enablement of the business. Even the family run businesses from this sector are adopting IT aggressively. The younger generation from these families is generally highly educated and has started driving the adoption of IT into the business.

Addressing some concerns

• A world-class IT solution is expensive: A world-class solution because of its well defined processes ensures an attractive payback. If we look at the business benefits in terms of access to global industry best-practices, scalability and solution support we will be getting from a world-class solution with the investments required, in final assessment over long-term period the investment becomes meagre!

• Why not locally developed cheap software: Many times organisations opt for local solutions, because of the cost benefits. However these solutions will have major limitations in managing business growth and adapting to technological advances in future. Change thereafter to world-class solution becomes difficult. In long-term this turns out to be an expensive proposition and hence it is always advisable to go for a world-class solution in first place and gearing for the future growth.

• IT needs too many efforts to make it success: For IT implementation to be successful, one needs total management commitment and a partner who understands your business, culture and people. A good IT solutions partner with domain expertise ensures the smooth functioning of IT solutions.

Not for my organization. We are not yet ready: It is never too early to go for IT. One needs to grab early mover advantage. Employees pick up fast, as it does not need any specific skill. With the support from the top management transformation becomes easier.

Way forward:

• Transforming the mindset: The business leadership is now aware of the fact that managing transformation of the workforce to IT culture is a big challenge. An implementation partner like Highbar Technologies being an industry insider knows the domain and mindset of the users and can talk in their own language. With a good combination of involvement, education and communication on a sustained basis across the depth & breadth of the organization, the transformation management can be managed in a better way; thus ensuring a successful IT implementation. No doubt within last two and half years 47 companies are already availing Highbar’s services!

• Selecting the Right Solution: Large and medium organisations are increasingly investing in world-class solutions like SAP which is almost becoming a norm now. Even smaller organisations are willing to invest in SAP with only time being a factor before they go for it. Highbar has developed industry templates on SAP platform which address about 90% of industry requirements.
For SMEs, world-class solutions on new technology called cloud computing can be a good option where the world-class solution will be available on pay-per-use basis without initial capital investment. This will also provide a level-playing field for SMEs vis-a-vis large organisations.
Highbar has also developed some industry specific solutions like reinforcement steel optimization and vehicle tracking solution for improving logistics and supply chain efficiency.

• Selecting the Right Partner: For successful IT implementation it is very important to have partner who understands the industry.
Highbar understands the IT needs of the industry. HCC background is also a differentiating advantage for Highbar.

In Summary

The way infrastructure like roads, bridges, ports, airports, real estate facilitate growth of the country; in the same way IT backbone facilitates growth of the business and makes it scalable and sustainable. Only sky is the limit to leverage the potential of information technology to make the business more competitive.

About Author
Satish Pendse is the President for Highbar Technologies (An HCC Group Company) which is in the business of improving efficiencies for infrastructure industry. Highbar Technologies has been instrumental in providing IT solutions for leading infrastructure and real estate companies across India. To know more about Highbar Technologies visit www.highbartechnologies.com. Satish can be reached on satish.pendse@highbartechnologies.com

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