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We are using India pretty well: Dell VP Adriana Karaboutis

Goutam Das     February 14, 2013
Adriana Karaboutis is Vice President and Global Chief Information Officer (CIO) at technology company Dell. In a career spanning 25 years, she has straddled both information technology and core business operations at Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Dell. Goutam Das caught up with her at the Nasscom India Leadership Forum , where she was a speaker.

Q. How do you view the emerging trend of SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) panning out?
A. Critically important. I think we are very big social media users internally. Obviously, our marketing organisation is a huge user of social media. We do a tremendous amount of analytics from a business intelligence perspective. We offer cloud and we have our own private cloud. All of these are top-of-mind for me as CIO.

Q. How are your IT budgets looking this year?
A. It is just north of a billion dollars. For financial year 2013 most companies have decreased but we have remained flat over the past year primarily because we have recognised the need to invest. And the fact that we are transforming from a hardware company to solutions . Our systems need to support the solutions side. We now have one business unit around software and that requires a whole new set of tools and capabilities.

Q. Does Dell utilise third-party vendors?
A. In rare cases we do, when it is something very niche. But for the most part it is our own Dell IT organisation and we also leverage our Dell Services organisation.

Q. What role does India play when it comes to servicing Dell's internal IT?
A. We are 5,000-strong globally. About half of them are based in India. We have large centres in Bangalore and Hyderabad. They work on our infrastructure stuff, database, transformational activities. We are using India pretty well.

Q. You have moved to a technology company from the auto industry. Are CIO roles different in these industries?
A. The product lifecycle sets a certain pace for the company. The automotive industry was a 24-30 month product lifecycle. In a technology services company like Dell, the pace is much faster - it is a three-six month lifecycle. It breeds innovation, it breeds a much more dynamic and active environment. It is a tremendous difference.

Q. The role of the CIO is changing. After Lehman, CIOs have become much less powerful, with the centre of gravity in terms of IT buying decisions shifting to the CFO's office. How do you view this shift in power?
A. CIOs who take an infrastructure-only, digitising processes mindset disempower themselves. CIOs who recognise that the lines between business and IT are blurring and partner with the CFO and CMO don't lose - to use your term - power. We continue to have a good seat at the table.

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