the CIO must
marshal more than
the usual chunk of
resources to solve
By Balaji narasimhan,
gunjan trivedi &
rahul neel mani
Learned From the
(From left to right)
GM (passenger services application)
Centre for Railways Information Systems
head-information systems & technology
HDFC Standard Life Insurance
Unni Krishnan T.M., group CTO
(retail business), Shopper's Stop
Jay Menon, director (innovation)
& group CIO, Bharti Airtel
Pradeep Saha, head-IT,
Cover Story | Implementation Cover Story | Implementation
“Either you’re part of the problem or part of the solution — or you’re just part of the landscape.” The automobile industry, for instance, hardly has customers
interacting directly with enterprise technologies, apart from a
Shopper’s Stop was also the first in India’s organized retail
space to use salesforce.com, a leader in delivering on-demand
Uttered by Robert de Niro in a 1998 heist film, the writer of this memorable line is still a mystery few dealer applications needed to help customers visualize the CRM solutions via the Internet as software-as-a-service, to
in filmdom. It doesn’t matter because the words ring true, most of all in business today. When
P HOTO By S R I VATSA SHA nDI LyA
car they plan to buy, says Krishnan. automate its sales team. The application was customized and
CIO’s reporters explored the IT organizations of five business sectors — retail, healthcare, BFSI, telecom But, retail creates a large number of customer-technology implemented in-house and christened IB-Force (Institutional
and services — their stories revealed how Indian majors are thriving on innovation to solve their touch-points, with its self-checkouts, barcode scanners, price- Business). “IB-Force helps us to monitor a large percentage of
organizations’ problems. Most interestingly, each vertical puts forth a series of learnings that are not checking solutions and anti-theft devices. And the number our gift voucher sales, which is about 10 percent (about Rs 65
of customers interacting with such technologies (like at the crore) of Shopper's Stop's sales,” says Krishnan.
unique to itself, helping you derive insights into their approaches to address your own IT challenges.
checkout counter) can easily increase from a few hundred to
The solutions are now out in the landscape. Find out, across the next five stories. millions in a short period. Scale Up or Get Out
“At HyperCITY, we've had over a million footfalls in the first The TGV, even running at just 60 percent of its top speed of
IMAGInG By BInES H S R EEDHA RAn
three months,” says Krishnan. “At an average of two customer- 515 kmph, requires over eight kilometers to brake. Retailers
technology contact points per customer and that’s about don’t have that luxury. IT's inability to scale up to mammoth
RETAIL two million probable interactions between customers and volume transactions while ensuring the constant availability
technology in three months. Add to that the large number of of merchandize can bring a retailer to a grinding halt.
items a customer buys per visit. (An average receipt has 30-50 Krishnan says they’re the first to have rolled out among the
items at a hypermarket.) Hypothetically, consider a 30 percent most advanced replenishment applications for hypermarkets.
a shopper’s Paradise
sales-conversion of two million footfalls — that translates to Called E3, this sophisticated mathematical software helps
anywhere between 9 to 15 [times customers trigger a play of HyperCITY analyze inventory trends, helping the enterprise
technology] in three months from a single store.”
It goes without saying that technology deployed in a retail
environment needs to be robust. But not robust like a tractor
— there is no place for the unsophisticated in a shopping mall.
Retail technology needs to be intuitive, user-friendly and has
Every month, one of Shopper’s Stop 50 outlets clocks seven million instances of to offer a consistent experience. This requires identifying
customers using technology. Encouraged, the group is now building on its technology cutting-edge technologies and putting them to innovative uses.
“There is a generation gap between us and other retailers in
capability to stay ahead in the volumes game. the country, as far as technology adoption is concerned. We’ve
brought new-age technologies to the Indian retail market, some
By gunjan trivedi which others haven’t introduced,” says Krishnan.
Shopper’s Stop has one of the largest installed bases of
AutoCAD software, says Krishnan, because the chain uses
etail is similar to the world’s fastest train, the always understood the criticality of scale, availability and CAD technologies to craft, draw and plan its multiple stores
TGV. Its speed, availability and extraordinary experience, and has been an eager adopter of advanced, cutting- as they roll them out. At last count, the group had over 20
experience set it apart and has made it among the edge technology. “We deployed JDA-MMS and JDA-WinDSS, Shopper’s Shop stores and 30 Crosswords outlets.
most preferred modes of transport in France. The core merchandizing, store PoS application and ERP in 1998, The enterprise is also at an early stage of deploying a solution
same fundamentals separate the retail amateurs from the men. much before the other players,” says Unni Krishnan T.M., the to optimization store-to-floor space ratio. Called Intactix, it’s
A retail organization’s group CTO of Shopper’s Stop retail business that includes going to help the store managers visualize how to stock shelves
ability to scale up Shopper’s Stop, HyperCITY, Crossword, Mothercare, Desi using optimal sales and margin expectations. The application
swiftly on demand, keep Café, Brio and Home Stop. And Shopper’s Stop has continued also helps analyze how much specific shelves are generating.
merchandize available, to pump energy in this area. Today, says B.S.Nagesh, MD, “And it can even do a what-if analysis by removing certain
and create a consistently and vice chairman of Shopper’s Stop, it has implemented merchandize off shelves and watching its impact on revenue
g r e at c u st o m e r pioneering technologies — like a self-checkout at HyperCITY, and margins,” adds Krishnan.
Greatest experience in the face a first in both the retail brotherhood in India and globally. The group was also the first to deploy an IBM i550
Challenges of surging volumes and performance server in the retail sector. This helps the
mushrooming customer The Number Crunchers organization consolidate all of its business units on a single
Keepingpacewithvolumes numbers will dictate its The business and technological challenges that the retail box while running multiple applications, making it easier
Guaranteeingavailability success. This is where sector face are similar to those in other sectors. What sets retail to administer and lowering the cost of ownership. “Today,
ofmerchandize technology assumes a apart is the sheer volume of transactions it works with. It’s we run four different enterprise applications (primarily
Creatingcustomerdelight pivotal role. this volume that’s responsible for the high-use of technology merchandizing and loyalty applications) catering to six
andensuringconsistency Among the big in retail organizations. “Other sectors focus largely on ERP different retail formats on the single box, and we can still take — Unni Krishnan T.M.,
players in the organized and CRM type of applications. We need those and much more many more. Soon we will be the first to use the i570 series of group CTo (retail business),
retail space in India, because the number of touch points between technology and servers running on the Power5+ chipsets, which will boost our Shopper's Stop
Shopper’s Stop has the consumer is a great deal larger in retail,” says Krishnan. disaster recovery capabilities,” says Krishnan.
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Cover Story | Implementation
refill its shelves faster at lower costs, forecast better, and platform — and create a consolidated view of its businesses
address the critical element of product availability. “In a and one view of the consumer.
hypermarket, consumables like bread and juices fly off the Each retail set-up within Shopper’s Stop drives its own
shelves,” Krishnan explains. “Replenishing them every business, but shareholders, management and the board
two days means we’re filling them about 180 times a year. want to have one view of the business. Five to six years ago,
Managing different products that need replenishment at Shopper’s Stop’s strategy was to grow quickly in different
different rates is tricky: should we buy 100 units of a product retail formats even if it meant sacrificing a single view of its
or 500? One hundred units means fresher products but also businesses. Later, it became hard to see growth from multiple
more frequent replenishment. Five hundred units allows for verticals, business relationships and franchises. “Instead of
higher discounts, but pose a storage problem. E3 helps having a 20,000-foot view of all our businesses,
us find the right balance at the right time.” what we had a view from a hill. And as we
HyperCITY is also home to one of grew, we were forced to jump from
the group’s most innovative use of one business’ hill to another. Two
technology. Called iScan, this years ago, we decided to get a
consolidated view of all our
businesses, while it was
With its price-checking still early enough to create
solutions, barcode platforms,” says Nagesh.
He associates three
scanners and anti-theft objectives with this move.
devices, retail creates a One is transparency to
view all his businesses.
large number of customer-
technology touch-points. S A Another is that it provides
a benchmark in managing
technology as a part of the
business. Third is the eventual
strength in acquiring a single
handheld barcode scanning device view of the consumer across all its
lets customers scan their merchandize as businesses. “We want to have a common
they take them off shelves. When they're ready view of one customer across our retail formats,
for checkout, customers don’t need to stand in a queue as whether he’s buying coriander leaves at HyperCITY, The
their merchandize is scanned and billed — saving time and Afghan at Crossword, a shirt at Shopper’s Stop, a set of baby
improving customer experience. diapers at Mothercare or a cappuccino at Brio,” says Nagesh.
The iScan represents a classic case where a piece of Shopper’s Stop is always trying to balance between common
hardware is put to multiple use by bundling it with different platforms and creative technological solutions. “Wherever it is
apps. The same hardware doubles as stock-taking solution for feasible, we try to create common applications across our retail
inventory. It is also used — without the shopping cart — as a formats. We recently moved Crossword from legacy apps to
receiving solution at warehouses and helps managers within JDA-MMS and JDA-WinDSS. As a result, we have achieved a
a store do price-checks on merchandize. common merchandizing and store application platform almost
Known as a platform concept, Shopper’s Stop borrowed across all our group companies,” says Krishnan. Crossword is
the multiple-use approach from the auto industry and using four enterprise applications, down from 12.
experimented with it in retail for the first time in India, says However, when differentiation is required, specific solutions
Krishnan. “Car models like Tata Indica and Indigo share the are created unhesitatingly. HyperCITY's speed checkout
same [architectural] platform. When you create a platform, it’s solution using iScan is an example.
easier to build more models off it by incorporating tweaks. We This approach and the daring to take on new technologies
surprised our application provider by applying hardware and is a characteristic feature of the group. And it’s being applied
IL LUSTRAT IO nS By PC A nO OP
applications in new environments,” says Krishnan. to getting a single view of the business. “I firmly believe that
investing in technology should be kept at par with investments
One View in real estate, senior management, and building capacities.
Shopper’s Stop primary objective as an early-mover technology Never hesitate in investing in technology,” says Nagesh.
adaptor is not only to empower its businesses with the agility
to scale up and the power to ensure availability of merchandize,
but also to eventually bring all its retail formats on a common Senior correspondent Gunjan Trivedi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
40 n o v e m B e R 1 5 , 2 0 0 6 | REAL CIO WORLD VOL /2 | ISSUE/01
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to get people to alter the way
they do things. New research reveals why it’s so hard and suggests
strategies to make it easier.
How Bharti Airtel meets the challenges of integrating businesses and staying in line with
growth fuelled by MAs.
By rahul neel mani
or a company that began with one mobile Braving the Integration Blues
service license in 1995, the Rs 8,156-crore Bharti There was a dire need to integrate all the services that
Airtel has taken rapid strides to become the Bharti Airtel provided as one brand. There was yet another
bellwether in the Indian telecom industry today. need to integrate the systems and processes across circles,
Its country-wide presence and market capitalization and initiate the swift migration of all heterogeneous
of Rs 101.9 crore reflect a fast-growing company at one processes to one platform across the 23 circles.
level. At another level, such expansion signals a huge In 2002, when the carrier embarked on the integration
challenge, especially for a company whose growth has process, it had few circles to operate and was running
come inorganically, through mergers and acquisitions legacy billing systems. Menon recalls the days when
(MAs), as part of the industry consolidation. Ask Bharti the company bought its first off the shelf, high-end,
Airtel’s IT organization. commercial billing system called Keanan in 2002.
With each acquisition, the challenges grow by leaps and “The migration of just two circles from legacy to this
bounds. Bharti Airtel has sought to consolidate disparate platform was extremely painful. Several business rules
IT systems of different entities and standardize platforms and processes needed to be aligned with the IT systems.
across the company. Says Jai Menon, director (innovation) Everything was missing. It took us several months to
and group CIO of Bharti Airtel, set it right. Imagine the task of
“In 2002, while on an S-curve repeating the similar exercise
of growth, we were just on time. after every acquisition,”
It has reflected well in the way says Menon.
we adopted technology and the There was a strong belief
way customers experienced within that technology wasn’t
our offerings.” Greatest the problem. It was integration,
The journey, which started Challenges and its alignment with business
then with basic integrations thereafter, which was essential
internally, will culminate by 2010 Integrationinthecontextof to keep growth steady on the
as One Airtel — a complete intra inorganicgrowth S-curve. The non-integrated
and inter-SBU integration across Gettingridoflegacysystems entities were also lying too
Bharti Airtel’s divisions. The Minimizingmigrationtime low on the capability front
journey has posed three major because of the over-customization
challenges: scaling up (vertically of information systems and
and horizontally), capability commercial software at different
enhancement and integration. entities within the company.
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Cover Story | Implementation
“In the absence of consolidation and integration, we in 2002, we went completely wrong. It took us nearly
were only running at 10-20 percent of total capacity,” seven months to correct this. But subsequently, after
recalls Menon. every MA, the time kept reducing. Now, we are able to
Yet another challenge lay in getting rid of legacy systems do it in a few hours.” It was also imminent to survive the
P HOTO By yATI nDA R kU M A R
and hardware to the pave way for new and efficient decline of revenue in the voice market and cut costs by
hardware. “Legacy has to be a setting sun in the cases of consolidating whole universe of applications and data to
bigger alignments and MAs. Otherwise, the situation streamline processes that were fragmented at the circle
remains the same,” asserts Menon. In its integration or business unit level.
quest, Bharti Airtel practiced the one data model and one Based on the experience of multiple integration
business process. Data residing at multiple locations on exercises, the company has since created a blue book — a
multiple heterogeneous storage systems and subsystems Center of Excellence. “It took time to create the first set of
IIMAGInG By BInES H S R EEDHA RAn
had to be migrated to the new data model, which would be common standards, but once this was achieved, it was just
central and accessible to all in a uniform fashion. an act of replication,” says Menon.
In doing so, another challenge arose when the business In the IT model at Bharti Airtel, the base infrastructure
logic, encoded in the legacy data models, had to be layer primarily consists of WAN, LAN, network operating
changed, migrated, mapped and then integrated to the center and security layer. And so, another daunting
new data model and new business logic. Says Menon: integration task was knocking at the doors of the company:
“There were fundamental challenges posed in migrating the outer physical layer of the network — the WAN. Every
to this business data modeling. The first time around, circle was operating on a separate WAN. Integrating the
WANs onto one common protocol became necessary.
Still, a heterogeneous WAN network wouldn’t have
allowed diverse traffic types to travel effectively on the
common infrastructure. “It wasn’t possible for us to
support ‘any-to-any’ traffic patterns cost-effectively. We
were not able to ensure that individual applications got the
network performance they required,” says Menon.
Towards this end, it became important to enable
traffic engineering, where carriers direct traffic along
predetermined paths. It was to make it easier to manage
network build-outs and support customers. “This
capability only comes through multi-protocol label
switching (MPLS). Our next biggest challenge was to build
a unified MPLS network connecting the core across all
circles,” says Menon. With or without the mega-mergers,
consolidation of WAN was the mandate for the company
for reasons more than just a unified network.
As a result of the efforts to integrate, the first phase saw intra-
strategic business unit (SBU) integration. Within all three
divisions — mobility, fixed line and broadband businesses
— the internal information systems were migrated onto one
platform. “It took us a few years to complete the intra SBU
migration, but Bharti Airtel became the first telecom service
provider in India to be working on a single, standardized
platform internally, including HR, financials, knowledge
management, learning management,” claims Menon.
On the business side (customer facing application
and IT systems), the company is slowly inching towards
totally integrated and standardized platforms. The
— Jay Menon,,
thrust is to first achieve integration of systems, business
group CIo, Bharti Airtel intelligence systems, data warehousing, so that there is
one national picture to view. At the time this story was
reported, Bharti Airtel was in its penultimate stage
44 n o v e m B e R 1 5 , 2 0 0 6 | REAL CIO WORLD VOL /2 | ISSUE/01
Cover Story | Implementation
of bringing billing onto a common engine known as outsourcing partner, with some others. All partners work
convergent billing platform. on a revenue sharing basis, so that there is no immediate
“We have also progressed sufficiently on the common capital expenditure; ROI doesn’t come into play. “With
CRM platform across all 23 SBUs. This is a tremendous this kind of integration, I, as a CIO, have been able to
success in inter-SBU integration. It has not only brought make capital expenditures, maintenance contracts and
business-IT alignment into play, but the capabilities of other such micro things redundant.”
IT systems have grown nearly 10 times between 2002 All these functions are now offloaded to partners
and 2006. On the customer side of because of the ‘utility computing’ model driven by the
IT, many areas like sales, order premise that integration not only brings operational
management, billing, revenue efficiencies, but also gives cost efficiencies. In the case
recognition, customer of Bharti, the utility computing model has worked very
care and business well. The company made sure from day one that this
intelligence have had model is directly related to business outcome because
to be migrated from internally, in the company, most of the IT is related to
revenue, which is the business
outcome. “As the revenue goes
The thrust is to first higher, the percentage of spent on
IT comes down,” notes Menon.
of systems, business Objective
intelligence systems, data Most of the intra-SBU and some
of the inter-SBU IT systems have
warehousing, so that there is already been stitched with one
thread — and are working well.
one national picture to view. Some of the most ambitious projects
like integrated CRM, integrated
self care and order management
their current platforms to one standard convergent billing are in advanced stages of completion.
platform — to be 100 percent more agile,” say Menon. “We are targeting that by 2008, Bharti Airtel — mobility,
The entire IT infrastructure of Bharti Airtel now runs fixed line and broadband — will have one content gateway,
on multi-protocol label switching WAN, which helps the one messaging gateway and one application gateway
company support a host of applications, including the across all platforms, that is, PC, mobile and TV. That will
ones that are leading-edge. Migrating to MPLS-based make us a 100 percent integrated telecom carrier. We'll
services also cut costs for the company depending on be the first telecom company in the world to achieve this,”
the degree of converged traffic that Bharti Airtel was claims Menon.
running on it. Says Menon: “Using MPLS for all three Overall, the process has stemmed from the company’s
layers — data, voice and video — saved us as much as 25 quest for integration, which started early on in 2002.
percent on the network expenditure. CIOs might wonder The company gathered the right ecosystem, got the right
how difficult it is to make the transition. Surprisingly, it’s architecture in place, and did the migration and integration
less painful than anybody thinks. Technically, MPLS isn’t upfront. It has resulted in cost-effectiveness and the ability
a service offering, but underlying infrastructure.” to recognize customers better. “On the S-curve of growth,
Through this exercise, Bharti Airtel has created an we started very early. We wanted this whole strategy to
IT ecosystem which now uses one piece of middleware ultimately translate into ‘rich customer experience’. And
for 16 of its major application systems running on 1,500 it’s nothing but a result of integration and capability
odd servers. As a result of this massive integration drive, enhancement in the IT systems,” asserts Menon.
Bharti Airtel executed three large utility computing
models between 2004-2006 after factoring in both
capital and operational expenditures.
For business and internal IT, IBM became the key
outsourcing partner with 15 more providers lined up
behind it. For all contact center technology, Bharti Airtel
picked Nortel and seven of its associated partners. On
the infrastructure front, IBM was again the strategic Bureau head-north Rahul neel mani can be reached at email@example.com
46 n o v e m B e R 1 5 , 2 0 0 6 | REAL CIO WORLD VOL /2 | ISSUE/01
HDFC Standard Life Insurance has made a successful bid to get its people away from
the clutches of paper files and back to the business of insurance.
By gunjan trivedi
hat does it take to follow a paper trail? of paper racing around if a company handles about ten
Ask an insurance company. Take an thousand policy files everyday. Now, imagine the impact
insurance organization anywhere in on the organization’s turnaround time. Electronic
the world and it will look at paper as a content management and digitization of workflow was
necessary evil. That’s because with so many entwined imperative,” points out Rawlani. In 2003, HDFCSL
business processes with cascading results, variables and embarked on a mission to cut out the paper chase and
overlapping needs, insurers need to ensure well-defined embrace Business Process Management (BPM).
workflows, which for unprepared companies means an The Mumbai-headquartered HDFCSL, a joint-venture
avalanche snowballing of paper — and plenty of it. between UK’s mutual life assurance company Standard
At one time, it got so bad that many insurers in the US Life and HDFC, was started in 2000 to tap the evolving
— housed in multiple-storey buildings — used conveyor life insurance market in India. As one of the first private
belts to carry files across hundreds of desks through life insurance companies in India, HDFCSL’s operations
multiple departments. The mechanical solution, though were characterized by manual processes that were added
it successfully reduced the time it took to move paper files incrementally to keep up with business requirements.
around, didn’t address the problem. Sunil Rawlani, head- In order to differentiate itself and tap the market
information systems and technology of HDFC Standard more progressively, it adopted the customer-centric
Life Insurance Company (HDFCSL), was certain he wasn’t approach and offered service as it's USP. As HDFCSL saw
going to put his money into a conveyor belt. unprecedented growth, their manual processes, layered
Rawlani was determined unsystematically over time, started
to drain away all the paper to crack under the pressure.
that was clogging business The number of Excel
efficiency. He decided to worksheets, used to track
introduce digitized content, Greatest policies, mushroomed.
automated workflow and
agile, re-engineered processes.
Challenges Increased communication for
new requirements began to
“Insurance is a conventional, Eliminatingtheproblemsof choke the organization. Multiple
paper-based business with apaper-intensiveworkflow systems to handle status
90-page files packed with withelectroniccontent queries or communicating new
supporting documents hopping managementandBPM management decisions rendered
across work-desks. These GivingbusinessbackitsUSP process control inconsistent
obese files then travel in and byfocusingonserviceand and inefficient, which hit the
out of file cabinets, to agents, to notpaperchasing. organization’s ability to measure
junior underwriters, to medical performance. All the while, the
institutes, to senior underwriters volume of paper exploded making
and so on. Imagine the volumes document-filing and handling
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Cover Story | Implementation
But these changes came with a rider: it cost a lot of sweat.
The changes required some of the hardest IT activities:
designing an accurate business process, mapping
process to defined algorithms and incorporating people,
management and systems to the change.
HDFCSL’s IT department did a lot of the spade work.
The initial process of identifying key business processes
(such as new business, claims, grievances and policy
management), defining workflow rules and algorithms
and weeding out non-critical processes took three
months. “The core BPM team identified key business
processes using statistical sampling. The process design
was divided into three functions: defining, documenting
and re-engineering. We prioritized mapping business
processes to the BPM platform using a simple concept:
address the most painful areas first,” says Rawlani.
The process of mapping and designing is an on-
going process although Rawlani’s team tried to do it on
the first occasion because un-ironed glitches would
have cascading effects.
“We called the system WONDERS: Workflow On
Demand Enterprise Retrieval System. There were many
lessons learnt and unlearnt. We were among the first
Indian insurance companies to incorporate BPM at this
scale and had to come up with innovative and creative
solutions,” recalls Rawlani.
It began with the creation of a core BPM team, whose
job it was to identify key drivers and enablers, and design
processes accordingly. The core team included people
— Sunil Rawlani, from business, HDFCSL’s in-house IT team and the
head-information security technology vendor. Top of its list was to automate documents and
HDFC Standard Life Insurance workflow — Rawlani wanted paper out of the way.
Documents were identified, scanned, indexed and
committed to an imaging system. The system includes
the most sensitive scanners available, since underwriters,
extremely tedious, and created a storage nightmare. who assess the authenticity of documents, need to
Manually distributing work and summarizing data from determine things like whether the same pen was used
proposal forms also impacted the processing time. The throughout the form or whether data’s been overwritten
inability of business managers to balance workloads and and manipulated. Underwriters man the gates of
a lack of insight into productivity created a vicious cycle an insurance company and based on their findings,
P HOTO By kAPIL SHROF F
that sucked business down. subsequent queries are generated. Only once images are
The disorder spread as misplaced documents affected policy committed and crossed-check by underwriters is a case
turnaround time and created a ripple effect among interlinked released into the organization’s workflow.
files. In a firefighting attempt to stave off confusion, staff at the His early-mover status didn’t leave Rawlani with too
branch levels began duplicating documents and entered data many references to draw on. His solution was to take
in two places. This increased the cost of operations and worse a team of people from operations, the underwriting
IIMAGIn G By BIn ESH SREEDHARAn
affected HDFCSL’s USP: service. department and IT on a tour of insurance companies
After several months of deliberations, HDFCSL in various South-east Asian countries, who had used
deployed a BPM solution from Staffware (later acquired similar BPM and digitized workflow technologies. “This
by Tibco) and an Enterprise Content Management helped a lot, but there was still one major problem that
solution from FileNet. “This exercise replaced paper the tour didn’t solve,” says Rawlani.
with digital files, streamlined and re-engineered The roadblock lay with the underwriters. In the manual
workflow, and created a more scalable, synergetic and setup, documents were verified on paper (a portrait
agile business,” says Rawlani. view), but scanned images of documents on computer
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Cover Story | Implementation
screens were viewed in “At first, we addressed
landscape-mode, making the business processes in
the underwriters’ jobs breadth, to automate key
very tedious. “We tried front-end features. Then
using larger monitors, we started to scale the
but that didn’t work. BANK depth of the process. This
As for portrait-oriented incremental approach
monitors, they were helps us to address issues
available only in the cropping up without
US at that time and disrupting the entire
were astronomically process, and easily secure
expensive,” he recalls. management buy-in by
With true CIO- being able to show benefits
resourcefulness, Rawlani early on,” says Rawlani.
found a solution that The au t o m a t e d
kept everyone happy: workflow has benefited
he deployed graphics the organization. Apart
cards that supported
multiple monitors. Each The advanced capabilities from the measurable
benefits of a 300
was connected to two
of the BPM platform are percent improvement
on policy turn-around
15-inch monitors. One also used to break down and time. For instance, the
monitor displayed the
document up-straight monitor an automated process average time to issue a
new policy today is 1.5-
and the other displayed
the scanned policy in
into steps as they are rolled out. 2.5 days, down from 5-6
days. The organization
portrait-mode. is also able to offer
But, the document imaging solution isn’t only a set improved customer service with consistent experience,
of clever ideas. Its benefits, like proper indexing, access and enjoys improved efficiency in terms of immediate
control, the ability to include annotations, secure storage, access to documents, tracking policies online, a new ease
fast retrieval and better disaster recovery are far-reaching. of administration, much better process manageability
It’s also ensured better human resources allocation — and and control, better compliance, and overall reduction in
that paper is eliminated from the workflow. the cost of ownership.
The advanced capabilities of the BPM platform are also There has also been a 40 percent reduction in the time
used to break down and monitor an automated process underwriters spend handling queries. This translates
into steps as they are rolled out. Each step within a into substantial ROI, especially since the number of
process is monitored and inefficiencies identified. Each policies issued in a year run in hundreds of thousands.
step’s time is noted and monitored against the duration (HDFCSL issued over just under 4 lakh policies in 2005-
of the entire process. Irregularities are immediately 06, covering more than 5.8 lakh lives.)
identified using key performance indicators built into Moving ahead, Rawlani wants to bring all business
the platform. processes that are not yet fully automated — such as
Business procedural algorithms or rules are kept claims — under BPM. He is working full time to bring in
loosely-coupled with the BPM using a separate business more third-party integration between the workflows of
rules engine, ensuring that in the wake of changing HDFCSL and external entities such as medical institutes
business needs, the entire process is not altered. Tweaking or re-insurers. “I am also figuring out how to further
only the rules helps create a more agile process, which equip our sales-force and agents with sophisticated
can effectively adapt to changes. Insurance companies, mobile devices, which can integrate seamlessly with our
for example, allocate policies to either junior or senior workflow and further reduce our turnaround time as we
underwriters, depending on the body weight of the deliver policies to the customers, right at their doorsteps,”
applicant. If, at some stage in the future, these parameters he says.
change or say an applicant wants to customize his policy,
the entire process doesn’t need to undergo an alteration.
The required changes are merely incorporated within the
business rule engine. Senior correspondent Gunjan Trivedi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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On the right SERVICES
How the Indian Railways overcame a logistical nightmare in a mission to change the customer
experience of nearly 14 million people who travel with unreserved tickets everyday.
By Balaji narasimhan
s the second largest rail network in the world UTS as a pilot project at 23 stations around Delhi was taken
and the largest in Asia, statistics concerning in January 2002, and the inauguration of the same was done
Indian Railways are bound to impress. It boasts on August 15, 2002.” Today, this project is showing a lot of
of coverage that exceeds 60,000 kilometers, benefits, and has been extended to 588 stations as of March
has 300 railway yards and 700 repair shops. It runs more 31, 2006. Further, the Indian Railways plans to cover 943
than 11,000 trains on a daily basis, and directly or indirectly more stations in 2006-07, and ensure that a total of 6,000
touches the life of almost every person in India. stations have UTS as of March 31, 2009.
However, not all figures concerning the Indian Railways While UTS is delivering excellent payback, the road taken
are as impressive. For instance, almost 14 million of the 15 was thorny. “As a first step towards computerizing ticketing,
million people whom the Railways transports every day the Indian Railways introduced Self Printing Ticketing
travel on unreserved tickets. Handling them has been a Machines (SPTMs),” points out Chopra, adding that, “These
huge problem. As union railway minister Lalu Prasad were standalone microprocessor-based ticket machines.
Yadav said in his maiden Railway Budget speech at the While they contributed towards reducing ticket inventory
Lok Sabha in 2004-05, “About 92 percent of railway and provided automated accounting at the station level, they
passengers travel without reservation in unreserved had several limitations.” The limitations included:
coaches in trains in the country.” The system was a logistical nightmare because fare
This revelation is not something new, and the Indian changes had to be made on each and every machine.
Railways had realized the need for an Unreserved Ticketing Since these machines were standalone systems, tickets
System (UTS) a long time ago. In fact, Nitish Kumar, in could only be booked from the station of origin of
his Railway Budget journey. Cancellation could also be only done at the
in 2002-03, had same counter where the ticket was booked.
announced the pilot Since there was no network, there was no real-time
of the Unreserved generation of revenue. Additionally, these machines
Greatest Ticketing System, were prone to tampering.
Challenges at a time when the
Indian Railways was
In order to overcome these limitations, CRIS designed the
UTS. “The project was given to CRIS on a turn key basis,
Designingthesystemfrom celebrating its 150th and the work involved designing the system, freezing
theground-up year of operations. of hardware and software requirements, procuring the
Freezingontheright As Vikram Chopra, hardware, development of software and testing it, and
hardware/software group general finally, installation,” recalls Chopra.
combination manager (passenger While implementing such a large system tends to be a
Creatinganextensible services applications), complex undertaking, CRIS’ core competency in handling
system Centre for Railway such installations helped. Set up in 1986 to manage all
Information Systems the computer activities of the Indian Railways, CRIS
(CRIS), points out, “The had implemented large projects before, like the Freight
decision to introduce Operations Information Systems (FOIS) and Passenger
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Cover Story | Implementation
Reservation System (PRS). But, while the PRS has been all these things didn’t fit into the 144 MB ROM, and so
widely hailed by e-governance experts as one of the most measures had to be taken to trim the RDBMS and the OS.
successful e-governance projects, not only in India but across Once this task was accomplished, CRIS faced another
the world because of the number of citizens it has impacted, problem: it was using proprietary terminal servers to
it handles only around 0.8 to 1 million reservations per day. connect dumb terminals with the backend server. This,
The unreserved ticketing system, on the other hand, had to apart from being expensive, was also capable of tying the
handle several million reservations a day, and be capable of Indian Railways to outdated legacy methods. In order to
scaling way beyond 10 million reservations in the future. combat this problem, the UTS team at CRIS started work on
The most important thing about the unreserved ticket a TCP/IP terminal server, which had the advantage of being
system was that, since it impacted so many people, it has extensible. Because security was an important consideration
to be available on a 24x7x365 basis — and this applied for the Indian Railways, CRIS developed special tools to
to all aspects of the system. “The system has therefore centralize the management of these dumb terminals. As a
been implemented in the high availability mode from all result of these tools, the security administrator can manage
— hardware, software and telecommunication — angles,” the ports from a central location, and even define the
says Chopra. Therefore, CRIS decided to use diskless PCs transmission speeds for data flow. But the finest aspect of
equipped with 144 MB flash ROMs. The ROM was to be the terminal is that it is highly fault-tolerant. While it works
loaded with three components: Red Hat Linux, Adaptive off the network, it can also function as a standalone system
Server Anywhere Sybase RDBMS, and the ticketing if the backend server or the telecommunications link breaks
application itself. The problem that CRIS faced was that down. Once the server or the network failure is rectified, the
client reconnects to the backend server and automatically
synchronizes the data.
Another added bonus of these efforts was that the TCP/
IP terminal server cost just one-fifth of the proprietary
terminal server that was in vogue earlier. Since TCP/IP is
the lingua franca of the Internet, CRIS was also able to make
the UTS easily accessible over the Web. As Chopra points
out, “The booking of unreserved season tickets can now be
done through the Internet with the physical ticket being
delivered to the passenger’s address.”
The usage of the Internet apart, the overall reach of the
UTS has been staggering, to say the least. “Today the UTS
network covers 682 stations with 2,152 users connected to
eight data centers located in New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai,
Mumbai, Secunderabad, Patna and Gorakhpur. The system
issues tickets to around 5 million passengers every day,
generating revenues of over Rs 14 crore,” avers Chopra.
While numbers are always striking, the other benefits
— both to Indian Railways and to the common man — are
even more stirring. Now, travelers can buy tickets from any
station and need not be restricted to the boarding station.
The new UTS system also allows the purchase of an
unreserved ticket three days prior to the date of journey, as
the facility for booking unreserved return tickets exists.
The Indian Railways has also seen benefits from the
UTS. Since the burden on the ticket-issuing personnel
was reduced, the same staff could be used for additional
ticketing counters. The productivity of the booking clerks
was also enhanced.
The Indian Railways enjoyed other benefits, such as:
Fares and business rules could be changed more
— Vikram Chopra, easily, and this protected railway revenues and
Gm (passenger services reduced passenger complaints.
Passenger traffic is measurable on a real-time basis.
Since more details of the usage of trains were available,
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Cover Story | Implementation
analytical reports with higher accuracy could be While Chopra didn’t provide any direct figures bearing
produced for top management. upon the ROI of the project, he points out that, “While
More counters could be opened for ticket sales without it is not possible to quantify direct savings or increased
requiring any addition in manpower. revenues on account of UTS at present, as it is still in the
The security features incorporated into the UTS expansion stage, costs will come down on account of reduced
reduced the chances of fraud considerably. ticket stock inventories and reduction in investment for
Of course, all this comes at a cost. While Chopra was not increasing points of sale. Revenues will increase because of
able to provide the final cost of the UTS system because the greater productivity in ticket sales by booking clerks, better
implementation of the system is still in progress, he says availability of tickets, and more efficient services through
that the Indian Railways has already spent Rs 80.71 crore better planning made possible by better MIS.”
as of March 31, 2006. An additional amount of Rs 86 crore A study of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Budget Speech for
has been sanctioned for 2006-07. 2006-07 gives us some indicative figures of the ROI of
UTS. Passenger earnings increased by 7 percent, and no
doubt, UTS would have contributed to that . Streamlining
achieved by the UTS, among others, has also enabled the
Indian Railways to target an additional income of Rs 200
Empowering Passengers crore by adding additional coaches to some 190 popular
trains. For 2006-07, a growth target of 11 percent has been
set for passenger revenues, which add up to Rs 16,800 crore.
hile RFID (radio frequency identification) is usually seen as Since the UTS already touches 5 million people per day, the
something that adds value to the supply chain, the Indian averment that it is bound to add significantly towards this
Railways is also implementing this technology to make target is not untenable.
traveling easier for the common man. This plan revolves around Success apart, CRIS has no plans of resting on its laurels.
smart cards, which are issued in denominations of Rs 100, Rs 200 “We are now planning to further enhance the UTS project
and Rs 500. These cards are valid for one year, but the with the introduction of touch screen based Automated
unused amount can be transferred to a new card. Ticketing Machine, both with prepaid smart cards,
These smart cards are used with ATVMs debit/credit cards and currency in the near
(Automatic Ticket Vending Machines), future,” says Chopra.
which are equipped with a touch screen. Some of the innovations are also
Using the touch screen, the smart coming from slightly out-of-the-way
card holder can enter the details locations. For example, the Indian
of his journey and the amount is Railways launched its first satellite
automatically subtracted from his UTS at the Pampa Devaswom
smart card. complex in Thiruvananthapuram
While this usage is bound to in November 2005, which is
enhance customer satisfaction, aiming at issuing unreserved
RFID is capable of playing an tickets from non-rail heads. This
even higher role in the handling system is expected to help several
of freight. The Indian Railways lakh pilgrims visiting Sabarimala
is supposed to have 222 million by enabling them to purchase
freight wagons, and RFID tags tickets three days in advance from
embedded in the wagons will be any railway station.
read by readers located in sheds. Another first has been achieved by
Using this system, which is currently the Danapur division of the east central
in its pilot phase, the Indian Railways hopes railway, which has become the first division
to streamline freight management across the of the Indian Railways in which all ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘D’
country. The impact upon the country itself is bound to class stations have been provided with UTS facilities.
be huge because, as of 2004-05, the Indian Railways carried 1.65 With UTS expected to proliferate across the country in
million tonnes of freight on a daily basis. Since the network of the the coming years, these numbers are only likely to go up
Indian Railways covers around 63,465 km across the length and — along with customer satisfaction, of course.
breadth of the country, this system will make tracking of freight
much easier than it is today.
Special correspondent Balaji narasimhan can be reached at email@example.com
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On a large scale
Enter a healthcare WAN that has succeeded in taking highly-
differentiated and specialty medical services to remote areas.
By rahul neel mani
hat India is a vast and varied geography with a highly specialized staff and technical equipment in remote
burgeoning population is oft documented. Over areas. Telemedicine is an emerging system of medicine in
a billion people are spread across a landscape India, but can prove very effective in terms of delivering
from deserts to frozen mountain ranges, whose timely treatment for those deprived of good medical
temperatures soar to 50 degree Celsius and plummet to -30 facilities, says Pradeep Saha, head-IT for Max Healthcare.
degree Celsius. Delve deeper into the demographics, and one “Information and telecommunication technologies have
will find more revealing facts: a very high infant mortality rate, now reached a stage of maturity so that it doesn’t take
an unmanageable population per doctor — nearly 70 percent much time to set up a network for telemedicine facilities
of the population lives in remote parts — and an average life between two points.
expectancy of 63 years. In many ways, all pointers to a deeper “Earlier, an example of telemedicine may have been as
need for India to turn to telemedicine. simple as a doctor receiving advice and consultation from
The modern applications of telemedicine do not another doctor over the telephone. Today, telemedicine
simply entail a better business logic for hospitals can bring a physician located hundreds of miles away into
and other healthcare service providers, but also promise an actual examination room, thanks to a live, interactive
to contribute toward an national cause. India has been system,” notes Saha.
a relatively late adopter, but is fast catching up in terms of However, India is still far behind when it comes to
applying telemedicine attaining acceptable standards of health infrastructure
technologies. and services, says Saha. “There is a shortage of computer-
Max Healthcare savvy healthcare personnel. Overall, it results in the poor
Institute, the Rs 145- use of telemedical infrastructure, and the people who
Greatest crore super-specialty suffer the most are those in the remote areas. Quite early
Challenges hospital, has taken a
plunge in proliferating
on, Max Healthcare felt the lack of training facilities with
regard to information and communication technology
Infrastructuretoprovide treatment and medical (ICT) in medicine. In rural India, medical terms like
servicetoremoteareas ser vices through HIS (hospital information systems, RIS (radiology
Trainingandenhancing telemedicine. Its information systems), and PACS (picture archiving
manpowercapabilities TeleMed connects and communication systems) are unheard of by the
toprovideservices primary and specialty medical community.
Creatingcost-efficiencies healthcare services, “There is virtually no exposure to the applications of ICT
throughsuchasystem through images and in remote areas where most people of India reside,” says Saha.
other data, to health “We recognized this problem and thought of putting in place
centers and tertiary a solution to bridge this gap. Max Healthcare got actively
hospitals with their involved in the practice of telemedicine with its various
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