This years IBM event – Software Universe – was bigger with record participation of over 2500 and over 300 certifications as claimed by an official tweet from IBM (IBM also uses the occasion to offer certifications to interested software pros.)
I had attended the last year’s event and since then, Although I have been looking forward to these two days at the event and had blocked my calendar 6 months in advance, I still had to miss the second day – an unexpected visit of one of our most important customers required me travel to Bangalore in short notice.
The first day started with a talk titled “The Business Driven Technology Agenda” by Mr.M.V.Nair, the Managing Director of Union Bank of India. A very interesting presentation and something I was quite thrilled about for many reasons. I have been connected to Union Bank for many years – and ‘Union Bank’ was probably the first bank’s name I ever uttered in my life – it was where my father worked for a few decades.
As a kid, I have been to the branch where my father was a manager and remember huge intimidating red leather-bound ledgers where they would make entries for each customer. The ledgers were really huge for my size and were marked with number ranges and the clerk would heave while pulling them out and they would ‘thud’ when laid down on the desk.
Much later when I came to Mumbai during mid 2000 to work for a IT product company specializing in Internet banking solutions, I had the opportunity to meet several IT Managers at their corporate office – they were excited about internet banking, but were certainly not ready yet – their priority then was branch automation, what with many of their branches still using those huge ledgers and account books.
So it was quite a thrill to learn how far the Bank had reached in terms of IT adoption and in fact using IT to their advantage – today the bank apparently is one of the leading adopters of IT among public sector banks in India.
Pradeep Nair, Director, Software Group, IBM India South/Asia came up after that, making the expected reference to the mallu-ness of the previous speaker! He had a few Mallu jokes last year too and managed to crack up the audience on both occasions. Pradeep spoke on Smarter Software for a Smarter Planet and spoke about the economic crisis and how many organisations have been able to turn it to their advantage, making ‘smart moves’ adopting IBM (but of course 😉 )
Right after that was the key note by Garry Kasparov – something I was really looking forward to. And I must say he did not disappoint. Garry drew several anecdotal references from his glorious career in Chess to show how important it is in business to be able to adapt. He talked about innovating, surviving, the importance of doing your homework and about decision making. The talk was quite well delivered with great humour and insight.
A Panel Discussion What’s next for us? Predictions of next season’s batting order moderated by Akhilesh Tuteja, KPMG followed. Harsha Bhogle the popular Cricket commentator was a star attraction, though many in the audience including me wondered what Harsha was doing at the IBM Software Universe. But they had smartly (of course) included the words ‘batting order’ in the title of the discussion to make Harsha’s presence look less out-of-place. To be fair, Harsha made some insightful observations about technology adoption and change that made sense to me. Others on the panel included Kalyan Prasath, Head IT-ICICI Prudential AMC; Prashun Dutta, CIO-Reliance Infra, Pradeep Nair, Director-IBM SWG. It was great to see Manish Chokshi, CIO-Asian Paints and Anantha Sayana, CIO-L&T on the panel – two people whom I have had a chance to meet in the past – their uncluttered thought and clarity of vision in terms of technology has impressed me in the past. I have met CIOs and technology leaders who would get influenced by technology hypes, risking losing sight of practical realities – but these gentlemen had the wisdom to separate the wheat from the chaff.
From such professionals you learn that success through technology means being able to tell a hype from a real trend, and being able tell a trend from a adoption imperative, keeping cognizance of things like insight into technology itself, organizational culture and change management. Perhaps the secret of being successful as a CIO is being in touch with technology as much as with your organizational culture and the change implications in terms of collective readiness for adoption of a certain technology.
The industry tracks began right after lunch and I missed a few minutes of a talk by C.N.Ram, the man that steered HDFC bank’s technology evolution. C.N.Ram was a hero of sorts to me from a previous assignment when we had delivered HDFC banks first Corporate Internet banking solution. Ram was a tough customer – in a good sense, of course – and had a great team of professionals to support him. Together they ensured they (and us too) delivered world class services to their customers. Ram spoke about Smarter Banking and touched on Compliance. I liked a particular slide that said regulatory authorities are not expecting you to be Smart about compliance, but only expect you to comply. Often over-enthusiastic software vendors, SIs and customers take compliance so seriously they tend to do too many things around a simple need to comply, so that slide made a lot of sense to me.
I chose Randy Redding’s talk on Re-engineering the engineering with IBM Solutions over John Fisher’s talk on Insurance of the future. Randy spoke about reducing design and change TATs for complex processes by using open-standards for information flow. Some of the slides were informative and I am looking forward to getting the slides of this talk.
The post Coffee Break session I chose was Ameeta Roy’s Cloud – developing & testing nirvana, a very interesting presentation on exploiting cloud computing in development and testing efforts across the organization.
Srikanth Venkatesan gave a well delivered talk titled Creating Agile Processes – Elephants can dance!
I had to miss the last session – I had planned to attend Micro Insurance & Rural Insurance – The next frontier by Rajaram Muthukrishnan.
The second day sessions had solution tracks that I had really looked forward to. A whole track was devoted to Aligning Business and IT. Other tracks included Reducing Costs, Enabling Growth, Improving Governance, and Enhance Processes.
Although BPM was covered in different tracks, I had expected a more dedicated track. Social Media was another topic that I thought would be a focus this year.
Which brings me to #swuin. I was very disappointed with the Twitter updates – things were looking good with steadily increasing updates during Garry’s keynote, but started dying out as the panel discussion concluded – and I must say I missed those updates in the second day for sure.
Overall it was a great gathering and I am sure each of the 2500 odd participants had a lot to take away.
A final word on the venue – Renaissance convention centre – perfect choice for this event. It is a great sprawling property by the Powai Lake, great view, and one of my favourite Hotels in Mumbai. There was a time I frequented Velvet Lounge their Discotheque but more for the night ambience outside than the loudness inside.
Take my word and check-in there if you ever plan to be in Mumbai, or better still, attend next years SWUIN!
Update: Find the presentations of the event at IBM’s site here