I started my career in IT in 1974 at Kirloskar Group in Pune. In the 70, only two companies mostly dominated the world of computers: IBM and ICL (International Computers) Like many of my peers, we were using the ICL 1902 computer with 32k bytes of memory, four magic tape drives, a card reader, a card punch, and a line printer.
It was also the time when programs were written using Assembly or COBOL language, punched on cards, and fed to computers. Though it was a challenge, work was still getting done smoothly. At Kirloskar, we were managing the inventory, payroll, and finance systems of various manufacturing companies. Since there were only a limited number of computers in Pune, we used to hire “computer time” on an hourly basis and manage compiling and testing of programs within the available short time. On several occasions, the computer time would only be granted during the second or third shift.
By 1983, I was heading the IT department at a German engineering company in Pune. My main job was to transition outsourced work and develop and implement information systems predominantly in the areas of finance, payroll production, and stores. I set up the IT department by recruiting a host of programmers, procured an indigenous minicomputer from ORG. During this period, Indian computer manufacturers such as ECIL, Wipro, HCL an DCM were also making their way into the burgeoning market.
One of the most memorable moments was when we decided to revamp our company’s ERP system. In 1984, our company had initially deployed MRP-II system using the Data General computer. However, this wasn’t fulfilling our needs and we were constantly struggling with our system’s performance. A year later, we took upon ourselves the herculean task of developing an indigenous ERP system to automate our company’s operations. An 11-member team was formed to take on the development work. Using probably the first version of Oracle database 5.1 available in India, we deployed an in-house ERP within a span of just one year. There were about 40 terminals provided to key functional users all over the factory.
The ERP implementation was a big success as it automated the sales, engineering, MRP, stores, production, and purchase functions. Top management was so pleased that it rewarded me and my colleague with a trip to Europe! That really motivated us to do more. And guess what? Till 2008, the ERP system was still in use in various company units in India! I think in the 80s, we were very progressive in terms of the kind of technology investment and automation that we achieved within our organization.
Today, expectations from technology have grown immensely. Though general infrastructure has improved tremendously, the complexity of business processes has also become multi-fold. It isn’t just about making an ERP system work anymore; the CIO’s role is to strategize and integrate a technology roadmap and incorporate a company’s business processes and future plans.