When Lalit Panda joined D&M Holdings Inc. as global CIO in August 2009, he faced an IT innovation challenge worthy of his degree from MIT's Center for Transportation and Logistics.
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Privately owned by Boston-based Bain Capital LLC, D&M Holdings is a distributor of high-end audio and video components for the emerging home networking and home theater markets, as well as for commercial installations. D&M was formed in 2002 with the merger of Denon Ltd. and Marantz Japan Inc. The company, based in Kanagawa, Japan, has grown to 2,500 employees through acquisitions of such brands as Boston Acoustics, McIntosh and Snell Acoustics.
By the time Panda arrived, D&M's acquisition strategy had netted it 14 enterprise resource planning suites, 54 email domains, more than 200 websites, 250 servers, and several data centers and network providers.
"It was a tangled, disparate scenario," Panda recalled. "The goal was to streamline, to build a global, functional organization in IT -- a single global database, a single version of truth."
Innovation around business processes
Like a supply chain expert, the CIO is in a prime position to see what goes on in every corner of a company -- how the internal supply chain operates. This end-to-end visibility translates into knowledge of where business processes can be streamlined or improved through IT innovation, Panda said.
"In many respects, these two technology trends [cloud and network computing], complementary as they are, are going to revolutionize IT and the way IT delivers value to the business."
Lalit Panda, CIO, D&M Holdings Inc.
It was easy to see that D&M's websites, with a mishmash of technologies and management contracts (some by third-party vendors), made it difficult for the company to promote a cohesive message.
"So, we built a global infrastructure based on SharePoint to deliver a consistent template for the brand," Panda said. The solution empowered D&M's marketing team to be flexible and responsive, he said, able to manage the websites directly without having an intermediary in the process. This allows the marketing people to "innovate and modify and change and manage their websites, and we created a process to enable that. It's a very fascinating project, not only from technology, but the brand aspect," he added.
The CIO is critical in finding the right leverage points for IT innovation, Panda pointed out, but it's equally important to "be able to execute to that." The point is to be an enabler of innovation.
There is a lot of innovation in product development, for example, with a whole process behind it, Panda said. "Systems can help speed up that process, improve the collaborative aspects of the process, and help the company bring a product to market quicker."
Cloud, VPN bring it all together
Two technologies in particular are helping D&M increase the speed with which it brings products to market: cloud computing services and its global virtual private network (VPN).
One of the first solutions Panda chose was a cloud-based business intelligence (BI) software service (from Oco Inc.) that enabled company executives to understand the information pouring in from various brands. The distributed nature of D&M's business made a BI cloud service attractive, but more importantly, "the monthly payment and initial installation cost is substantially less expensive than hosting one of the big solutions in-house," he said.
- Lalit Panda arrives at D&M Holdings Inc.
- Contracts with a BI SaaS provider to analyze data from disparate sources.
- Installs a global VPN (from Verizon) to enable a future of "networked computing."
- Launches a SharePoint solution to put everyone on the same page.
- Moves email and collaboration to the cloud with Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite. -- L.S.
"We think [the cloud] is definitely a way to go in the future. Instead of doing a lot of stuff on the desktop, we'd like to take it to the cloud," Panda said.
For example, the company has since signed on with Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite, or BPOS, and Panda is negotiating a contract for email, instant messaging, Live Meeting, SharePoint online, and online media conferencing. "We're one of their first customers," he said.
"I think the trend is going in that direction where we'll end up with common applications running on a centralized basis, and you can access that application wherever you are, whether you are in your office or in transit somewhere or in a hotel room, and be able to operate seamlessly; so I think that's one technology trend we see has a big impact [on innovation]," Panda said.
The other technology trend affecting innovation is the power of the network. "We've implemented our global VPN. [We] obviously use it for voice, data, a lot of other things; but in the future, I think this global network is going to be the backbone for enabling what I would call network computing, in the sense that most of your activity happens through the network, whether it is in the way you communicate with your colleagues in audio or in video, or in terms of how you interact with the applications that support your business."
In many respects, these two technology trends, complementary as they are, will revolutionize IT and the way IT delivers value to the business, Panda said.
The innovative CIO as business executive
Working closely with D&M's other executives to understand the business drivers, Panda attends an annual strategy meeting, after which he makes a presentation to "identify where process innovation can help the business meet its goals of being able to respond to our customer needs."
The executives then meet quarterly to ensure the IT strategy stays on track -- a methodology that has helped Panda transform D&M from an unwieldy universe of disparate systems to a cohesive global network that "reduces the friction" in the pipeline, he says, and makes the future for this company crystal clear.
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