India – ICT Revolution not Evolution
I have one of those jobs that puts me on a plane, regularly. My wife and kids accept it because it is my choice of job – it has its ups and downs (pardon the pun). In fact, I’m writing this blog entry on route to Japan having had a weekend at home after an inspiring week in India. I use the word inspiring because jumping on a plane week after week can be a physical and mental challenge, so when you see a path to real outcomes, it is inspiring.
I never bothered with setting career goals and I haven’t been what you would typically refer to as “ambitious”. I’ve just evolved with the industry and pivoted as I’ve gone along. Interesting word “pivot” … in the small business context it’s the correct term to use when the path forward is blocked and the business has to change direction or there very quickly won’t be a business. I learnt that in my 4 years running a Tech Start-up (more about that later). In the same way, the dynamic nature of the ICT industry demands that you are adaptable or you quickly become irrelevant. The art of staying relevant as a small business and also for an ICT professional is being flexible and confident enough to embrace change. That’s one thing I preach to my kids along with reminding them that, as a rule, we are good at what we like and we like what we are good at – so, try things; you will naturally gravitate to what you like and hopefully you will be good enough at it to have a rewarding career. These days our professional careers are so intertwined with our life outside of work, that to separate them creates an artificial environment. Employers accept that there needs to be a work-life balance and the smart ones develop a culture that rewards productivity and outcomes rather than measure time behind a desk. Personally, I love the challenge of applying technology to solve societal problems. So, having responsibility at SAP for Public Services across the Asia Pacific and Japan region is perfect for me.
My first trip to India was about 6 weeks ago, on my way back to Perth after visiting SAP head office in Walldorf. My expectations for India were, in one word, stereotyped … visions of call centres, traffic jams, cricket, hot weather and millions of people. I landed in Delhi at 1am. It had been 47 degrees Celsius that day and walking outside to meet my driver still felt like the hottest of summer days. One expectation met.
I travelled in the back of a Toyota Prius for around 30 minutes listening to a chorus of what seemed to be a thousand horns, almost in unison. It reminded me of a year 7 music class where the kids are all playing the recorder, badly. That said, traffic wasn’t as bad as I had heard it would be. I made a mental note that arriving in the middle of the night is not so crazy.
From touching down at 1am, I found myself in my (very nice) hotel room before 2am. That in itself is not special, but it is competitive with any other airport from an efficiency perspective. It was a classic “straight through process”. You could argue that I had a good run with immigration, traffic etc. All true and I’m sure that there are as many people with tails of woe as there are with examples like mine. However, my first point of this article is that India knows what it wants to do and has plans for how to do it. The second point is that the cultural acceptance of the need to change and more importantly, the willingness to embrace change provides an environment that has the best chance of success. This is, in essence, the point of this article.
So, to my most recent trip to India where I met with 7 SAP Public Services customers over 3 days in 4 different cities. In every conversation was a sense of gratitude and a clear willingness to partner, rather than adopt a customer-vendor relationship. In my time working on transformational programmes in the public services domain in more mature ICT environments, I’ve learnt that the only way for the government to reach its desired outcome is through partnerships.
Change is happening in India, led right from the top; the Prime Minister. Unlike a lot of mature countries where 20 years of ICT promise has cultivated a sceptical outlook, India has a feel of excitement and willingness founded on belief. Belief in ICT. What choice is there? More of the same and incremental change will not address the fundamental challenges India faces around Transportation, Power and Energy, Water and Sanitation, not to mention the huge task of creating employment for hundreds of millions as the country urbanises. Unlike other countries where ICT adoption is an evolutionary “step-change” model, India is in the midst of executing an ICT revolution and the revolution is well co-ordinated, with what seems to be unilateral support. The reason that I am so inspired is because what I see is that people are respectful and most importantly, they care. That’s what will get me on a plane.
SAP is there, leading, helping, supporting and most of all, SAP is caring.
I’m going to finish this article on the same thought that I started on – I travel a lot with my job. India is a destination that I have no complaints about travelling to. My hope is that I can contribute to the change and growth of the country and be part of the Revolution.