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7 Questions on Leadership with Kumar Prasoon


Name: Kumar Prasoon


Title: Founder & CEO


Organisation: Y100.ai


Enterprise Digital Leader 2017 and Digital Retail Leader 2018 by MIT Sloan Review and the Khaleej Times plus CIO of the Year 2018 /2019/2020/2021, Kumar Prasoon is recognised as one of the Global Topmost CIOs in the Middle East and Africa (MEA), Asia and also at the international level. In this prominent role, he makes technology recommendations for the group’s executive management on the aspects of Fuzzy Analytics, Business Intelligence; BigData, IoT /IIoT, BlockChain, cloud computing, enterprise 2.0, integrated systems architecture and virtualization. Being the founder of Fuzzy Analytics Framework and Modern Industrial Complex Mathematical Calculus for Emerging Technologies, Kumar is also the global leading Industry Researcher, Scientist and Technology Evangelist for Smart Systems, Smart Retailing, Smart Cities, Smart Parking, Smart Engineering , Smart Instrumentation , Smart Metering and Industry Quantum Mechanics employing the Modern Emerging Technologies. He chairs as an advisory board member with numerous national and international consortiums in the capacity of consulting, research and bringing supreme Industry Innovations. Another strong facet is his contribution to the Academia Sector for the Global Universities from Far East to West where he has mentored , coached and executed successful projects with hundreds of incumbents in Bachelors , Masters and Doctorates in Engineering , IT , Business and Management in the areas of Emerging Technologies , Emerging Markets and Emerging Systems. Currently he is the Founder & CEO – Y100 dot AI which specializes in Next Generative AI Enabled CXO Advisory Services globally.


Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!


I hope Kumar's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Cheers,

Jonno White



1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?


Being a Transformational CIO leader is akin to navigating a complex and ever-changing landscape. The challenges are multi-faceted, demanding a delicate balance between technological prowess and adept people management. Let's dive into the key challenges faced by leaders in this transformative role.


1. Technological Evolution:

The rapid pace of technological advancements is a double-edged sword. While new technologies offer unprecedented opportunities, they also pose the challenge of keeping up. The CIO must stay ahead of the curve, understanding emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, and cloud computing, and assessing their relevance to the organization's goals.


2. Legacy Systems Integration:

Many organizations still operate with legacy systems that have been in place for years. Integrating these with new, cutting-edge technologies poses a significant challenge. It requires a strategic approach to ensure a seamless transition without disrupting critical business processes.


3. Data Security and Privacy:

In the era of digital transformation, data has become one of the most valuable assets. However, this influx of data brings with it heightened concerns about security and privacy. CIOs must implement robust cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive information, navigate compliance regulations, and build a culture of data ethics within the organization.


4. Change Management:

Transforming an organization involves changing not just systems but also the mindset of its workforce. Resistance to change is a common challenge, and the CIO must skillfully navigate through it. Effective change management strategies, clear communication, and employee training programs are essential to ensure a smooth transition.


5. Talent Acquisition and Retention:

Attracting and retaining top-tier tech talent is an ongoing challenge. The demand for skilled professionals often exceeds the supply, and CIOs must devise strategies to identify, recruit, and retain individuals with the right expertise. This may involve investing in employee development programs and creating a workplace culture that fosters innovation.


6. Budget Constraints:

Transformation initiatives come with a hefty price tag. Balancing the need for innovation with budget constraints requires strategic financial planning. CIOs must justify investments, prioritize projects, and demonstrate the return on investment to secure ongoing support from the executive team.


7. Stakeholder Alignment:

Ensuring that technological initiatives align with the overall business strategy is crucial. CIOs must bridge the gap between the IT department and other business units, gaining the support and understanding of stakeholders. Effective communication and collaboration are key to ensuring that technology becomes an enabler rather than a hindrance.


In conclusion, the role of a Transformational CIO leader is undoubtedly challenging, requiring a blend of technical expertise, strategic vision, and strong leadership skills. Successfully navigating these challenges can lead to not only technological advancements but also a more agile, innovative, and resilient organization.


2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?


It was 2003 when I did proudly graduate my Bachelor of Technology from the National Institute of Advanced Manufacturing Technology – NIAMT (formerly known as National Institute of Foundry and Forge Technology) and my final year project was on “Petrinet Modeling in the Next Generation Manufacturing and Metallurgical systems” which is an advanced form of Robotics in Manufacturing Engineering.That project did qualify me for a Post-Graduate Program at the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), wherewith the blessings of Dr. K R Srivatsan, Dr. R Bhaskaran, Dr. Venkatesh Chopella, and Dr. Elizabeth Sherly; I did learn about the humongous future of engineering industries and Smart Cities while integrating Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) which is now popularly known as Industry4.0. So, seeds of a rigorous super-intellectual Research Centric Innovation Itinerary were already planted at the academia level. With a brief professional stint in India till 2006 covering the USA, Europe and then 12 years (2008-2020) in the Middle East in Dubai (UAE), I got broad exposure to Information Technology Phases in different parts of the world in various IT roles like Software Engineer, Team Leader, Project Leader, and Principal Enterprise Architect, CIO and a Chief Operations Officer. A few notable accomplishments in this transformational journey were Enterprise Digital Leader 2017 and Digital Retail Leader 2018 by MIT Sloan Review (MIT SR) plus CIO of the Year 2018/2019/2020/2021 while making technology recommendations for the enterprises on the aspects of Fuzzy Analytics, Business Intelligence; BigData, IOT/IIOT, Block-Chain, cloud computing, enterprise 2.0, integrated systems architecture and virtualization.


Then in 2013, I founded the Fuzzy Analytics Framework (www.cnmeonline.com/bigdatasymposium/docs/Kumar-Prasoon.pdf), and Modern Industrial Complex Mathematical Calculus for Emerging Technologies, that did pave my path6 to be a global leading Industry Researcher, Scientist, and Technology Evangelist for Smart Systems, Smart Retailing, Smart Cities, Smart Parking, Smart Engineering, Smart Instrumentation, Smart Metering, and Industry Quantum Mechanics employing the Modern Emerging Technologies. A lot of these innovations were chaired with numerous national and international consortiums in the capacity of consulting, research, and bringing supreme Industry Innovations. Another strong facet in this Digital Transformation Trajectory had been the contribution to the Academia Sector for the Global Universities from the Far East to West where I had mentored, coached, and executed successful projects with hundreds of incumbents in Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorates in Engineering, IT, Business, and Management in the areas of Emerging Technologies, Emerging Markets, and Emerging Systems. This approach kept the learning curve hyperactive.


3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?


My days are a delightful blend of order and spontaneity. I like to start things off on a positive note, so my mornings usually involve some form of intellectual exercise—whether it's an interesting research or reading some mind boggling article.


After getting the blood pumping, it's time to dive into the day's tasks. I tackle the more challenging and creative stuff in the morning when my mind is fresh and fueled by a hearty breakfast. I try to follow the Pomodoro technique, breaking my work into focused chunks with short breaks in between. It helps maintain productivity without burning out.


Lunch is a sacred pause. I step away from the digital realm, savoring a good meal and maybe catching up on some reading. The afternoon is when I handle meetings and correspondence. Collaboration is key, and connecting with others keeps the day vibrant.


As the evening approaches, I wind down with lighter tasks—wrapping up loose ends, planning for the next day, and possibly indulging in a bit of creative writing or learning something new. Dinner is a relaxed affair, and I make sure to detach from screens for a while to give my mind a breather.


Before hitting the hay, I might engage in a bit of mindfulness or catch up on a favorite show or book. Sleep is non-negotiable in my schedule—it's where the magic of mental rejuvenation happens.


4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?


Leadership lessons are like fine wine—sometimes, they get better with time. Recently, I was reminded (for the umpteenth time, but who's counting?) of the power of adaptability in the realm of CIO transformational leadership.


The tech landscape is like a constantly evolving puzzle. Just when you think you've got the pieces figured out, a few more are added, and the picture shifts. The ability to adapt and pivot is not just a skill; it's a survival tactic.


In a recent scenario, a planned technology integration hit a snag due to unforeseen compatibility issues. The initial reaction could have been panic or frustration, but the leadership lesson here was to adapt swiftly. It meant revisiting the strategy, collaborating with the team, and being open to alternative solutions.


Flexibility, it turns out, is a superhero cape in the world of CIO transformation. It's not just about having Plan B; it's about having the agility to create a Plan C on the fly.


5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?


One book that left its mark on my leadership landscape is "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek.


Sinek's exploration of leadership, grounded in empathy and a deep understanding of human behavior, struck a chord. The central idea that great leaders prioritize the well-being of their team, putting them first, resonated profoundly.


The impact was more felt than seen. It was like adjusting a lens—the focus shifted from merely steering the ship to fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose. The book underlined the notion that a leader isn't just a title; it's a responsibility to those you lead.

One vivid incident stands out. In a particularly challenging phase, instead of rallying the troops with a grand speech, I took a page from Sinek's book (literally). I gathered the team, shared some insights from the book, and initiated an open dialogue about how we could support each other better.


The transformation wasn't instant, but over time, there was a noticeable shift in the team dynamics. The sense of unity and shared mission became the driving force. It wasn't just about achieving goals; it was about doing so with a sense of collective achievement and well-being.


"Leaders Eat Last" became a guiding philosophy rather than just a book on a shelf. It shaped the way I approached challenges, emphasizing that leadership is not about being served but about serving others.


6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?


On best practices/industry trends, I go back to my Post Graduate Business and Strategy Program @ Alliance Manchester Business School which helped me integrate Business Frameworks like Hayes-WheelWright Model, 8S Strategy, 9 P Framework with IT Governance Model to render the following strategies:-


• Exploring the benefits of Digital Transformation towards resilience and continuous fiscal growth

• Learning the forefront and futuristic projects through optimized clustering policies for high-tech industries and other key sectors

• Examining competitive Global market towards the advance progress in aerospace, digitalization, energy, and automation

He said, I always promulgate Dr. Stephen Covey’s 7 habits from his famous book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

• Be Proactive

• Begin with the End in Mind

• Put First Things First

• Think Win-Win

• Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

• Synergize

• Sharpen the Saw


7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?


Ah, let me weave a tale from the annals of leadership (or my virtual approximation of them). Picture this:

In the midst of a major tech overhaul, the team was navigating the labyrinth of integrating new systems. As with any grand transformation, there were hiccups—some anticipated, others popping up like surprise guests at a party.


Amidst the chaos, a junior team member, known for their quiet brilliance, unearthed a solution to a particularly thorny issue. It wasn't just a fix; it was a stroke of genius that simplified a complex process.


Now, the leadership lesson here was not just about the power of collective intelligence but also about recognizing and celebrating the unsung heroes. In the next team meeting, instead of the usual PowerPoint parade, the spotlight shifted to this unsung genius. The quiet achiever became the hero of the hour, their solution dissected and praised.


The ripple effect was delightful. Team members started sharing their insights more freely, realizing that brilliance wasn't just reserved for the higher-ups. It fostered a culture of collaboration and innovation that outlasted the tech overhaul.


In essence, the story is a reminder that leadership is not just about steering the ship; it's about empowering every sailor on board to navigate and innovate.


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