"CRISIL Has A Unique Business Model"
Hiren Shah, Director - Technology, CRISIL speaks to Biztech2.0 about how his company leverages IT.
CRISIL has emerged as India's leading ratings, research, risk and policy advisory group over a period of time. All these business areas are powered by IT and are at the core of CRISIL's operations. The data is handled, collaborated and delivered to customers in a digital format.
The company's IT team is broadly divided into three groups – Infrastructure, Applications and Information Security. The infrastructure team takes care of hardware and networking while the applications team builds solutions for different businesses. Biztech2.0 spoke to Hiren Shah, director – Technology at CRISIL.
How would you define the Enterprise Architecture at Crisil?
The enterprise architecture is defined by various technologies with a dedicated architecture team that collaborates with the application solutions team. We have a governance mechanism both in terms of project selection and finalisation of architecture. The Architecture Review board reviews the architecture of every application before we start working on it.
We also have well-defined architecture for technologies like the reporting platform and enterprise application, which are standardised. This helps in creating solutions that are able to talk with each other. We use Web services and SOA to build enterprise solutions.
The e-mail solution that we use is Lotus Notes. Databases are standardised on the basis of requirements. Similarly, our OS for most of the applications run on Windows depends on the utility and performance of the application. We may soon choose to go in for Open Source.
What is the networking and information security scenario at CRISIL?
We have recently invested in a WAN optimisation solution. The hardware is constantly upgraded as new offices come up. We do provide secure remote access to our employees and partners so we have invested in a solution having two-factor authentication. On the software side, we have implemented a reporting platform.
Every office has its own LAN while inter-office connectivity is implemented via VPN and MPLS. There are about 12 offices on these networks operational from Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. CRISIL does business outside India through subsidiaries, for example, we function in UK through our London subsidiaries. Our offshoring business is highly automated. They capture a lot of performance-related data. The company also runs a homegrown ERP solution that works as an automated workflow application.
The security team defines the policies, processes and security frameworks with other peripheral devices like firewalls and proxies and intrusion prevention systems. The team also does an internal and external vulnerability assessment along with our internal ISO 27001 certification audit.
Can you throw some light on the Enterprise Application landscape at CRISIL?
We have applications that span through the entire lifecycle of our business processes, be it research, ratings or advisory. Each business process has its own lifecycle starting from the point of initial association with the customer for a particular project to the point of servicing the customer; each process also has very different solutions, so we have a CRM kind of solution, a workflow automation one and reporting systems that provide MIS. We also have solutions that deliver the end product to the customer, for example, there is a research delivery tool in the research business and a tool to manage the product force more efficiently in the advisory business.
For all our different businesses, we have a means to capture what our people are doing to revisit efficiencies. It is basically a time sheet kind of an application, which tells us what they are doing. We are interested in knowing the amount of time spent on a particular assignment and manage the same through MIS.
What is the criterion for the company to decide whether to buy an application or develop it in-house?
Ours is a very unique business model so there aren’t any packaged solutions available for us. We have a combination of in-built and off-the-shelf applications. Every time there is a business challenge, we do a 'build versus buy' kind of a comparison. If there is an existing product that fits most of our requirements, we buy it after doing the cost comparison. If needed, we also customise the product. For operational purposes we have chosen more in-house solutions while for corporate functions like HR or finance we have gone in for packaged solutions.
How does IT support CRISIL's Research, Advisory and Ratings Business?
Research and advisory sit on two different applications. They map the work processes that the business wants to follow. Thereafter, the information is captured and an automatic research report is generated by information tagging. Subsequently, the reports are disseminated. We are also coming up with a Web-based research offering that will significantly make our presence felt in the global market.
In the ratings business, work processes are completely automated. We have databases of financial information of various companies stored in a digitised format. For analytical purposes, our financial analysts either use software developed in-house or office suites or a combination of both.
Tell us about the ongoing IT initiatives at CRISIL.
We did the migration of some of our legacy systems and that was a major exercise to provide a new kind of architecture that we have developed. We also implemented a reporting platform about a year ago that was very well accepted. The advantage of this platform is that we now have a centralised application deployment and not a distributed client server solution, which enables us to handle infrastructure management challenges better. All our solutions are now Web based, thus, improving the accessibility of applications.
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