"Managing IT Infrastructure Needs To Support Birla Sunlife's Expansion Plans"
Dilip Sharma, head - IT, Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund discusses how the company's expansion plans will affect the current IT set up.
Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund is in a rapid expansion mode, with plans to increase the branch count from 28 to 120, by the end of the current fiscal. However, such an expansion would be accompanied by a host of changes in the IT infrastructure and Dilip Sharma, head – IT, Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund discusses the same with Biztech2.
How will the expansion affect the current IT set up?
Birla Sunlife Mutual Fund is planning to set-up about 90 to 120 branches across the country by the end of the FY 2007-08. We were 28 before March this year and have increased the count to 63 by now.
Basically, the ‘Business Capacity Planning’ will support the expansion plans. As a part of it, there will be an increased demand for employees, bandwidth, hardware, software, licenses for Lotus Notes and OS. On the hardware side, we are upgrading the HP servers with dual core.
In some locations, the 32 Kbps lines will be upgraded to 256 Kbps and very soon the leased lines and VSATS will be replaced by MPLS Circuits. The IT Infrastructure will be shared between Birla Sun Life Distribution Fund, Mutual Fund and the Insurance businesses.
The deadlines are set in a way that the entire IT set-up will be ready to function within one month of the management’s instruction to go live.
How, according to you, should a mutual fund company plan out its IT infrastructure, while embarking on an expansion spree?
There are four important points that the mutual fund company should work on - Security, Availability, Scalability and Performance.
The company should see to it that the system is appropriately secured on all the gateways of access to the network. The availability of system uptime should also be assured as the stock market is subject to volatility. If the performance of the system is not up to the mark then it can have serious business implications. For instance, one cannot buy or sell a scrip for a desired price if the system is down, because by the time the system is up the price of the scrip might have changed.
The IT manager should also make it a point that the IT requirements are well within the IT budget.
Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund runs about 45 different applications that have been developed in-house. Why this inclination towards in-house development?
The applications that we run demand a lot of customisation due to the typical data requirements of the various departments. The back office and accounts departments require data in different formats, time and regions. Importantly, the fund managers and the investment department requires typical solution for number crunching for the decision making process on the various scrips they are working on. Hence, it would not be feasible to hire a vendor for these services as it would result in increased cost and time.
However we are developing some solutions like Lotus Notes with vendors for specific applications. The areas not under the scope of our expertise are outsourced to the vendors.
How often do you invest in hardware infrastructure?
The infrastructure is budgeted on a monthly, half yearly and yearly basis. As a policy, the shelf life for a desktop and laptop is fixed for five and three years respectively.
For servers, we get free service for the initial three years and subsequently they are used for functions that demand less processing.
Sometimes, the machines have to be phased out due to unavailability of support.