India has the opportunity to be at the forefront of new technology adoption as there is no baggage of legacy systems and businesses can start afresh by leapfrogging directly to technologies such as the cloud, according to Cynthia Stoddard, Senior Vice President and CIO at Adobe.

“I think that India has a great opportunity because a lot of what is being done on the technology front is kind of new. So, instead of starting with a legacy of applications and infrastructure, businesses could move directly to cloud-like technologies and take advantages of those benefits,” Ms. Stoddard, who is on her first visit to India after joining Adobe earlier this year, said in an interview.

Asked about the uptake of cloud technology in India, she said, there are pockets of maturity but there are also areas that are a bit behind.

Cloud journey

“But, frankly, I don’t think it’s any different than any other place in this world. I have met other CIOs, even in the United States, and they scratch their heads when they want to figure out what their cloud journey is going to be…I think India can actually leap ahead with digitisation, you know you have been reading about things such as GST and Digital India. I think those are absolutely great opportunities to put forward to use great technologies,” she said.

Ms. Stoddard, who has over 25 years of experience leading information technology strategies and systems for global enterprises, said in India, verticals like retail and e-commerce are ahead with adoption of cloud technologies, while those such as healthcare are a bit more conservative because of personal information.

Sectors such as financial services, which were earlier conservative, are also adopting cloud services now.

“I think anytime you know you need to reach a consumer, or you have variable workloads, the cloud is a very good solution, and people are really flocking to that, because that gives you the ability to be always on and always connected to variety to different devices,” she said.

Infrastructure challenges

Adoption of technology helps get information and services to people more easily, enabling a whole new level of commerce that the country has not seen in the past, Ms. Stoddard said, adding that India is a “huge area” and there are still infrastructure challenges which need to be overcome.

“Also, India is a series of different states with different mindsets and different personalities and in order to connect the country some of them have to be a little homogenised so that you have some standard way of communicating and identifying as it passes across the country,” she added.

She said that going forward the power of data and what one can do with it to personalise the journey of customers as well as employees will be “where the next best thing is….because you have this wealth of information that you know, also there is wealth of information about behaviour that you maybe didn’t know, and you can fill the gaps…You can personalise and bring the product, and help them do their activities, and come to certain conclusions sooner they would if they were not nudged with certain information along the way.” “I think the next big frontier is going to be along the lines of providing the right experience to an individual at exactly the right time, and the only way you are going to do that is thorough data analytics, and understanding what is best for you or what is best for me, because we are two different individuals,” she said.

Data concerns

Asked about users' concerns over the security of personal data, Ms Stoddard said, “There could be some concern about it, but if you think about it from the consumer standpoint, they are willing to trade a bit of privacy for something special, because they feel like they have got a gift. You really have to balance the security and not step over the line and get too spooky with people, but help them with what they are trying to accomplish, trying to buy, or information they are trying to find, because the analytics can absolutely help them do that.”

Replying to a question on the role of traditional IT with the advent of cloud, analytics, mobility, Ms Stoddard said she believes that a hybrid model will exist.

“I don’t think that everything traditional will disappear. If you think about it, years ago we thought that mainframes would go away and would be replaced by client server and a client server would be replaced by web-based applications. And a lot of people have made the transformation to web-based, and now the cloud but there’s still a lot of mainframes around,” she said, adding that there are still a lot of legacy systems driving a lot of business around the world.


Explaining her view of the “new IT” Ms Stoddard said that the new IT understands the business problems, the capabilities needed and it also understands the library of services that are available either internally or externally from cloud/SAAS providers like Adobe. It then crafts together the appropriate solution to really solve the business problem at the time.

“If you think about it in the past what IT really used to do is that we had this basic technology internally and we used to try the problem with what we had or let’s try to fit a square into a round hole to solve the problem. Now, we have more flexibility. We can say what is your business problem, we can bring ideas to the table, we can actually go out to the cloud and experiment low cost with various solutions and bring back the pros and cons to the business people and say we’ve done this concept, we’ve tried out three different things, here’s the benefits and drawbacks and make choices that way. “The old way would be to bring it in the house, try it out and figure out whether it works out or not. So I think the new IT strategy is to bring the solutions to the business in a more agile way,” she explained.

(This article was first published in The Hindu on Aug 15, 2016)