IT Strategy Is Business Strategy

Hari Krishna knows that business success in the animal health industry relies on constant IT evolution

Throughout his career in IT, Hari Krishna’s mantra has always been “agility and delivery focus.” And as the head of IT, transversal and analytics solution center, for leading global animal health company Merial Inc., Krishna has found that mantra to be particularly vital.

“The market is dynamic, and as prices change, the business might be focusing on different things or making a complete change to what it needs,” Krishna says. “We don’t want to wait to deliver solutions.”

Throughout his sixteen years with Merial Inc., Krishna has applied his instincts for speed and adaptation throughout a broad range of projects, ranging from modernizing legacy systems to building new platforms and products. And he’s completed these projects in a way that focuses on influencing company strategy to ensure that the business and tech sides aren’t operating in silos. “My approach has been to facilitate the conversations that fuel new partnerships, mind-sets, and governance models so that business and IT strategic planning can work toward the same objective,” he says.

Hari Krishna, Merial

Krishna has steadily worked his way up through Merial since starting to work with the company in January 2001, before joining in October 2002 as a staff employee. From Nuzvid, India, Krishna moved to the United States in January 1999 after earning a degree in engineering from Andhra University and worked in a variety of IT roles in financial, logistics, and hedge fund organizations before developing an interest in animal pharmaceuticals, which was taking off as an industry at that time. When Merial offered him a chance to come on for a contract assignment as a developer, Krishna saw an opportunity to help them modernize, starting with a migration to Oracle ERP from a less advanced platform.

Within months, Merial offered Krishna a full-time position, and he has since moved from senior developer to solution architect to director of business intelligence to head of global business intelligence and analytics solution center before assuming his current role. Much of his work in doing this has been partnering with the business side directly to offer the right solutions. “It’s about knowing how the business can manage things better without IT involvement,” Krishna says.

In 2003, one of his first achievements for the company was to build a customized, automated Oracle advance-pricing engine using APIs for sales promotions during the sales order entry process—a new functionality for the Oracle advance pricing module.

Afterward, Krishna moved on to building MCASE, a custom TIBCO application error-logging system, in 2008. Previously, IT had monitored various jobs overnight, fixing errors where they occurred individually and then later reporting them to business leaders—a process that was often time-consuming. MCASE instead logged all errors that occurred overnight in a user-friendly platform.

“Now, when business leaders come in the morning, they know where there have been successes or failures,” Krishna says, adding that this allows them to make immediate fixes to the systems.

One year later, he was instrumental, along with his peers, in improving Merial’s service-level agreement uptime for all of the business critical systems. He also worked to modernize legacy systems, making Merial an early adopter of cutting edge financial planning systems as well as Informatica software in 2014.

In 2011, Krishna also orchestrated the company’s migration to its Cognos business intelligence system, making Merial one of the first five major companies to begin using it. He was able to do this within three months by ensuring that the business was partnered with the project from the beginning. “When people deliver new systems or upgrades, they often do a lot of testing before anyone is able to use them,” Krishna explains. “What we do is build a model of something and let the business start using it so that the business can see the delivery value.”

In recent years, many of Krishna’s projects have focused on big data and cloud solutions, including for social media analytics and Tableau. Rather than building infrastructure to house that data, Krishna instead began to contact various third-party companies to select a range of plans and options from developers. After monitoring their usage and value, he determined which to keep and which to drop. “Rather than spending six months to a year developing something, you’re able to use it within five days, and you don’t need support people,” Krishna says. His success in doing this has led IBM to select him as a keynote speaker on the subject at a conference in 2015.

Since then, Krishna has begun to focus on implementing new business intelligence strategies. Many of his projects focus on harnessing big data, which has been critical to the company’s current success. The new big data platforms have allowed business leaders to explore new ways to bring value to the company, Krishna says.

As a team leader, Krishna also focuses heavily on emotional intelligence to ensure that he has the trust and respect of his members and to make sure that they’re also able to do their best work for the company. He has four pillars of this that he applies to his job and organization: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management.

Working in a global role with various members across Asia, South America, North America, and Europe, Krishna also focuses on understanding different cultures, as well as different mind-sets of employees in various areas of technology. “I’m a constant learner, and I always operate on sharing knowledge and facts,” Krishna says. “When you do this, you’re able to take your team with you.” He also blocks out four hours for himself every Friday to either work on relationship building with other IT and business leaders to explore more opportunities to help, or to spend time researching and learning about changes in the market and at other companies.

As Merial has recently been acquired by Boehringer Ingelheim, Krishna is looking forward to continuing to build and deliver new solutions across the organization, and he’s looking forward to working with new business partners to do so. “The company is evolving constantly, which is an exciting challenge,” Krishna says.

Editor’s note: Hari Krishna is currently working as Head IT GBE Program Management at Boehringer-Ingelheim

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