How questioning the status quo has proven to be the right way to operate

Originally published on Oct 24, 2021 | The Titans 2021

DAMAC Properties Chief Information Officer Jayesh Maganlal was chosen by Titans Magazine as top global CIO. The magazine sat down with him to talk about innovation in the tech world and what he is doing to push DAMAC Properties to be a tech leader in the real estate industry.

Where do you see the industry heading in the next three to five years?

 I see new technologies related to distributed cloud, digital twin, smart contracts, productization of data & advanced virtual assistant emerging in the next three to five years and these advances will be taking over the industry. Proptech in the real estate, development & construction industries will also have a massive growth spurt with a lot more technology leveraging AI, VR/AR and clean tech. I anticipate we will see a lot more start-up companies coming up with specialised products, rather than generic products that ‘do it all’, to serve this niche market.

What is your 1 year, or 3 years plan for your department? How do you plan to take the business forward with technology?

 Near term focus is on rebuilding the foundation across all stacks of technology that will be future-proof and ready for speed and agility. This includes reengineering of processes and building a robust integration layer. With this strong foundation, we will be able to, in the longer term, streamline processes across the organisation resulting in a smoother customer experience, a ready environment for plug and play for any integration with partner ecosystems and interchangeable technology stack that are able to interoperate with any new solution that meets the business requirement.

How do you build your teams?

I have always believed in attitude over aptitude. This is the foundation on which I build my teams. A good attitude helps build trust within a team and helps foster collaboration. This, in turn, increases creativity and innovation.

Can you tell me about a time you lead a culturally diverse team?

I believe in having a culturally diverse team. This brings new ideas to the table and fosters collaboration and a sense of ‘team’ among employees. It also helps to build new friendships amongst colleagues and makes living abroad easier. Diversity is always a positive thing and helps us step outside our comfort zone and learn about people from different nationalities. It helps give us a more rounded and tolerant worldview.  This has always been my motto and something that we are actively building in DAMAC. In one of my previous jobs, I managed a team that consisted of 18 different nationalities.

How do you support collaboration across departments?

I encourage open discussion, forming of virtual teams with active participation from the business users, usage of collaboration tools such as and Microsoft Teams. I believe in delivering solutions in an agile manner rather than using the traditional waterfall methodology and to fail fast and always deliver quick wins through the Minimum Viable Products (MVP) approach.

What energizes you in your current role and what depletes you?

I am energised when addressing business problems through various creative solutions, using innovation to simplify a problem and building a positive team culture. Often times I find that people can be resistant to change, and this is what depletes me. Eventually, the task gets done but the energy and lengthy discussions to get people on board and on track can really drain the energy out of me.

What was your most significant contribution in your current company and how did it impact or influence the business?

The journey of transformation is still ongoing and business acceptance to change can be difficult. When the way things are done goes unquestioned, opportunities can be lost. Questioning the status quo has proven to be the right way to operate and there are improvement opportunities in the current processes, reduction in wastage of cost and time and overall increase in value for the internal stakeholders.

 Which technologies do you think will dominate enterprise IT in the next few years?  

  • Anywhere Operations which gives ability to support customers from anywhere regardless of physical location of assets and people.
  • Hyperautomation which is the next level of automation where robotic process automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence work in perfect harmony to automate complex business processes.
  • Total Experience (TX) strategy which is the complete company experience that involves the shared experience combining User Experience (UX), Customer Experience (CX), multi-experience (MX) and Employee Experience (EX) in providing an excellent environment for not only customers but for employees and users as well.

 Do you see more CIOs taking up board positions?

Absolutely. CIOs are doing much more than keeping the lights on, they are now driving business transformation. Digital transformation is on the agenda of all the heads of department across the company. The pandemic has shown just how important and integral technology is to business survival and growth.

There is a huge drive to transform and simplify existing processes across organisations, in order to improve business efficiencies. With more CIOs being on boards this will ensure that the right development decisions are being made, with the right technology and at the right cost.

Who is the ‘CIO of tomorrow’ and what qualities will he/she imbibe?

The CIO of tomorrow understands that basics never change. Technology is a driver, but people and process remain at the centre of operations. I also think empathy is important. To understand how to fix a problem one needs to be able to listen to staff concerns and communicate clear and effective solutions.

The CIO of tomorrow will be closer to business development processes in order to improve the outcome of technology solutions required to address challenges and to promote growth. He/she will understand that process-technology is not intended to serve the business but, in fact, the business is the technology.

-Jayesh is the Chief Information Officer for DAMAC Properties. He has 21+ years of demonstrated experience in spearheading and maintaining Information Technology in global multinationals and regional industries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.