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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Rajan Nagarajan, CIO, Mahindra Satyam (Part 1)

Posted on Thursday, Oct 14th 2010

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini

In one of the most thought-stirring interviews with Rajan Nagarajan CIO, Mahindra Satyam, Sramana discusses cloud computing adoption from the point of view of large systems integrators such as Mahindra Satyam. In addition to talking about how big consulting companies are leveraging clouds, Sramana and Rajan have a thought-provoking exchange about open opportunities in cloud computing for entrepreneurs, a discussion which has whetted my appetite for more and raised the bar for idea-churning discussions as part of this series, Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing (TLCC).

Rajan Nagarajan began his career as an engineer and transitioned to information technology consulting. He joined Ford Motor Company in 1986 as a systems analyst and rapidly moved through the Ford IT organization. Later he worked as CIO of Philips Medical Systems and at Kellogg’s as vice president and chief information officer. He also served as CIO at JBS Swift & Co.

Rajan received his BS in mechanical engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Pilani, India; an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, India; and an MS in computer science from Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan.

Mahindra Satyam is a leading system integrator and services company dealing with information, communications and technology (ICT) and providing business consulting, information technology and communication services. With close to $1.3 billion in annual revenues and a workforce of over 30,000 strong, the company has development and delivery centers in the United States, Canada, Brazil, the UK, Hungary, Egypt, UAE, India, China, Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia that serve numerous clients, including many Fortune 500 companies. Mahindra Satyam is part of the $7 billion Mahindra Group, a global industrial conglomerate that is one of the top 10 industrial firms based in India. The group’s interests span financial services, automotive products, trade, retail and logistics, information technology, and infrastructure development.

SM: Welcome to this discussion, Rajan. I would like to understand where you are in terms of cloud computing adoption at Mahindra Satyam. Can you touch upon what is happening at Mahindra Satyam and also talk from a more generic scope about what you see based on conversations with other CIOs and leaders in the industry?

RN: Sure. We, just like anybody else out there, have been deliberating cloud computing intensely because I think, first, in our opinion, this technology or paradigm will create a tectonic shift in several ways. It will redefine how enterprises work. It will definitely create new business models, it will certainly change the way typical systems integrators like Mahindra Satyam and others operate and provide services for their customers. More than anything else, it will spark, at least in my opinion, a new wave of innovative capabilities that we have not even tapped yet. When we sit back and look at a paradigm shift that is occurring, there are two ways of looking at it. From my vantage point, on the one hand, it is a significantly disruptive paradigm, but on the other hand I think it is a paradigm that brings with it a tremendous amount of opportunity.

SM: Where are you in terms of adoption? Have you started rolling out cloud technologies in your organization?

RN: Yes, absolutely. What we have done is looked at it from the perspective of internal consumption. First and foremost we have embarked on something called a “MOM initiative.” MOM stands for “Mahindra Satyam on Mahindra Satyam.”

SM: Okay.

RN: This is an initiative sponsored by me, and the idea was that an increasing number of customers are willing to accept what the CIOs of IT services companies are doing, as a test bed and as a validation of their capability. The first thing was to ask, What are we going to do? We did virtualization as the fundamental step of our data center. For example, in the past six months we have taken five of our data centers, virtualized them, and managed to get rid of all the servers and hardware that were sitting there not on warranty. By doing this, we added almost 60% new capacity without spending an additional dollar. Now, we virtualize any request for computing capacity; there is no more dedicated hardware for anything that we do internally.

The second we asked was, We are a people- intensive business, so how can we get our more than 30,000 associates to focus on customers’ work rather than administrative overhead? For the next step, we moved all our internal processes, one by one, to a cloud-based service. For example, time sheets, travel approval, and all the fundamental things that need to be done to run our business and operations are being migrated to the cloud.

SM: And you are developing those applications yourselves, I presume?

RN: Those applications exist but are not cloud enabled or mobility enabled, so we are re-engineering them to be cloud enabled and available on the go.

SM: Okay, so that applies to the business-specific documents, like you said, time sheets, management and travel authorization, and things like that. What about business process applications like CRM, talent management or human development management, or benefits management?

RN: There is an order of priority in which we are picking these; our idea is to accelerate this process and attack each process. Now, just to give you an idea, we are also looking at piloting internally Siebel-on-demand because we offer Siebel-on-demand to our own customers. So, from a CRM perspective we want to know, Can we pilot that ourselves to be cloud enabled?

Because we run a business ourselves, we also have customers. So, for us, the same life cycle exists for our sales force and what they can do. We are looking at options and asking, Should we do something like Siebel on-demand or salesforce.com for our own sales community?

SM: Okay, so you are evaluating one of the other cloud-based CRM systems for your own purposes?

RN: That is correct.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Rajan Nagarajan, CIO, Mahindra Satyam
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