By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: Here is a slightly tricky question but let me ask you anyway. In Indian IT services companies, there is a huge “not invented here” syndrome. I’m encouraged to hear that you are evaluating off-the-shelf CRM solutions from companies like Oracle, Siebel, and salesforce.com, which is a product from a different vendor. You are not building an entire CRM system internally for yourself. Can you comment on what is going on in the Indian industry, in general, along those lines, because I get the sense that everybody is re-inventing everything!
RN: Well, to some extent, I do not know whether I would agree completely with you that the “not-invented here” syndrome is as prevalent now as you characterized it as being. The shift that I see now started about two or three years ago. One of the reasons for that shift has nothing to do with cloud, I think. The reason is that IT industries finally recognized that they have to run their internal IT capabilities with a professional CIO. When you bring in a professional CIO, that person is not going to be put under the radar and not be under pressure. I was giving a speech in New York about a month ago, and they asked me to comment on what I consider the biggest challenge of being a CIO of an Indian IT services company. I said that my biggest challenge is the fact that there are 32,000 people in the company who believe that they can perform my job better than I can.
SM: That has been the case for all of these companies for a long, long time.
RN: You are absolutely correct. That used to be the cult, but I see a shift that started about two years ago where these companies are beginning to realize that it is not possible to evangelize the cult for their internal purposes.
SM: That’s good! I’m glad to hear that. I recently interviewed a company that is the largest e-commerce company in India, and they have re-designed it all. They have basically built their own warehouse management system. I’m puzzled by why someone would rebuild a warehouse management system and customer relationship management system. Why would you do that?
RN: Exactly! It does not make sense.
SM: They told me that their requirements and needs are so different from the available solutions, I thought, you know that’s not really feasible; I just don’t buy that.
SM: Okay. So, switching back to where you are, to what you are evaluating. When you think through your standard business processes for which there are multiple vendors and multiple cloud computing vendors, whether it is ERP, CRM, analytics, or HR, how to you prioritize the workloads you are going to move to the cloud?
RN: It is a combination of things. We always have to realize the following:
a) What is the application that renders greatest business value in the shortest possible time? So, any application that we have to look at, we have to consider which group within the organization it renders the most value to.
b) How quickly does it render that value? That is how the prioritization process begins. This is important because speed is of essence. Our industry, I would say, has moved into a phase where everything has started to move extremely rapidly.
The reason I told you about salesforce.com or Siebel is because I think for us, our sales is driven by, is still driven by people.
RN: The salespeople need the help to follow a lead, to convert a lead, and the entire life cycle of what I call “discover-to-deal” process is where they need the most help. So, that is how to prioritize. The second one in this context that I would like to bring up is in the area of talent.
You need to be able to know where and what talent is and how quickly you can mobilize that talent depending on what business deal you have just won or acquired.
SM: Right. So, let me ask you about these two topics, and they make perfect sense to me, especially for an IT services company: CRM and talent management seem to be two obvious areas where you would want to throttle in. The cloud adapts very well to a distributed workforce. So, let me ask you your thoughts for a before-and-after scenario. What is going on in your organization today related to CRM? How are CRM and talent management handled from an IT point of view? And, second, what are you looking for in cloud vendors, and which vendors are you considering?
RN: I think for CRM, frankly, we have to give a lot of credit to a company like salesforce.com. I think they have clearly the lead; they were trailblazers and they had the foresight to look at what it could do and look at where they are in terms of their offering. Salesforce is revolutionary in the way we think about the full content. I mean, today we are using the terminology of cloud and SaaS, but even before that terminology had gathered momentum, salesforce.com had already established what they can do for you.
SM: They were instrumental in the creating the SaaS nomenclature of the industry.
RN: In my opinion, they have a significant lead when it comes to CRM. Now look at what they have been able to do because of that. If you look at force.com, they have essentially now given you a platform, a task platform to develop applications around salesforce.com, if you will.
RN: So, all of a sudden you find that they have actually given you, they may not have intended it, or maybe they designed it in and they knew all along what they are doing but they are actually giving you an entire platform, a cloud platform on which to develop applications.