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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Rajan Nagarajan, CIO, Mahindra Satyam (Part 3)

Posted on Saturday, Oct 16th 2010

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini

SM: Let me go back to how Mahindra Satyam deals with CRM today. It sounds like you are seriously considering moving the entire system to salesforce.com. So, how is CRM managed today inside of Mahindra Satyam?

RN: Today we are on a conventional platform, so we use the PeopleTalk CRM platform in a very conventional way. At this moment we are deliberating whether it makes sense for us to run a conventional e-mail program; that is why we are aggressively looking at other options and figuring out if it makes sense to us to move to other cloud-based solutions available today. The other reason why we are doing that is, we have a fairly large team that offers services to implement salesforce.com and does all of the integration is required and a lot of applications for one of our clients, a large Fortune 500 company. We are doing a lot of work for the force.com platform. So that gives us a leg up, and we say, Okay, we have done this and have seen the benefits that they are reaping, so why not do it ourselves for Mahindra Satyam?

SM: So you have both expertise in and visibility of how to make that successful, and now you are bringing that in-house. You are taking this existing setup and turning that into the cloud. What about talent management? Could you talk to me a bit about the talent management function?

RN: I have not done as much research on talent management as I would have liked to, so I’m a little hesitant to give you a speculative answer. But suffice to say that one area we are particularly interested in is talent management analytics. Because at the end of the day, we need visibility on what we have, where we have it, and how we can mobilize that talent.

SM: Right.

RN: For us, the layer that is most useful now in our business is getting that talent managed efficiently. I call this analytics – the capability to manage our talent pool. We have over 30,000 people; with that number you need to be able to do analytics to use the talent pool efficiently.

SM: There are vendors with that capability, right?

RN: The other thing that shows some promise – but I have to be honest with you I haven’t been doing much research and I’m just beginning to look at it –is the ability in the area of acquiring talent, to leverage social networking phenomena such as Facebook and Twitter for talent scouting. These social networking platforms are beginning to show some promise. I would say this is true particularly not for commodity skills but for niche skills.

SM: When that capability is brought into your organization, what do you think will happen?

RN: Well, a couple of different scenarios could happen. It is in the early stages in my mind; I have to do a bit more digging into it, but I have a couple of scenarios. If you look at Facebook, for example, today Facebook brings together, among so many other things that it does, what I would call, people with like-minded interests, and if you can ask a question on Facebook such as, “Hey, I am looking to work in this area . . .” That question generates a network of people who have the skills and are interested in working in that area. The speed with which that happens, with almost no effort expended, shows a lot of promise in terms of how we can tap into that capability to look for niche talent.

SM: I am not sure if your premise is correct. I don’t think Facebook is organized to serve businesses at all, actually.

RN: You don’t think so?

SM: No, I don’t.

RN: I have to respect your judgment more than mine because my research is very preliminary.

SM: I think in concept it sounds good, but I don’t think you will be able to get much out of Facebook.

[Note to readers: You may want to read this article by Jade E of Deloitte Talent Search on how Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have become recruitment tools.]

RN: I will tell you why my antennas went up. I was traveling on the plane from Los Angeles to Frankfurt and the guy sitting next to me, a Japanese guy, is working on some hybrid automotive technology. He works for Toyota;  actually, he works for a very small firm that Toyota has hired to do research on hybrids. I asked him, How do you find these engineers for your niche research? I need some people who have done masters or PhDs in this subject. How do you go about finding talent for this? He said, I don’t know but I have heard that I can get access to such people via Twitter or Facebook. I asked him, What do you mean by getting access to such people? He said, We have a firm that manages to identify people through those channels for us. While he was not able to give me detailed information, he triggered enough thoughts in my head, and I have to do some follow-up with that guy.  There is something happening out there in that social networking world; you need to believe that it is an untapped avenue.

SM: I think the company that has really focused on doing that kind of business, matchmaking and business recruitment is LinkedIn. If you are looking for a particular skill set, they have phenomenal vertical search capabilities; there are 70 million resumes on LinkedIn. With that kind of vertical search capability and that level of resumes, you could conceivably find or at least, identify where these people are through LinkedIn. But I have to say, I know Facebook and Twitter pretty well, and I don’t think they are set up to do what you are trying to do. But anyway, so let’s move to the next topic. What are your thoughts on business models? We started the conversation at the 30,000-foot level by saying that you foresee business models evolving significantly; share with me some of your thoughts on how you see this already how you foresee business models changing.

RN: Okay, I will do that, but I need to respect the confidentiality, I will probably stay away from naming the customers that we are having conversations with, if it is okay with you.

SM: That’s fine.

RN: So, let me give you a scenario. We had a consumer packaged goods (CPG) client whom we lost because of the January 2009 crisis [in which the firm’s founder and former chairman said profits had been overstated and accounts falsified]. We lost this client purely because of a knee-jerk reaction. In fact, we lost the client within a week of our crisis because the client’s board said, This is too serious an issue, let’s walk away. It was unfortunate because that client was extremely happy with us and we were doing extremely well for the client. Now, since that time Tech Mahindra has acquired Satyam. Tech Mahindra, as you know, is very deep in the telecommunications domain. Interestingly, the same client is now looking at offering its franchisees services in the cloud in a cost-effective way because the franchisees are not able to afford conventional systems. This same client came back and said, Listen, now that you have acquired Satyam, we know Mahindra Satyam’s capability in the fundamentals of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and what it takes. Could you look at taking ERP, certain services from ERP, and since you have telecom experience, you provide us with the cloud or partner with someone who will provide us the cloud, and we can offer that to our franchisees.

SM: Let me probe this a bit; how would that work? Where is this going to be an ERP, a cloud-based system, a system that you are going to bring in from the market? Or is it one of the cloud-based ERP systems that are out there, and then you are going to work out a business model so that the franchisees all get to roll it out at a certain price and then it rolls up to the mother ship?

RN: Exactly! At the conceptual level, that is the idea. It is the very early stages of the dialogue right now. You would not take a full ERP, you will take certain core services that are important for the mother ship to be connected to the franchisees. The solution allows you to enable those services in the cloud and offer them with all the advantages of the cloud – elasticity and pay-as-you-go, and all the things that the cloud promises. They would like to offer it to their franchisees. With this, the franchisees are not burdened with capital expenses, maintenance costs or development costs, or any of that stuff. Yet the mother ship is getting all the advantages.

SM: Very interesting!

This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Rajan Nagarajan, CIO, Mahindra Satyam
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