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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Mandy Edwards, CIO Of Sitel (Part 2)

Posted on Saturday, May 28th 2011

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Siddharth Garg

Sramana Mitra: This is a great example that you are moving e-mail to the cloud. What is the strategy from a vendor point of view? I have been doing a lot of these interviews, talking to a lot of CIOs, and one category that is coming up is email and productivity applications and the office suite. This entire suite, bread-and-butter applications are moving to the cloud. People are moving out of legacy systems such as Lotus Notes and so forth. So, what is your legacy system and what is it that you’re moving into?

Mandy Edwards: Well, we are moving out of the traditional exchange environment to a Microsoft-hosted solution. I find your use of words quite intriguing, because most CIOs don’t think of e-mail as being in any way, shape, or form a critical application and certainly not a core competency. So, while e-mail has become very important, it is not something that we add any value to by operating ourselves.

Sramana: That is right. I agree with you on that. And what I am hearing, basically, is that everybody in your shoes has come to the conclusion that it’s noncore and the functionality is a commodity, more or less. The entire decision is a price decision. Is that the conclusion that is driving your move as well?

Mandy: To me, it’s not so much price, because to be honest with you, most people run their e-mail infrastructure with very little cost, because everybody is sharing different parts of different people to keep it up and running. It very rarely goes wrong. To me, it is more about the distraction of having e-mail.  And when it’s not working or someone has active sync problems with getting his email onto his cell phone, that’s not something that I want my team worrying about. To me, it’s just too much of a distraction and not worth spending a lot of time on.

Sramana: Yes. Can I ask you one final question before moving on from e-mail? Did you look at Gmail versus Microsoft? Because I am hearing a lot of comments about Gmail versus Microsoft, and the numbers are in favor of Gmail, in terms of cost saving. So, I am curious if that is an evaluation you went through?

Mandy: We are a Microsoft.net environment, and we have to align with our customers on what they are using. To be honest with you, it seems to me it is the decision that made more sense to us.

Sramana: So you are a Microsoft shop and it is a natural extension of that strategy?

Mandy: Absolutely.

Sramana: So, what other functions, beyond e-mail, are you moving to the cloud at this point??

Mandy: We already use software as a service with other providers for things like our sales and marketing. [Our] CRM solution internally is also through the software as a service model.

Sramana: You said you moved your SaaS CRM system to the cloud. What software as a service or cloud application or cloud workload are you using? Function areas?

Mandy: Knowledge basis, our HR systems.

Sramana: And what is the situation with the ERP? Is that legacy system or is that on the cloud?

Mandy: That is being run internally. But I certainly do believe that is also an opportunity to use software as a service. It is just not an immediate priority.

Sramana: OK. And when you look at integration with your customers’ systems, you said that right up front, that you have to do lot of integration with your clients’ systems. What trends are you seeing in that activity? You are largely a CRM related business process outsourcing service provider. So, you are plugging into a lot of other CRM systems, yes?

Mandy: Yes.

Sramana: What trends can you synthesize for us in that area?

Mandy: I think they really cover the whole gamut from people who are trying to avoid investment in their CRM solutions [who] are limping along as fast as they can and they recognize that they are struggling with how to adapt social media, analytics and things like that into their existing legacy solutions, all the way to people who are replacing their traditional legacy CRM solutions with multimedia capabilities that allow multi-channels to leverage the same customer knowledge base to ensure that every touch point of the customer is common and linked.

Sramana: And what is the integration strategy that you follow? Do you do your own integration? Do you have third-party players who do integration?

Mandy: No, we do our own integration with our customers, and we have a very effective integration model. We have a project management office, which is responsible for executing all new client implementations. And they follow a pretty exhaustive methodology. We have done these thousands of times. We have become very effective at it. And in many cases we truly are experts in how to do this integration work effectively

Sramana: Sitel has been around for a while, right? As a business process outsourcing vendor working with clients, this integration issue has been in your business work flow for the entire time, hasn’t it?

Mandy: It has, but we have been able to evolve to accommodate it. There isn’t much that we haven’t seen. Wwhen it comes to ensuring things like agent productivity, we can usually help our clients understand how make agents as productive as possible. We have been able to leverage our practices over the years and, of course, some of our customers only know how to do this when they are actually outsourcing to a third party. So, within the walls of their own enterprises, they are somewhat limited, whereas we see the full spectrum.

Sramana: Right. I guess my question there was, How have you seen this evolve? Between the time when you guys started and in the peak cloud computing era versus now, what is different? What do you see is different?

Mandy: We have definitely moved from being an order taker. I would say, in the early days, that’s the way I would classify it. And I haven’t been in the industry …  I have been [at Sitel] for only two years, but from my experiences of being on the other side, so to speak, I would say that the industry used to be really good order takers. Now we are very much more helpful to our customers in the sense that they are actually seeking the best practice guidance from us and not just telling us what they want to do. They realize that in order to get the maximum efficiency out of the integration, they have to bear in mind all of what we have learned.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Mandy Edwards, CIO Of Sitel
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