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September 1, 2014

Our Second Third

Posted by Dr. Vishal Sikka (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:39 AM

Originally published on TIMELESSNESS - Musings on Constants and Other Invariants

It's been a month since I started as the CEO of Infosys.  An intense and rewarding journey.  And journey is a key word here: I've been on the road a lot.  And perhaps that is fitting, especially when charting a new course, that the thinking of it happens on planes, trains and automobiles heading in all kinds of directions.

Late in the evening of my very first day, I found myself in our university in Mysore, addressing ~13k of our fired up, screaming, trainees in the amphitheater of our magnificent campus. And that campus, which I'd heard so much about over the years, was far beyond my expectations. Its beauty, its attention to detail, its magnitude, and its sheer awesomeness, is something to behold. Almost 350 acres, lush green, massive use of renewable energy, and just a great example of sustainability and smart city innovation. And the university itself is an extraordinary institution. We can train ~16k resident students concurrently with a world-class team of educators. Truly exemplifying the spirit of a company that is founded on education, on learning. As my mom used to say, when we can learn anything, we can do anything. And nowhere is that simple truth more evident than in our Mysore campus, where you get the palpable feeling that the young trainees, on their way to great companies in the world to do great work, can do anything, because they can learn anything. It became clear to me that revitalizing our learning core must be a key focus for us going forward.

And yesterday I was in Lodz, Poland, where one of our largest BPO team works from. Part of an enterprise that endeavors to run nothing less than the mission-critical business processes of some of the largest companies in the world. Our team collectively processes hundreds of billions of dollars in trade on behalf of our clients, just the procurement processes oversee more than 1% of the world's business trade!  But what amazed me the most was our team there. Their passion, desire to improve, their creativity, was amazing, and infectious. The way Business Process Outsourcing has come to be, what I refer to as yesterday's BPO, is not so relevant to businesses anymore. We can do better. We must do better. And at Lodz one can see how automation, intelligence technologies, collaboration technologies, design-thinking, and a culture of continuous improvement both radical and incremental, will completely rethink BPO, into something far more exciting and relevant. One that is focused on innovation, on a deep understanding of how business is done, and on amplifying our teams with technology and automation and AI techniques, so they can deliver amazing business value and solutions, not merely augmenting them in a dreary downward spiral of cost. It was exhilarating.

And in between these two experiences, there was:

- Connect 2014 in Las Vegas, where our worldwide sales team as well as many partners were gathered. It was great to be with this fired up team, sharing strategy and roadmap, opportunities and concerns, and to just understand and learn and connect.
- Tons of hanging out with Infoscions across the board, learning the company's culture and fabric (and the bounty of TLAs that Infoscions seem to rattle off fluently). I've been reading about our products, analysts reports, our processes, many many examples of code and experiences, and also the 2700+ concrete ideas that were submitted by Infoscions as part of the Murmuration.
- An offsite of 3 great days with our entire leadership team, in the august environs of my alma mater Stanford, thinking thru things, fighting thru issues old and new, small and big, mundane and sublime, as well as hanging out at the d.school doing a great embrace of design thinking, sitting down with startup companies and listening to many friends from the industry and the valley, talking about the road ahead for us.
- And more than 20 enlightening sessions with clients and partners.

What all of this has made clear, more than ever before, is that the world around us is being transformed in a fundamental way with software, with computing and communication technologies. As bits reshape and pervade the atoms all around us, connecting us and the world around us, most businesses find themselves in a struggle to survive, to transform themselves and to be relevant in the times to come. And in this struggle sits the great opportunity for us, the great opportunity of our times. Every client I talk to, invariably has two distinct sets of priorities:

  1. Renewing their existing systems and landscapes and activities.Opening up their existing systems, to the benefits of cloud computing and other technologies, opening them up to the pervasive connectedness around us, whether of mobility, or connected systems and sensors, or analytics and complex data science techniques for business improvements and also achieving operational efficiencies in their existing operations.
  2. Building completely new systems to help their businesses grow in new ways, in 'being digital' as Nicholas Negroponte presaged 20 years ago. New intelligent systems and applications, built on new platforms, in new unprecedented areas of business, where software is making its way for the very first time, and where previous generation systems simply can't be transformed or bent into.  And these systems must be built in completely new ways, with new economics, even sometimes with new business models.

This dichotomy of Renew and New, is the basis for our clients' future. And it must be ours too. In many ways it is a timeless dichotomy. Alan Kay (and Arthur Koestler) called it the pink plane and the blue plane. Our clients must transform themselves with this dual priority. And so must we. Our transformation must enable, and follow from, that of our clients. And to enable all of this, we have to invest in our future, in deep employee engagement and massive two-way communication, in research and technology and learning new ways, new hows and new whats, and especially in education. Our team and I are working thru all these matters. I am looking forward to starting to share elements of our road ahead beginning in mid-October. But for now it is clear that our work ahead will be driven by

- our grounding in education,
- while continually improving and optimizing our existing business areas with better processes and better automation/intelligence in all walks of our business, and
- in embracing and practicing design-thinking and innovation to help us and our clients explore their great new frontiers.

I look fwd to sharing more on our road ahead starting in mid-October.

On this labor day, as I get ready to get on another flight, I am surprised, and inspired, by the parallel between the journey of India and that of Infosys. Infosys is 33 years old, and I've referred to our road ahead as a journey for the next 33 years, the next third of a century, our second third. A couple of weeks ago India celebrated her Independence Day, her 67 years of independence. For half of that journey, my company has been around, as a leader, a pioneer. And as I look to its, and India's, next 33 years, which will culminate in India's 100 years as an independent nation, I find myself thinking about the great human potential that is yet to be fulfilled. The great amplification that we can bring to ourselves, and to others, with our education, our learnings, our skills, our products and services, our culture. How the transformation of our company, can be, and must be, an enabling transformation of all of our clients with great, purposeful technology. And I find myself full of hope, expectations, anxiety, excitement, that of a traveler at the beginning of a great journey, a rewarding one, one full of great experiences and challenges, great fun and accomplishments, and contributions, a journey that enriches and empowers us all.


Excellent post. This is how CEO's should connect and inform it's stakeholders (Employees,Shareholders,clients etc.)Looking forward to next post in October.


It feels good to perceive Infy traversing new directions which are in tune with new business challenges and thinking. We need to grow international level corporate infuencers in strategic innovation and human-centric problem solving.

You seem to be addressing the appropriate issues for the present and the future times. That's a significant turn of events for the Indian business thinking and practices. Hope you will inspire many others in governments, businesses and professional institutions.

Best wishes,

Vinai Kumar

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