Many of my peers enjoy the privilege of being trusted advisors to clients we work with, though I guess this comes with a lot of responsibility too. I use the phrase with caution since in our industry misuse of terminologies are rampant. In a sense, the term ‘trusted advisor’ is akin to another concept of ‘thought leader:’ every technologist and consultant worth her/his salt wants to be in that position though many don’t have a clue of what it takes to be one, or even to continue down the path when closer to that utopian goal.
Case in point, I am on the road this week, traveling with a client team that is embarking on a large integration [SOA] initiative. As is to be expected, they have floated Request for Information (RFI) to software platform vendors and are in the process of continuing down a deeper technical evaluation.
I came across an interesting blog post in WSJ talking about “Toughening Up Chief Information Officers,” how Chief information officer jobs are getting ever more demanding. The blog quotes Egon Zehnder (an executive recruiter) saying “Over the past 10 years, CIOs’ jobs have morphed from technical-oriented roles to increasingly becoming business partners who can help influence a company’s strategy.”
I found it interesting that the WSJ blog also adds that “recent Egon Zehnder CIO survey found a quarter of respondents thought they would be changing their roles within a year, with 60% saying they believed they would change jobs within two years. Of those, one in ten respondents said they expected to move into non-tech jobs and take on a more business-oriented and operational role within a company.” Note the transient nature of a CIO's job that the blog is alluding to?
Nothing surprising here…. but it makes me wonder if the shift is moving CIO’s role closer to that of General Managers. In which case, one would perhaps find an answer to Prof. Andrew McAfee’s blog musing “Is General Management Being Transformed by IT?”
It was interesting to read Mark Kobayashi-Hillary muse about “Execs frustrated by lack of innovation” His blog talks about
The fourth annual global survey and report on innovation from the strategy consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) describes how executives are getting more and more frustrated with the returns (or lack of) from innovation efforts. The report also shows those same executives recognising that innovation is now essential for performance and growth. For the third year in a row, Apple has been crowned as the world’s most innovative company. Apple is followed by Google, Toyota, General Electric, Microsoft, and Procter & Gamble.
Now this is a topic one reads about frequently in different contexts, meaning different things to different folks.
James McGovern writes a very interesting blog entry titled “Outsourcing and the Emancipation of the Enterprise Architect” He begins with an anecdotal straw-poll of six enterprise architects about outsourcing stating “I asked each of these individuals whether their employer was currently outsourcing work to India.... My last question to these individuals was once outsourcing to India fails, would you within your own mind, smile?” for rest of the discussion, I read with the assumption that James uses offshoring interchangeably with outsourcing. In the blog, he goes on to add:
“Let's pretend that Martin Fowler, Kent Beck, Brenda Michelson, Grady Booch, Joel Spolsky, James Robertson, James Tarbell, Robert McIlree and other top talent in the blogosphere were all offshore working in Bangladesh. I believe folks would not only be more participatory in terms of making outsourcing a success, they would actually volunteer to make it happen so as to work with these individuals. If there is a way to eliminate all the lower-talent folks in India (approx 97.4% of the IT population) then outsourcing would not only have a better chance of success but enterprise architects would be emancipated...”
A colleague forwarded a recent article in SDA where, Jeremy Lock, IT Manager at British Energy Power & Energy Trading (BEPET) was quoted saying “Infosys opened our eyes to what was possible and what are the implications of an SOA environment.” On a similar thread, a few weeks ago, I was exchanging notes with Prashanth, who had blogged about “IT Vendor of the Year - Infosys , By Wachovia.” He mailed me back on my comment stating there is a bigger story behind such awards in the media; there is a lot of 'blood and sweat' that goes behind the scenes prior to such accolades coming one's way. His question was thought provoking … to which I still don’t have an answer. He asked:
But here is a thought, lot of teams / orgs have teams that work hard but what or how is an award winning distinguished?
Let's not mention generic factors like process etc, let's try to be more specific, your thoughts?
Of course, to reflect on such a topic would require a detailed analysis of the ‘business of software services’ and/or ‘business of offshoring,’ which I don’t intend to do in this blog. [Recall my earlier blog with debates on ‘domain knowledge’?] The reason I borrowed the title for this blog from Jim Collins’s best seller is not because it was required reading when I was in B-school; I was hoping to refresh my memory on the theme of the book that may give some clues.
However, the Million $/Euro or Rupee question remains : Is it the processes, the people, the ‘business environment,’ technical edge or a combination of these that takes one from being Good ... to Great?
Footnote: It must be the awards season; not just for Infosys … even for other top offshore vendors [Wipro BPO Sweeps IQPC's 2007 Global Excellence Awards]
I was reading an interesting blog note Open source meets off-shoring where Steve Hamm comments on the recent announcement by the database company Ingress to go offshore “I think this is a significant announcement. It will make other players take heed--both on the open source software side and within the Indian tech industry.” Tom Berquist, CFO for Ingress is equally upbeat about the trend in his blog stating how the “Two Disruptive Forces Begin to Converge” Tom says:
When they work with our products they can get started immediately using the open source GPL license, without having to procure a commercial license. After they build and test the application (and fully understand the load characteristics) they can purchase database support subscriptions from us that tie directly to the number of servers they need to purchase. Nothing is wasted, and the software-related costs are deferred to the end of the project. This is a huge advantage to the customer and the services firm, and we believe that over the course of time all development will be done on open source technology even though some of the production deployment will continue to be done on commercial software.
Satyam's Sadagopan is naturally upbeat about the viewpoint. He blogs 'I particularly like the way Tom has captured the rationale behind the rise of the offshore service firms.'
Agreed that Open Source and Offshoring is a "potent combination" for businesses to pursue. However, I wonder what’s new in this announcement?
A recent Hindustan Times headline proclaimed how "India centre engineers played key role, filed 40 patents for Vista" The article said:
While Bill Gates and his global team celebrated the launch of Microsoft Corp's much awaited Vista operating system in the Times Square and elsewhere in the world, the city of Charminar had its own reasons to exult.
Some 330 engineers in Microsoft's India Development Centre at Hyderabad engineered some of the most important features of the software — and filed 40 patents to prove that. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer had during his visit to India in November taken time off to party with the engineers based in the Hi-Tec City complex. Five years ago,when Windows had launched Windows XP with 40 people involved from Hyderabad, it was a case of developing individual technologies in parts (for e.g. Internet Explorer) in India and integrating them with the global team from Redmond.
Well, articles like this just reinforce the point I was trying to make in my earlier blog on how large organizations are globalizing research and development, leveraging skills and talent cutting across ‘time and space’ boundaries.
Prof. Murugesan raises some interesting points in the guest blog entry, leading with the query “What Drives Offshoring: Just Low Cost or Other Factors?”
I agree with Prof. Murugesan’s viewpoint that “In a flat world, the national boundaries become less significant, and the winners are those who capitalize on capabilities available globally.” Extending this, one could also be asking: what are the implications of this flattening on Project Managers?
In my previous blog “Strategic IT talent: Why Offshoring is not the answer?” I tried explaining how offshore outsourcing can be leveraged to provide technical work of various genera including some high end tasks like Research & Development and innovation and Enterprise Architecture Definition.
In my day-job, I straddle the thin line between working with clients and Infosys teams on translating sourcing strategies to actionable projects and programs while also consulting on high end (well, I can call define “high end since this is my blog, right?) Architecture definition including Enterprise Architecture (EA). [I am with the System Integration practice’s Technology Consulting Group]
I don’t want to dwell too much on EA definitions since gurus both at Infosys and outside -- [Re: Craig Borysowich, Robert McIlree’s blogs -- have done a stellar job. The sweet spot I am seeking to address is on leveraging offshoring to provide EA services.
Though ‘Moving up the value chain’ is the Holy Grail of offshoring, it is a phrase most gurus and IT leaders are hard pressed to elaborate. This said, offshoring of Research & Development, and some of the high-end work is already happening.
It a topic of personal and professional interest to me as I was managing aspects of Infosys’ research collaboration with Microsoft [at SETLabs] in my avatar prior to the current North American Technology Consulting gig.