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March 30, 2012

Dear "IT Services" - Are We Ready? Are We Open?

Are most people open to doing things very different? And.... try out new possibilities ?...

Are most people open to doing things very different? And.... try out new possibilities ? It's one of those questions with no easy answer and respondents resort to an yes-and-no kind of rhetoric. When it's about trying a new product that one can see & feel, something that others have already tried out and therefore one can sense the outcome - the answer is an easier yes. And the rate of adoption is usually very rapid in such cases.    When it's about a new service or process, the outcomes are not that easy to perceive - the answer goes for a usual no. Not unusual - we keep going to the same saloon for our personal grooming or visit the same book-store, unless some game-changing thing happens. have changed the way we buy things, serve as good examples.

 Let's put IT in context....    Do we remember the specs of PCs we owned 10 years ago ? And how long did it take us to adopt the first tablet or a PDA?  They offered tangible benefits and therefore the benefits were easier to trust and adopt. In contrast, in the IT Services industry, when was the last time a grand idea was adopted ? 20 years ago ? That's right, that's when the Global Delivery Model (GDM) was adopted. Only in the later years, it has gone through  changes, fortifying it with best practices, sophisticated tools, agility and processes to drive better efficiency and predictability. Otherwise, movement has been fairly nominal.

So, what made the revolution happen in devices? Was Moore's Law just a natural phenomenon? Did things happen just like that? It didn't. It was billions of $ of research by industry and institutions, openness to experimentation and the push-n-pull of market forces resulted in user adoption of smarter and innovative devices. On the other hand, how much of real $ has been spent in advancing the art & science of innovation in the IT Services space? How much of innovation have we seen in service offerings coming out after the big wave of Global Delivery Model slammed this industry and transformed it in early 1990's? In my view, innovation in the IT Services space has been negligible, when compared to our peers in the non-services sector. We all agree, that better services, newer offerings, innovative processes can leverage technology much more effectively, drive better values for the client  much in the same way service innovation makes flying more enjoyable in some airlines. 

So, what can we do to change the game in IT Services? Game changing doesn't always mean that we have to operate on a game changing idea. It could be a game changing movement around a small/simple idea but adopted by a large majority in a rapid fashion. Just take the example of songs that go viral. Somebody leaked an initial version of Indian film song on You Tube and it started becoming popular. Sony realized the potential, considering an upcoming market like India, and quickly released an official version on You Tube which went viral and so much so that CNN named it in the top 5 songs for 2011. These are examples which can be applicable in our professional space. A rapid adoption of something new (however small) can redefine and set a new standard, a new of doing things and put pressure on others to follow. And when we do such things serially - it collectively becomes game-changing and gives us that leadership. Unlike hardware & devices, innovation in services do not really need a lab like environment always.  We need to keep on innovating on a continuous basis so as to reach a 'tipping point', resulting in rapid adoption.

This needs evangelization. It doesn't have to be a single person, but can be done by each one of us. With openness to new things, one can become the ambassadors of success. And this championship will go a long way to define an equivalent of Moore's Law for services.... How can we double "some parameters" in services every 2 years? Be it productivity or an OLA! Or, how can we deliver another 30% reduction in costs?


March 7, 2012

Good food, better thoughts

I am back from the 20th NASSCOM (National Association of Software Services Companies) annual event (NILF), held in Mumbai every year. While NASSCOM doesn't need an introduction to many, this is one of the most successful industry associations from India. It has played a key role in the promotion of our industry and our success -- specially in the early years and also navigating it through the challenging times.  It has also helped in defining long-term vision and strategy for the industry and works with various stakeholders to create a favorable eco-system...

I am back from the 20th NASSCOM (National Association of Software Services Companies) annual event (NILF), held in Mumbai every year. While NASSCOM doesn't need an introduction to many, this is one of the most successful industry associations from India. It has played a key role in the promotion of our industry and our success -- specially in the early years and also navigating it through the challenging times.  It has also helped in defining long-term vision and strategy for the industry and works with various stakeholders to create a favorable eco-system.

Small wonder that the performance has been astounding. A $100m industry in 1990 to a $100 billion+ at 2012. The forum was clearly celebrating the $100 bn mark, a huge symbol of success and a major milestone accounting for 7.5% of India's GDP, 26% of exports and employing 2.8 million people directly. The conference couldn't have been kicked-off better with a session by Prof Marshall Goldsmith, the author of the famous book "What got you here, won't get you there...".  It was most appropriate to be reminded of the responsibility the leadership had to do something different for us to reach the next destination. We are all aware, the journey of our industry so far has relied on the foundation of cheaper-better-faster paradigm. The new paradigm adds an important dimension - different. Whatever we do, it has to be different and/or done differently. Simply because, the opportunities are different. We no longer address the needs of the CIO buyer alone, but also the CEO buyer, thereby expanding the opportunity-base across the enterprise instead of limiting itself to the IT organization.

It was nice to see the who's who of IT there. All the big boys of our industry were within a hand-shaking distance. Past Presidents of NASSCOM, industry captains, CEOs, industrialists,  think-tanks, Professors, inventors, ministers, analysts, speakers, clients and the entire IT industry - they were all there. It was literally star-studded, Abhishek Bachhan & Shekhar Kapoor included!  I believe the number of delegates was ~2000 and had to close registration a few days before the event, as the largest conference venue in India couldn't accommodate any more !  Leaders who made an impact included Rajiv Bajaj, Kumarmangalam Birla, Chhanda Kochhar;  industry leaders - Kris, Nandan, Chandra, Som Mittal, Rajendra Pawar, Pramod Bhasin and many more;  Ministers - Kapil Sibal, Chidambaram, Prithviraj Chavan, Jyotiraditya Scindia; analysts - Stephanie Moore & Helen Hurtely; inventors - Pranav Mistry; Think tanks - Marshall Goldsmith, Deepak Malhotra and the list goes on.

The conviction at the end of the 3-day event was very clear - the business was way better than the mood. The industry is very clearly on track and confident of meeting its target of reaching $225 bn by 2020. The current challenges were analyzed, debated and discussed at length. Yes, various economies are operating at different levels and the responses of these Governments are varied depending on their context. One of the speakers observed that US has to re-invent, while EURO zone has to restructure and India needs to re-energize. It's so correct in my personal opinion!

The conference served as a good barometer of the industry, where it is headed, the mood in general and so on. The two words that were heard the most - Innovation & social media. The power of Social media, crowd-sourcing seems to be watched with a sense of awe. It's awe-inspiring. Most of us need to learn how to deal with it and leverage its power. It was also loud and clear that the solution of the future (rather today) will necessarily involve multiple entities. Our ability to create and work with a partner ecosystem (clients, software product/ services companies, competition, other industry players...) is going to hold the key to success.

The forum kept our minds busy during the day, while it filled our hearts with good food and entertainment in the evening. Food was great, entertainment evenings even better. Folks were a little disappointed as many of the attendees didn't prefer on a valentine-day dinner with industry peers and the second-day was a no-liquor-day given that the date clashed with Mumbai Municipal elections !! I guess the organizers made sure, we were well compensated by the thoughts and buzz that went around inside the halls !

The most entertaining and educating session was by Pranav Mistry (; as he talked about Sixth-Sense and transported us into virtual reality. I am sure Tom Cruise would choose his technology for the next Mission Impossible. Truly mind-boggling. The most interesting part is he drew inspirations from Indian mythology for his inventions and his ability to connect with those popular stories were indeed very touching.

Deepak Malhotra, the famous Professor/ author from Harvard Business School talked about "Solving the Trust Problem - Negotiation". It was fascinating to see how human minds behave in various situations, most of them are typically varied cases of negotiation. The subtle difference gift and reward makes us behave very differently, one being a conditional trigger and the other un-conditional.

It was time for the leading industry analysts to share their views on what's happening in the industry and the trends. Stephanie of Forrester stressed on Innovation (Biz model innovation, Operations innovation, Services/ Market innovation) and the need for partner companies to actively engage in co-innovation. So, there is a huge opportunity for innovation in everything we do. In fact, there was a mention of Infosys and how we had strategies in place to align with the changing world. Helen Hurtley of Gartner mentioned a 4.4% CAGR (global IT) for FY 09-15, as opposed to 6.3% CAGR FY 01-08. So, it's not stagnant, nor really slowing but changing for sure. It's changing from traditional IT service delivery models to cloud based, from custom IT to industrial IT, licensed application to SAAS, labor based services to software factories and so on. I caught up with a few analysts later and explained Infosys' focus on innovation in IT Services.

The context of GDM has also been changing. GDM is no longer Global delivery Model, it's more appropriate for a Global Distributed Model. Outsourcing is not just off-shoring, it's right shoring.
Staying close to the client to get a better context is a key requirement and will be the new normal very soon. This promotes hyper-specialization and builds deep micro-domain context. It is not just staying close to client, but also spreading to geographies where such skills exist. Where to compete (white space identified by a geography or a micro domain) is becoming more relevant than how to compete (solution/ differential).

No conference is perhaps complete these days without a comparison between India and China. One of the dimensions debated strongly was the penetration/ adoption of internet in China and therefore its advances in e-commerce and associated technologies/ economy. In China, internet is the only medium that is not controlled and is supported by a huge telecom infrastructure. That has fuelled a huge growth. In contrast, India had free press/ information for 100+ years, presence of multiple media in English - makes internet as one of the many and not something a new novelty. It was a good point of view, I thought.  And no conference is either complete without a new word from McKinsey coming through. ABM (Alternate Business Model) it was, this time. ABM has potential to unlock $ 500 bn of new market and the days of hyper-specialization and micro-segment focus is going to make a big difference.

Last but not the least, the forum took opportunity to recognize the social entrepreneurs who are effectively using IT to uplift quality of life of the under privileged or spreading the light of education or helping us to live in a more sustainable world. With 230,000 villages  in India getting connected over fiber optic network, 31000 colleges getting connected - the IT fraternity would be at its inclusive best if it can leverage the potential of a huge knowledge-shared world.

It was a good 3-days of looking into the future and how we ought to be preparing for it and what some of the enablers and leadership priorities are.

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