Billion Dollar Babies?



The importance of quality certifications put into perspective,
the discussion moved on to the path the next—tier companies should chart to
scale up, get global, and register in the $5 bn club. India’s big guys don’t
get engaged into billion dollar deals, the way IBM or EDS would do, said Pawan
Kumar, chairman of vMoksha and chairman, Nasscom Quality Forum. The obvious
question then: What should they do to engage into these deals?

Quality processes are not the driver here. As far as competence
goes, except for perhaps TCS, no company in India has demonstrated the
capability to handle large, complex processes. In a large project, by
definition, one will run into problems that processes don’t solve. One will
run into problems he wouldn’t have seen before. “The bottomline is that
you need to innovate, you need to be more creative. That is the single biggest
bottleneck for large Indian companies. To clear this, they need investment in
R&D. That’s something not done so far,” Prof Pankaj Jalote of IIT
Kanpur informed.

Dr Bill Curtis of Borland said the issue is that India has never
managed anything this big before: “So, you don’t understand how to
control it. Processes are built up of smaller things. If you go outside that for
bigger processes, you lose control.”

His suggestion drew much brainstorming and applause. “If
you wanted to take on bigger process, you got to have a management who is going
to do it. You will have to grow it to a certain level of experience. So, partner
with someone who has already handled big projects and can train you. IBM is not
going to help you; it is competing with you. But you are not competing with
Lockheed Martin. They run large projects and have management and infrastructure
capability. You will have to find a way to partner with such companies to
transition to large—scale projects,” he advised.

Any project has two dimensions-management and engineering. CMM
was earlier heavily focused on management, so a lot of Indian processes are
heavily focused on management. But there may be deficiencies in the engineering
part, which can’t be scaled up by partnering unless the partner brings in
engineering skills, Pankaj said. “You got to build those skills then. We
don’t do embedded systems or real—time systems too much, and that is where
you require R&D,” he added.

Bill agreed that in the software world there is a shortage of
application knowledge. India has to rapidly build up that experience and
knowledge base. It needs to have workforce practices in place to accelerate the
pace of gaining application knowledge, in addition to engineering knowledge. In
saying so, Bill touched a huge issue-managing the growth of workforce and
skill growth.

Prof Pankaj Jalote,
IIT Kanpur
“The bottomline is that you need to innovate, you need to be
more creative.”

Abhay Kelkar,
Accenture Delivery India

Center

“Understanding the customer’s business much more deeply is
something organizations need to focus on much more, to get bigger
business.”

Pawan Kumar,
chairman of vMoksha and chairman Nasscom Quality Forum
“Software professionals in the country are happy to remain in
technology, versus moving to domain. Is there an option to get
domain experts from other industries?”

Accenture india Delivery Center’s Abhay Kelkar said his
company is focusing on business transformation. So, focusing on the outcomes of
a customer, understanding his business much more deeply is something
organizations need to focus on much more to get bigger business.

Doing it Differently
Earlier the panel had discussed the issue of innovation, and the increasing
criticism that Indian tier 1 companies don’t spend enough on this front. The
problem, it emerged, was of domain knowledge. Capturing it is the key. And,
Indians fortunately have enough means.

Take this bit from Bill: “I have always told US companies
that once you outsource all of your software work to India, you outsource all
knowledge because all business logic is in the software. What will Indians need
you for later? You work for five telecom companies, you will know more about
telecom systems than any single telecom company. This is the case with the
Indians. They have learnt all this and can now break off and build their own
application packages and go back to sell it in the US and Europe.”

The
$ 5 bn Growth Formula

Innovate
-Invest
in R&D
-Partner
with the more experienced
-Grow
domain expertise
-Get
expertise from other industries

But since domain knowledge focus is still not very high, what
could companies do to change this? Bill’s solution is-systems analysis.

But Pawan Kumar pointed out that India never talked about
business analysis before, never had a career in business analysis. And, that
there was a need to look at this gap: “Our experience indicates that
software professionals in the country are happy to remain in technology, versus
moving to domain. Is there an option to get domain experts from other
industries?”

The parting shot was fired by Pankaj, who stressed that
innovation won’t happen until there is a mindset change. “Innovation is
not trying to understand an existing thing,” and he added, “It won’t
happen by working in the same structure. We are way too focused on delivery of
projects. The customer-focus is coming in the way. We have to grow out of the
business model into something beyond.”

Unfortunately, innovation in R&D has a lead time of 5 to10
years. And since listed companies have q-o-q pressures, perhaps only bodies like
Nasscom can drive home the importance of investment in innovation for future
growth. Companies need to get new ideas now, as five years hence, some could be
billion dollar babies.

Goutam Das

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