Domain is King!

The National Institute for Industrial Engineering (NITIE), India’s premier
in stitution for post graduate management education for engineers has been
organising an extraordinarily popular event called “Lakshya” for the
last five years which showcases the best projects done in the areas of general
management, supply chain management, human resource management and systems and
IT management by the Indian corporate sector-for internal implementation as
well as for external clients. Participating as a member of jury every year has
given me an insight into some cutting edge thinking and work that has gone a
long way towards building Indian capabilities and the India Inc brand in global

This year, I had the privilege of listening to four excellent presentations
made by professionals working in four software firms. What was exhilarating,
apart from the quality of preparation and presentation that one has come to
expect from young Indians working in this industry was the fact that the award
winning project as well as two of the other three focused on issues that were
beyond brute force technology-the management of knowledge, the understanding
of key inflection points in the retail banking industry and the reengineering of
supply chains in the retail and logistics industry caused by RFID-all these
and more represent the new horizons that we are no longer dreaming of, but
beginning to reach and master.

Ganesh Natarajan

The market of the future belongs to firms that can get into the shoes of their customers, understand the concerns and opportunities that confront them and provide end-to-end solutions

This is not an overnight occurrence-the industry has been working on its
domain competence assiduously over the last few years and most significant
companies are today in a position to field a number of consultants who can
discuss customer pain points in addition to the technology intricacies that have
become par for the course. At Zensar, our own retail industry practice today
provides steroids to our horizontal practices ranging from application portfolio
management, application modernization, collaboration, enterprise applications
and business process outsourcing. Today’s seasoned industry marketers and
consultants are able to not only appreciate the nuances of merchandise
allocation and assortment planning, but can also build algorithms and optimise
the process of allocation.

One could argue that the industry should not pose as management consultants
and a smattering of experts who can talk the talk would be enough to cover up
for the lack of interest of the knowledge of the vast majority of “techies”
in the nuances of the retail or for that matter, any specific industry. Be
warned-organizations that continue to believe this are living in a fool’s
paradise, because the market of the future surely belongs to firms that can get
into the shoes of their customers, understand the concerns and opportunities
that confront them, and provide end-to-end solutions that stay implemented in
the client’s organization. This is not to say that technical prowess should be
ignored-that still remains critical, but rigorous training in the domain can
provide the cutting edge that not only wins new projects, but adds the
“stickiness” to any relationship. This is what elevates customer
engagements from opportunistic customer-vendor relationships won usually through
a compelling cost advantage to true partnerships!

In our own country, the sudden surge in prominence of both the manufacturing
and retail industries will provide more opportunities for many engineers who had
been sacrificing all the knowledge provided in their engineering colleges at the
altar of a software career, to rediscover their domain roots and provide the
integration of industry knowledge and technology, first in their own minds and
then in the consultancy projects they execute. Institutions like NITIE, which
have been a little apologetic about their focus on operations and supply chain
management in the face of competition from vanilla but big brand MBA schools,
should realise that it is they who hold the key to the future of the software
industry and will hopefully deepen their focus and provide the industry with
truly “future focused” people!

The author is deputy chairman and managing director of Zensar Technologies
and chairman of Nasscom’s SME Forum for Western India

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