Organizational Culture can be a major challenge to enterprise digital transformation: Paul Lombardo, CEO, Ness

Almost every other player in the technology space is vying for a piece of the digital pie. While there are some that are catching up to the evolving trends, there are ones that geared up for the digital wave much ahead, and are now all set to ride on it. Ness Digital Engineering (previously Ness Software Engineering Services) is one such company that has been in the business of building digital platforms to enable enterprises’ digital transformation for over a decade. We talk to the company CEO, Paul Lombardo, to get more insights into how the company is differentiating in the digital enterprise market, its focus areas and plans for the India market. Excerpts.


What are the key focus areas for Ness Digital Engineering? How is the company trying to differentiate in this expanding pool of digital players? 

Let me start by talking about how Ness Digital Engineering has evolved with the marketplace. For the past 15 years we have worked with two kinds of companies – one is software companies, Independent Software Vendors, and we also work with companies in a variety of industries that run value-added software platforms to deliver digital products and services to engage with customers and partners. These products and platforms have the following things in common – they usually are managed by product managers or business line owners, they are built to a product roadmap, they need to respond to changing market demands and competitive pressures, and time to market is crucially important. Quality is very important. There is an incentive to leverage technology at the leading edge and drive innovation because it helps create competitive differentiation.  So, this is what we have been focused on for a long time.

As the global economy has started to become a more digital economy, industries are increasingly compelled to offer new digital products and services, and new entrants are introducing disruptive business models. What we have seen is tremendous acceleration in the need for digital platforms —and exactly the kind of platforms we have been building for much more than a decade.  We saw this shift coming several years ago and further developed our customer experience design and big data analytics capabilities – also important areas in which companies must excel in a digital economy – so we were well-positioned to serve our clients in the right places at the right time.

We have never really focused our business on legacy IT, so all the areas that are undergoing a lot of vendor consolidation and commoditization don’t affect us much. That’s not the business we are in. We do need to integrate with legacy IT in order to liberate the data in legacy systems, but our focus is much more on building digital platforms that enable companies’ digital transformation.

So in this world, we work with software product companies and we work with enterprises, which is a huge growth area for us in the upper mid-market and larger corporate market, and also with some very interesting start-ups. We acquired a design agency a few years ago and integrated its customer experience design capabilities into our hard core engineering capabilities. We have organically grown our analytics capabilities, but we have really doubled down on the big data analytics in the last couple of years. Today, we help our customers along three pillars of digital engineering – customer experience design, hard core platform engineering and leading-edge, big data analytics.

How do you see the digital revolution impacting your customers? What are the new demands?

We are working with enterprises that are approaching digital transformation from two different directions: incumbent enterprises that are racing to change to stay competitive, which is particularly true in certain industries – Payments, Fintech, Media & Publishing, Travel & Transportation, and the Automotive industry. Those are the areas in which we are seeing a lot of change. The other types of customers we tend to work with are the disruptors. They tend to be smaller, more product-like companies that are bringing new business models to industries. Internally within companies, we see that they are under a lot of pressure to keep pace with consumer expectations and competitors, particularly disruptors. New roles are emerging, like Chief Digital Officer or Chief Product Officer, who are taking a more leading role in using technology to help transform their companies’ go-to-market approaches.

On the other hand, traditional IT organizations and CIOs often struggle to respond to the needs of the digital economy, while also dealing with the constraints of legacy IT. We frequently help bridge the gap between business stakeholders and the traditional IT organization whose alignment is critical to succeed in a digital economy.

Drawing from your vast experience, can you outline the main challenges in enterprise digital transformation?

It starts with the culture of the organization. The IT organization may not be tuned into the pace of change in digital, given the constraints they face with large legacy portfolios. Security is a big issue and is important to address.

How important is India to Ness Digital Engineering’s overall plans?

India is obviously very important as a source of technology capabilities, and increasingly we are doing more things in the customer experience design world here. We are operating through a connected framework of talented, geographically-distributed engineers across multiple centres in India and elsewhere, who collaborate closely to bring in the right mix of expertise for our clients. We continue to rely on our India teams for not just tech capabilities, but also increasingly for active participation in shaping the product roadmap and design of the product. The requirement for engineers is to be much more engaged with clients in terms of shaping what the clients are doing, and not just implementing what they are asked to do by the client, as was expected with traditional product development services in the past. That’s a cultural shift we have been working towards these last couple of years. I think the labour market is struggling to keep up with the pace of change.

We expect to grow 20% in India this year, which would be about 400-500 new employees. We may do more acquisitions to add on customers and scale. Our message is that we can help our clients define a digital roadmap that helps differentiate their businesses, while accelerating and continually adding value to their business along their digital journey.





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