Couple of weeks back during the MIT CIO symposium had a discussion with the CTO of TCS Ananth Krishnan. We had an interesting discussion on a host of topics including Cloud computing, innovation in Indian IT services companies –specifically at TCS, role of the CTO office and how they add value to the end customer & the organization.
The role of the CTO’s office is growing in importance as the face of the IT services industry continues to change, no longer can IT Services companies be order takers, customers are expecting them to be innovation providers or partners , who are solution oriented rather than focused on the resources / staffing.
For the last few years TCS has been working on developing its Co-Innovation (COIN) network, a unique innovation capability/ecosystem among IT services providers. This network, consists of entrepreneurs, customers, academics, and financiers (among others). COIN represents TCS’s long-term commitment to developing business relationships and uncovering global innovation best-practices. The company now has 24 active TCS co-innovation partners and is even helping its clients develop their own innovation networks.
On of the recent Challenges taken on by the the Co-Innovation network is to create a rural banking model that is viable against the backdrop of low-value transactions and a dispersed population. The Co-Innovation lab of TCS working with a combination of internal resources and strategic partners including Tata Group companies and other entities like emerging technology companies, academic institutions and others has proposed a Branchless banking via cloud computing, which enables sharing of resources, software and information.
- Innovative solutions sourced globally, customized to customer requirements
- Solutions in emergent and disruptive technologies
- Risk mitigation in deploying futuristic solutions
- Simplification in an increasingly complex technical environment
Ananth is one of the more prominent CTO’s specifically from India based IT Service providers. TCS was one of the first Indian IT services companies to setup this role in its current avatar.Ananth has a comprehensive approach of how the CTO’s office contributes to the business and not just being an R&D oriented skunk works project. His team has a dedicated sales and marketing staff, who collaborate with the other industry or verticals sales team within TCS to take these innovations to market. His team currently is working with 80 of the top 100 customers of TCS. He also hosts events for his customers focused on Innovation, one such event is the innovation forum that is conducted in October of each year.
More recently other India IT services players also seem to be going down this path, but TCS definitely has the early mover advantage in the space.
On cloud computing Ananth indicated that there are three key aspects to cloud services,
- Scale must be massive
- Consumption model must be simple
- And it needs to be extremely granular
He indicated that some of the public providers meet some of these criteria's but there are other challenges with them, Like with AWS getting a contract that is agreeable with “Enterprise” scale organizations takes some effort – this was a point that was also echoed by Vishal Sikka CTO of SAP, They had to go a few rounds with Amazon to get the contract right. Ananth also felt that Private cloud still have some ways to go on these 3 aspects.
Another aspect on the cloud computing side that he focused on was the need for the 4th layer , A layer above the SaaS, PaaS & IaaS layers which takes care of the business, cost, execution & usage models, a type of meta layer or wrapping which truly transforms the IT function.
TCS has been actively doing work in the cloud space starting with providing BPO+IT integrated solutions to complete “Cloud model” based IT functions for Legal firms, schools, hospitals etc. Where the company indicates the business they are in and the processes / people they want to IT enable and TCS takes care of the rest right from getting the hardware in place to enabling the business processes etc.
According to him 2010 will see increased adoption by the early adopters, 2011 will see more main stream adoption .
One point that Ananth indicated that i keep getting mixed views from different people is “Public clouds are good on SME & not large enterprises” – Have heard different people with different views on the topic. There is a Forrester report indicating that they are seeing greater adoption in Larger enterprise of cloud computing when compared with SME’s. Will need to wait and see how this pans out.