NG Subramaniam, COO, Tata Consultancy Services
Areas such as security, cloud migration, distributed digital workspaces will be in demand, which will require a very strong binding between consulting and execution—that’s the sort of consulting that will be in demand now, says Subramaniam, in an interview with Forbes India
. Edited excerpts:
Q. Beyond the immediate challenges in the short term, due to the spread of the pandemic, what might be the medium-term opportunities for India’s biggest IT companies such as TCS?
Lockdowns across the world in response to the pandemic have tested the agility and resilience of our delivery model. It is immensely satisfying to say that we have come out stronger and our operating model is more proven than ever before.
Unlike the global financial crisis, this time, the issue is the lockdown of economic activity across many industries; all of them are muted for the present. Our belief is that when revival happens, most of the industry segments will recover almost simultaneously.
More specifically, we believe that what will accelerate in this crisis is all things digital, whether it be automation, agility, resilience or the shift to cloud computing—which clients are already adapting.
We also believe another opportunity that will come up in the medium to long term scenario is mergers and acquisition, both on our side and the customers’ side. And in such cases, as their technology partners, we are going to participate in some of these opportunities.
We feel during this time there would be an increase in intellectual properties/patents, which would be worth looking at, besides industry specific offerings of resilience and digital ecosystems.
Q. What steps can the Indian IT companies take (or are taking) to show that they are resilient?
From a highly centralised model consisting of work spaces set in large delivery campuses capable of accommodating thousands of employees, we had to switch to an extreme form of distributed delivery in a matter of days. To do that across an organisation of 448,000 is not a trivial challenge.
The most important aspect of it is that it is not just moving the person from inside the office to outside, but being able to actually extend all the elements of our delivery model to be able to work seamlessly with this kind of a distributed pool.
The fungibility across teams ensured that there was no slippage in support levels to customers’ mission critical operations and systems, and this has been widely noticed and appreciated by many stakeholders.
We have customised the delivery model; especially, for India the model has been optimised for very large sophisticated delivery centres. In the last few weeks, we have made a highly dispersed and a very technologically coupled delivery model, keeping in mind execution capability, our quality processes, our delivery governance processes and our security processes.
These are attributes that an organisation needs to absorb shocks like Covid-19 and to pivot into new offerings; to thrive even during periods of economic uncertainty. These attributes do not come from adopting any one management practice or technology or toolset but are the aggregate outcome of a customer-centric, forward-looking world view, an empowering culture that trusts and motivates people and enabling processes and robust technologies.
Q. TCS has been talking about secure borderless workspaces. How will these be useful now?
Our Secure Borderless Workspaces model, which we rolled out in response to the COVID-19 disruption, is an extension of our ‘open-agile-collaborative workspaces’ thinking, but making it further location-agnostic.
It incorporates our learnings and best practices around network management, the internal security operations centre, a standard service delivery environment, digitised delivery governance processes, and collaborative and cloud-based technologies. This is our new operating model and, in a way, represents the future of work.
Our cloud-based monitoring system tracks the progress of all our engagements in real time, ensuring that customers continue to get the same certainty of delivery.
We have been systematically transforming our development centres to what we call ‘agile operating centres,’ and encouraging clients to move to ‘open agile collaborative workspaces,’ and away from the offshore development centres of the past. This promotes an open office environment without compromising on security.
In FY20, we executed over 15,000 ‘agile’ projects for 912 of our customers using this model. The disruptions caused by COVID-19 only highlighted the thought leadership in our location-independent agile approach and gives us a clearly differentiated positioning. But we are not stopping with that.
Q. What kind of existing and new services will see increased demand?
In situations like this, customers value execution over advice, and actual work over slide presentations. We think that will continue to play out. Typically, consulting is the most volatile business; while there will be, of course, opportunities to participate in the newer areas. In aggregate, we think the impact on consulting will be negative.
Specific areas like security, cloud migration, rolling out distributed digital workspaces will be in demand. This will require a very strong binding between consulting and execution. Those are the kinds of consulting areas that will be in demand. That is where the focus of our consulting and system integration practice is, and we are rapidly cycling into those services. We are creating a catalogue of many of these execution-cum-advice-led services, which we believe will be very valuable and in demand in the near future.
Q. How will the pandemic affect hiring in the IT and ITES sectors?
Looking at the situation, lateral hiring in the IT sector will be impacted till the situation stabilises. TCS is hiring laterally for projects that require specific skills. We are committed to honouring all the 30,000 offers made to campus recruits. The onboarding might happen in a phased manner.